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O.C.R. Mails Schools Facsimile Of New Civil-Rights Surveys

October 10, 1984 3 min read

Washington--The Education Department’s office for civil rights has mailed to participating school districts and vocational institutions facsimile versions of new civil-rights surveys that were approved late last month by the Office of Management and Budget.

The office will mail the actual survey forms to participating institutions and school districts this month for completion no later than Dec. 15, according to Laurie Snow, public-affairs officer for the ocr

The modifications that have been made in the surveys, along with changes in the sampling technique and an apparent delay in the procedure formerly used to notify school districts selected to participate, have been criticized by two education groups. The two surveys--one for elementary and secondary schools and one for vocational-education programs--are mandated by law; they are considered the principal federal means of assessing schools’ compliance with major civil-rights laws. (See Education Week, Sept. 12, 1984.)

Both the Council of Chief State School Officers’ civil-rights task force and the naacp-Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., the principal opponents of the modifications, remain opposed to some of them, spokesmen said last week.

New Sampling Techniques

The civil-rights office is using a stratified random sample to select school districts for the elementary- and secondary-schools survey. The agency claims that the new sampling plan is more representative of the nation’s schools than that used in past years. The office is also permitting subsampling of schools within large school districts; in previous surveys, all schools within these districts had to participate.

The ocr has selected a random sample of 7,450 schools for the vocational survey--fewer than the number of schools surveyed in 1979, but up from previous estimates. According to a March 1983 consent order in Adams v. Bell, a major civil-rights case against the government, the ocr is supposed to conduct a vocational survey that would include a more complete universe of schools than that surveyed in 1979.

However, a federal appeals court in Washington ruled last month that a district-court judge must determine whether the plaintiffs in the Adams case still have legal standing to press their lawsuit. (See Education Week, Oct. 3, 1984.)

Surveys Delayed

According to Ms. Snow, Harry M. Singleton, the assistant secretary for civil rights, says that although the surveys are on a later schedule than in 1982, no formal mail-out date has ever been established for the data collection, so there is no date from which to measure lateness.

Because changes in the survey forms themselves are minimal, according to Ms. Snow, Mr. Singleton does not anticipate that schools will have any unusual problems providing the information requested.

However, Edward B. Penry, chairman of the chief state school officers’ civil-rights task force and the director of administrative and survey-research services for the Philadelphia Public Schools, noted that schools have very little time left to prepare for and conduct the survey. He added: “There’s retrospective data in here--such as school-discipline data-- ... that probably will be difficult if not impossible for some school systems to provide.”

Mr. Penry also contended that the plan for selecting participating school districts used in past years would have been more appropriate than the new sampling technique.

‘Big Mistake’

“I think what they’ve done is a big mistake,” said Phyllis McClure of the Washington office of the naacp-Legal Defense Fund. “And I think that ocr is going to regret it if they continue on this course of abandoning” the plan for selecting school districts used in past years.

“ocr’s unwillingness to establish open communications with school officials and advocacy groups is exceedingly regrettable,” she said.

Added Mr. Penry, “We still have considerable problems with the delay that occurred. We certainly hope to work cooperatively with the office for civil rights to prevent this from happening in the future."--lo

A version of this article appeared in the October 10, 1984 edition of Education Week as O.C.R. Mails Schools Facsimile Of New Civil-Rights Surveys