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Racial and Ethnic Classifications Used by Public Schools
NCES: 96092
May 1996

Suggested Revisions to Directive No. 15 and Their Relevance to Schools

During 1993 the House Subcommittee on Census, Statistics, and Postal Personnel held a series of four hearings, focusing primarily on the measurement of race and ethnicity in the decennial census, at which OMB announced a review of Directive No. 15. As a first step, OMB requested the Committee on National Statistics to convene the workshop held in February 1994 to discuss the issues surrounding a review of the categories in Directive No. 15. In June 1994 OMB published a notice in the Federal Register soliciting public comment on the adequacy of the current categories, and as part of the comment period held four hearings in Boston, Denver, San Francisco, and Honolulu. During the workshop, the hearings, and the public comment period, OMB received a number of suggestions for revisions to the Directive. In the present survey, eight of the most prominent of these suggested changes were listed and schools were asked to indicate the extent to which each was applicable for students enrolled at their schools.

In general, most respondents (69 to 93 percent) reported that these revisions to Directive No. 15 either were not an issue or were only a minor issue in terms of their applicability to students enrolled in their schools (Table 6). Between 3 and 12 percent of schools indicated that any of these issues were significant in terms of their applicability to students. Adding a "multiracial" category was reported as a significant issue by 12 percent of schools, allowing individuals to write in their own designations and changing the name of the "black" category to "African American" were viewed as significant issues in 10 percent of schools, and changing the name of the "American Indian or Alaskan Native" category to "Native American" was considered significant in 9 percent of schools.

Relatively few schools (1 to 11 percent) reported that they had already included or were planning to implement any of these revisions. Nevertheless, many states are aware of implementation problems with the current classifications, and some, such as Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, have enacted laws requiring the addition of new categories. Information concerning such state laws or regulations will be collected in a followup survey addressed to state-level educational officials in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.