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Managing an Identity Crisis: Forum Guide to Implementing New Federal Race and Ethnicity Categories
NFES 2008-802
October 2008

Case Study - Multirace Multitasking in Kansas

Case Study
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Beginning in the 2005–06 school year, the Kansas Department of Education (KSDE) adopted a practice of race and ethnicity data collection that allows the state to simultaneously collect data in line with the 1997 standards as well as data the state can report via some older collection systems that still use the single-race format.  In its new statewide student-level data collection, two race and ethnicity fields are collected as described in the following record layout excerpt:

Field Maxi-
for Rcrd
Comments /Values
D13 Primary Race/ Ethnicity 1 Numeric All The primary racial category that most clearly reflects the student's recognition of his or her community or with which the student most identifies.
Allowable values, based on Federal regulations, are:
  • 0 = Refused to Designate
  • 1 = American Indian or Alaska Native
  • 2 = Asian
  • 3 = Black or African American
  • 4 = Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
  • 5 = White
  • 6 = Hispanic or Latino
  • D33 Compre-
    6 A "bit"oriented format. Position 1 is the right-most digit of the 6 digits. Position 6 is the left-most. Thus, 110000 represents Hispanic and White ENRL, TEST, EOYA, MILT,
    General racial category(ies) which most clearly reflects the individual's recognition of his or her community or with which the individual most identifies.  All six positions must be filled with either a 0 or a 1. The field must include the race defined in the Primary Race/Ethnicity (D13). That is, if the Primary Race/Ethnicity is “6 – Hispanic or Latino,” then position 6 must also be set to a 1 in this field. If the student has refused to designate, enter 000000.
  • Position 6 - Hispanic or Latino
  • Position 5 - White
  • Position 4 - Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
  • Position 3 - Black or African American
  • Position 2 - Asian
  • Position 1 - American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Allowable values in each position:
  • 0 = No
  • 1 = Yes
  • Pos. 6
    Pos. 5
    Pos. 4
    Pos. 3
    Pos. 2
    Pos. 1

    This scheme allows the student to identify as many races as desired in the second variable, “Comprehensive Race/Ethnicity,” while “Primary Race/Ethnicity,” a variable similar to one collected on the National Health Interview Survey, asks them to choose just one race with which they most identify. The state can report this primary race to agencies that require single-race determinations, while using the more detailed comprehensive race/ethnicity field for reporting to agencies that follow the 1997 standards.

    To ensure consistency in race and ethnicity reporting, the state performs a data check to verify that a student's selection for Primary Race/Ethnicity is also listed in the Comprehensive Race/Ethnicity field. The Primary Race/Ethnicity must be one of the Comprehensive Race/Ethnicity selections. However, a student may opt not to select a primary race or ethnicity (marked as “0”) and still can select multiple racial and ethnic categories for Comprehensive Race/Ethnicity.

    The file specifications above describe how schools and districts report data to the state, but not necessarily how those institutions collect the data. Enrollment forms are designed at the school level rather than by KSDE. The data format required by KSDE for race and ethnicity data as well as the Office of Management and Budget standards guide schools in the creation of these forms. In addition to the required reporting format, KSDE makes it clear to the schools that the data collected should be self-reported by the students.

    When students refuse to identify their race or ethnicity when they enroll in a school, their reported code is “000000.”  In this data system, which is based solely on self-identification, no observer identification is performed, nor are any default values entered. For these students who do not self-identify, KSDE does one of three things for federal reporting: 1) reports them as “missing” if the agency allows it, 2) reports them as “multiracial” if the agency allows it, or 3) if neither option is permissible, the state excludes those students from the counts and provides documentation to explain why this was done.

    In addition to allowing KSDE to report race and ethnicity data under both the new and old standards, this approach may afford an additional benefit. Although KSDE does not use these data for bridging purposes (see appendix E of this guide for a discussion of this topic), it is conceivable that this collection system could reduce or even eliminate the need for bridging. Bridging methodologies are used to estimate how multirace individuals would have identified under the old single-race system to facilitate trend analyses using data collected under both the 1977 and 1997 standards. By asking students to identify a primary race, the need to estimate how multirace individuals would have identified is avoided. The primary race item cannot, of course, be required, but for those multirace respondents who do provide the information, no bridging would be required.