Four New Civil Rights Data Collection Snapshots

Last week, the Department of Education released the latest data from the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). The CRDC is a vital resource that provides the public an opportunity to understand how our nation and individual states, districts, and schools serve all students, including our students of color, English learners, and students with disabilities. The troubling disparities revealed in this comprehensive, searchable database serve as a reminder of the importance of ensuring all students have equal access to educational opportunities.

Holder at Wilson Elementary

Attorney General Eric Holder talks with a student following the announcement of the latest CRDC collection at J.O. Wilson Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

For the first time in more than a decade, the CRDC contains information on approximately 16,500 school districts, 97,000 schools, and 49 million students. The data shines a spotlight on educational equity in areas such as discipline, access to preschool, teacher equity, and access to college- and career-ready courses.

To coincide with the most recent data release, the Office for Civil Rights has created four new snapshots to help understand the data:

Data Snapshot: Early Childhood Education


  • Public preschool access not yet a reality for much of the nation: About 40 percent of school districts do not offer preschool programs.
  • Black children make up 18 percent of preschool enrollment, but 48 percent of preschool children suspended more than once. Boys receive more than three out of four out-of-school preschool suspensions.

Data Snapshot: School Discipline, Restraint, & Seclusion Highlights


  • Disproportionately high suspension/expulsion rates for students of color: Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students. On average, 5 percent of white students are suspended, compared to 16 percent of black students. American Indian and Native-Alaskan students are also disproportionately suspended and expelled, representing less than 1 percent of the student population but 2 percent of out-of-school suspensions and 3 percent of expulsions.
  • Disproportionate suspensions of girls of color: While boys receive more than two out of three suspensions, black girls are suspended at higher rates (12 percent) than girls of any other race or ethnicity and most boys; American Indian and Native-Alaskan girls (7 percent) are suspended at higher rates than white boys (6 percent) or girls (2 percent).

Data Snapshot: College and Career Readiness


  • Limited access to high-level math and science courses: Nationwide, only 50 percent of high schools offer calculus, and only 63 percent offer physics.
  • Significant lack of access to other core courses: Nationwide, between 10-25 percent of high schools do not offer more than one of the core courses in the typical sequence of high school math and science education — such as Algebra I and II, geometry, biology, and chemistry.

Data Snapshot: Teacher and Counselor Equity


  • Teacher salary disparities: Nearly one in four districts with two or more high schools reports a teacher salary gap of more than $5,000 between high schools with the highest and the lowest black and Latino student enrollments.
  • Access to school counselors: Nationwide, one in five high schools lacks a school counselor.

Learn more about the 2011-12 CRDC collection at

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education

LGBT Students Give Secretary Duncan Homework

Duncan talks with LGBT students

Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood.

While many students sign yearbooks and trade digits and Twitter handles as school closes, Secretary Arne Duncan began June on assignment: using student input to expand Department efforts to help eliminate bullying against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) student community.

June is LGBT Pride Month, and to kick off the month, and as part of ED’s Student Voices Sessions, the Secretary met with eight students from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network to hear directly from the students about their experiences and to discuss bullying and possible solutions.

Students shared examples of their school’s environment and the steps they’re taking to improve the climate for LGBT students. Each student mentioned the need for teachers to have sensitivity training, because many have not encountered discrimination against LGBT students and do not know how to address it.  One student approached the problem by holding a session on a teacher professional development day with the support of the principal. The student said this approach  was wildly successful, and the teachers started showing their support for LGBT students by wearing “I support” pins. “We are no longer ‘those students,’ he said. “Teachers see us as their students along with everyone else.”

Students talk with Secretary Duncan

Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood

The students were emphatic about the need for comprehensive data to  prove the widespread bullying and harassment of LGBT youth. They urged Secretary Duncan to start collecting information about behavior toward the LGBT community through the Civil Rights Data Collection. By identifying the severity and scope of LGBT bullying and harassment across the country, schools, students and families will be informed and advocates will be able to communicate concerns to schools and communities, as well as to policymakers. Knowing the nature and breadth of problems will help everyone create comprehensive solutions that work for both schools and students.

ED has helped fuel the national dialogue around bullying through two national bullying summits over the past two years, which brought together federal officials from several agencies, nonprofit leaders, researchers, parents, and youth to begin a national discussion around the issue and identify areas that need additional guidance and clarification to support bullying prevention efforts. A third summit will be held later this year. Later this week, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali will testify in a Senate hearing on bullying in schools held by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) in, Des Moines, Iowa.

Read more from our Student Voices Sessions, which are designed to engage young Americans with policy issues so that ED can learn from their perspectives to connect policies with student needs.

Samuel Ryan, Regional & Youth Outreach Associate, Office of Communications and Outreach 

Duncan Enlists Sharpton’s Civil Rights Network in Education Reform

“You are all partners and allies in reforming public education,” Secretary Arne Duncan said last week at the National Action Network’s 14th Annual Convention in Washington. “An excellent education for very child is a moral and civic imperative, as well as an economic one. This issue is even bigger than education—it is an issue of social justice and economic security,” Duncan said.

One takeaway from the conference is that the civil rights community has a long and distinguished history of taking courageous action to drive social change, and it will take collective will to make a difference in boosting the nation’s graduation rates and turning around our low-performing schools. “Without equality in education there will never be equality in society. We have to do what’s right for our children and make education a priority,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network.

Secretary Duncan explained that “we have to have a strategy to build an economy that will last—and education is the centerpiece of it.” Duncan praised groups like the National Action Network for their work with communities, and said that “we need to keep fighting together for strong local, state and national investments.”

Concerning Data on Inequities

During his remarks, Duncan highlighted recently released data from the Civil Rights Data Collection that provides policymakers, educators, parents and communities with critical information that will aid them in identifying inequities and targeting solutions to close the persistent education achievement and opportunity gap in America.

The new data show minority students across America face harsher discipline, have less access to rigorous high school curricula, and are more often taught by lower-paid and less experienced teachers.  Teachers in schools serving mostly minorities get paid an average of $2,250 less per year. Just 29% of schools serving high minority populations offer calculus compared to 55% of high schools serving non-minorities. African American students are three-and-a-half times more likely to be suspended and expelled than whites. African American students are 18% of the nation’s student population but 35% of the suspensions and 35% of students to be arrested. This is what’s known as the school-to-prison pipeline.

Despite the best efforts of educators to bring greater equity to our schools, too many children, especially low-income and minority students, are still denied the educational opportunities they need to succeed.  Duncan explained the need to change laws and policies that require schools to distribute resources more equitably.  

 Next year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream speech,” Duncan noted in closing. “I plan to be on the (Washington) Mall with you—marking the moment—and reaffirming our commitment to end discrimination in housing, in jobs, in education, in opportunity and to realize the American dream for everyone no matter their color, race, religion or background,” he said. “There is so much at stake, and together we hold the key to the future.”

Kimberly Watkins-Foote is Director of African American Communications and Outreach

Wisconsin Community Targets Achievement Gap

Michael Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County, in Madison, Wis., can hardly contain his enthusiasm about recent support his agency received from more than a dozen corporations and hundreds of local donors to help address the achievement gap in his city. “We have received more than $1 million from our local community to target our achievement gap and I am proud the community is investing in our local students to tackle this issue.”

Graduation Photo

Michael Johnson (center) is proud of the Madison, Wis., high school graduates who have grown through the AVID/TOPS program.

While Madison and Dane County are often listed as ideal places to live in national magazines, the city is facing its educational challenge head-on.

Even without federal funding, but proving what Secretary Duncan says—that some of the best ideas are generated at the local level—Madison is taking a hard look at the academic performance of its students, and examining test scores and other data along racial, ethnic and gender lines. What do the numbers show?

Kaleem Caire, Director of Madison’s Urban League, and whose African American family has lived in Madison since 1902, talks about how

    • “85% of Latino students and 86% of African American students are in poverty;
    •  45% of 10th grade African American males are proficient in reading, while 87% of white males are; and
    • the graduation rate for African American males is only 52%, while the rate for white males is 88%.

This information is reinforced by the Civil Rights Data Collection report recently released by ED. The report show, for example, that 70.7% of white students in Madison public schools take Algebra 1 in 7th or 8th grade, but only 7.1% of African American and 8.1% of Hispanic students take it; and while 69.1% of white students take either the SAT or ACT exams to get into college, only 10.6% of African American and 8.1% of Hispanic students take these exams.

Where does Madison go from here? Sue Abplanalp, Deputy Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District explains that the District’s Building Our Future plan is moving Madison nearer to closing the achievement gap. “The Superintendent’s plan pulls all the partners together to bring new focus on academic instruction,” Abplanalp said. “There will be a strong literacy component with an extended day and expanded summer school to strengthen and sustain reading and math skills.”

She goes on to say, “In the higher grades, emphasis will be put on college and career readiness with a test prep program and expansion of the AVID/TOPS program, for example.  And all of this will be conducted in an atmosphere of expanded culturally responsive practices and enhanced family engagement.”

Students enroll in an AVID class in high school to receive intensive coaching, academic instruction and study skills. The Dane County Boys and Girls Club’s Teens of Promise (TOPS) afterschool tutoring program buttresses the AVID structure so that there is academic continuity outside the school environment. According to program directors, 100% of the students in the AVID/TOPS program have graduated from high school and 95% have enrolled in college.

Boys & Girls Club of Dane County CEO Michael Johnson says, “Today there are more than 500 students in the AVID/TOPS program, and the Boys & Girls Club provides more than 40 tutors in the classroom. In 2010-2011 African-American and Latino students in AVID/TOPS had higher GPAs than their peers who were not in the program, and AVID/TOPS students had fewer behavior referrals than their peers not in the program.” He continues, “We are excited about the community’s support and the generosity of local donors like philanthropist Mary Burke, who co-founded the AVID/TOPS program in Madison, Great Lakes Higher Education Corp and the Madison Community Foundation for taking the lead to help fund such an effort.”

–Cynthia Dorfman is Director of Regional Communications and Outreach