DOE Data Shines Light on Disparities Between Black and White Students

The Obama administration is collecting data looking at 85 percent of the nation’s schools to better determine how minority students are faring.

Posted: 03/06/2012 05:27 PM EST

The United States Department of Education has launched a new national data pool of information aimed at analyzing educational opportunities and disparities, particularly related to how Black and Hispanic students fare.

The Civil Rights Data Collection, as the data pool is called, allows the Obama administration to gather a far wider range of information on students from pre-kindergarten to high school. It is designed to provide information to determine whether schools are providing opportunities for all the nation’s students.

For example, the new data collection program enabled the Department of Education to show that minority students are disproportionately subject to harsher disciplinary actions in public schools than their peers. In addition, the program offers insight into opportunity gaps for public school students around the country.

Under the program, the department is able to gather statistics from 72,000 schools, serving about 85 percent of the nation’s students from kindergarten through high school.

“For the first time we have an incredible new source of data that tells us where opportunity gaps are in ways we’ve never seen before as a country,” said Russlynn Ali, the assistant secretary for the civil rights division at the Department of Education.

 “In recent years we have more data than ever before on identifying the achievement gap and where it exists.”

The Department of Education has been collecting similar data for decades. But Ali said that the department’s new data collection program was far more expansive, reflecting a far wider number of schools and far more reliable information.

Although the information on the disciplinary action is among the most dramatic, the data produced under the program pointed to a number of racial and ethnic disparities.

For example, the information revealed that Black students made up only 18 percent of those enrolled in the schools sampled. However, they accounted for 35 percent of those suspended once, 46 percent of those suspended more than once and 39 percent of all expulsions, according to the Civil Rights Data Collection’s statistics.

The data also revealed that more than 70 percent of the students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement officials were either Black or Hispanic.  In addition, Black students were more than three times as likely to be suspended or expelled as their white counterparts.

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