Daniel Sellers was MinnCAN’s executive director from 2012-2016.

In mid-April, MinnCAN team members had the opportunity to attend the Hmong National Development Conference in St. Paul. Between participating in several workshops and hosting one myself, I walked away with many ideas on how we can better serve our Hmong students in Minnesota. Above all, this conference confirmed my belief that to develop targeted strategies to help all kids succeed, we need objective data on how our students are doing. And to ensure that no subgroup of students is overlooked, we need that data to be disaggregated.

What exactly is disaggregated data, and how would it help Hmong students in Minnesota, as well as other Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) learners? According to the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, the disaggregation of data involves:

Requiring schools, school districts, and states with significant proportions of AAPI and immigrant communities to collect and report academic achievement and growth data that is disaggregated by Southeast Asian ethnicities to better reflect the real experiences and needs of individual AAPI ethnic student subgroups.

In a 2012 report, the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans (CAPM) explained that grouping all AAPI students together "masks educational disparities experienced within the Asian Pacific population in Minnesota." For example, as the report details, on the 2011 MCAs, 66 percent of all Asian students in Minnesota were proficient in reading. However, when disaggregated by race and ethnicity, CAPM found that subgroups of Asian students were proficient at much lower rates: 57 percent of Lao students, 47 percent of Hmong students and 17 percent of Burmese students.

I’ve long believed that if we’re going to help every student thrive, we can’t gloss over these kinds of achievement gaps. Instead, we need to understand and confront them head-on. AAPI students in Minnesota—and across the country— need data disaggregation and they need it now.

Thankfully, lots of people are already working at the federal level to make data disaggregation the norm. In fact, members of the MinnCAN team attended a terrific workshop with leaders of the #AllStudentsCount campaign, through which advocates are working to pass the federal All Students Count Act, which would require state education agencies or departments to report disaggregated data at the K-12 levels for their annual state report cards.

By collecting and reporting on more detailed data, policies and practices can be put in place to meet the needs of particular student groups that are struggling most (this is also a reason to keep standards-based assessments). How can we know how to appropriately allocate resources if we don’t have good data on which to base those decisions?

Here in Minnesota, many individuals and organizations are already advocating for the disaggregation of data to help us understand the challenges and progress of AAPI students. In fact, the No. 1 recommendation in CAPM’s 2012 report was that Minnesota "standardize the practice of collecting and reporting disaggregated student data."

After the Hmong National Development Conference, I couldn’t agree more and I’m happy to add myself—and MinnCAN—to the list of Minnesotan advocates for data disaggregation. We look forward to working with state leaders to advance this important policy.

If you want to help us on this issue, send me an email! We can help make sure policymakers hear from you.


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