The U.S. Education Department this morning releases its new Civil Rights Data Collection, the most comprehensive information to date on educational opportunity and equity in every public school and district in the country.
Here’s what you need to know:
What Is the Civil Rights Data Collection?
Every two years since 1968, the Education Department has collected information on demographics and educational opportunities for students of different genders, races, English-proficiency levels, and disabilities. These data are used both for enforcement of federal civil rights laws and for research to improve education for these students.
The data released today are from the 2013-14 school years; the Education Department is collecting 2015-16 data now.
Which Schools Are Included in the CRDC?
For most of the collection’s history, it has included only a representative sample of districts from each state. In 2000, and then from 2011-12 onward, the Education Department collected information from every public school in the country that spends at least 50 percent of each day on educational services. This includes charter and magnet schools, juvenile justice facilities, virtual schools, alternative schools for students with disabilities. Note, the collection does not include public schools on tribal lands and military bases, or private schools, day-care centers, or programs for children under age 2.
What’s New in the CRDC?
The collection today is significantly more detailed than the original 1968 survey. Schools and districts must report the general demographics of their students, as well as statistics on discipline, bullying, uses of restraint and seclusion, single-sex education programs, early-childhood education (from age 3 on), pathways to college and career, school finance, and teacher quality and equity.
The 2013-14 collection will answer several new questions, including:
- How many teachers in preschool-12th grades do not meet state licensing or certification requirements?
- How many schools have a police officer assigned to the campus?
- What types of incidents trigger schools to call in law enforcement for discipline?
- How many hours a week do juvenile justice facilities provide educational programs?
How Accurate Is the Civil Rights Data Collection?
Most of the data are broken down by race/ethnicity, sex, disability, and English-language-learner status, highlighting disparities for key indicators throughout a child’s academic career. Historically, about 95 percent of surveyed districts responded—and that is up to more than 99 percent so far for 2013-14—however, data are self-reported by schools and districts, and previous collections have been criticized for missing and inaccurate data.
For 2013-14, the Education Department put in more reviews and audits to check the data before it is made public. The department held pre-collection focus groups and training to ensure those reporting the data understood the questions being asked. Each district must review its own data and certify that they are accurate before the information is included, and any missing data will be marked in the collection’s tables.
Also, the Education Department continuously refines its definitions to dig out the information important to equity decisions. For example, the 2011-12 data included in its count of teacher absences days off for professional development; the 2013-14 data excludes professional development from counts of teachers absent 10 days or more.
The data are available at ocrdata.ed.gov.
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.