Washington County - Fountain Rock Elementary

Changes in Race and Ethnicity Codes

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are we changing race and ethnic codes?

The U.S. Department of Education issued Final Guidance on Maintaining, Collecting, and Reporting Racial and Ethnic Data to the U.S. Department of Education which required state education departments to implement the new race/ethnicity strategies that were previously passed into law as of October 30, 1997.

What racial or ethnic codes have been added?

There are now seven racial codes instead of the previous five codes. But the changes go beyond just adding categories. The identification of race and ethnicity requires a two part question for determining the code.


– Are you Hispanic/Latino? Yes or No


– Select one or more races from the 5 racial groups listed below:
  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian
  • Black or African American
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
  • White

In addition to these six categories, an additional code has been added for students who are not Hispanic/Latino and have identified themselves as more than one racial /ethnic group.

What are the definitions for the revised Ethnicity and Race Categories?


Hispanic or Latino
A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race. The term, "Spanish origin," can be used in addition to "Hispanic or Latino."


American Indian or Alaska Native
A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintains a tribal affiliation or community attachment.

A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Black or African American
A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.

Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.

A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.

Who needs to review the race and ethnicity information?

In order to convert the current race codes to the revised codes, all students, staff and other individuals in Maryland public school systems should be given the opportunity to modify their racial classification. Everyone must have the opportunity to update their ethnicity and race under the new coding strategy.

How are race and ethnicity determined?

The new guidelines encourage educational institutions to allow students, parents, and staff to "self- identify" race and ethnicity. If adequate opportunity to self-identify has been provided and respondents still do not answer, observer identification will be used as a last resort. In this case, someone from the school district will provide the information on behalf of the parent, student or staff.

What does a Race and Ethnicity Identification Form look like?

Race and Ethnicity Identification Form (PDF)

When did this review need to happen?

MSDE required local school systems to collect data using both the existing race codes and the new race codes for the 2009-2010 school year which meant that schools needed to implement this no later than the first day of school in the 2009-2010 school year.

How will the changes in codes impact our trend data for racial groups?

Because the codes have changed significantly since 2011, racial group trend data will be available beginning with 2011 data.