Monday, February 17, 2020
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Comments posted on civil rights data collection

As last year ended, the US Department of Education requested comments on the Civil Rights Data Collection, hoping to both enhance the quality or use of the massive data set and minimize the burden collecting it imposes on state, local, and tribal government units.

And because comments were also sought to determine whether the set was useful to the public, 1,427 comments were posted, with many of them emphasizing the great importance of the civil rights data maintained by the federal education department about schools.

A typical comment followed boilerplate form:

The Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) provides much-needed transparency and information in public schools. … This data helps the department achieve its mission of ensuring access to equal educational opportunity for all students. Secretary DeVos must preserve, expand, and publicize the results of the CRDC.

Comments are now closed, and the department will set out on the task of reading them and incorporating them into any new regulations or, it is hoped, a revision of the collection effort that will render the data easier to collect or more useful to the country.

The collection, use and reporting of education data is an integral component of the mission of the US Department of Education (ED), wrote the department about the CRDC.

EDFacts is an ED initiative that puts performance data at the center of the department’s policy, management, and budget decision-making processes for all K-12 education programs. It has transformed the way in which ED collects and uses data.

The department is proposing a revision to CRDC information collection for the 2017-18 school year. The basic purpose of the data collection is still “to obtain vital data related to the civil rights laws’ requirement that public local educational agencies and elementary and secondary schools provide equal educational opportunity,” but the revision is intended to streamline the data collection effort and render the data more useful and more timely.

For example, the department collects data about progress being made by African-American women, and that data has helped government officials create policies that make things better for all Americans.

“Despite structural barriers of race and gender, women and girls of color have made real progress in recent years,” President Barack Obama said to the Congressional Black Caucus at a dinner in September 2015. He based those remarks on data collected through the CRDC. “The number of black women-owned businesses has skyrocketed. Black women have ascended the ranks of every industry. Teen pregnancy rates among girls of color are down, while high school and four-year college graduation rates are up. That’s good news. But there’s no denying that black women and girls still face real and persistent challenges.”

Even to the halls of Congress, the data from this collection effort has led to important policy direction.

“The report released today from the Department of Education is a disturbing reminder of what too many families already know, and what was confirmed in the report from the General Accountability Office we unveiled last month,” said Rep Bobby Scott of Virginia and Rep John Conyers Jr of Michigan in a joint statement about data released last summer. “Our nation’s increasingly diverse student population is too often hyper-segregated in K-12 public schools and, sadly, educational opportunity is not available to all students of color on equal terms. This new data, and GAO’s study, are a call to action.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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