Five New Facts from the Civil Rights Data Collection

Equity – the push to ensure strong educational opportunity for every student – drives everything we do at the U.S. Department of Education, and particularly in the Office for Civil Rights. From preschool enrollment to college attendance and completion, our office’s work is grounded in the belief that all students, regardless of race, gender, disability, or age, need a high-quality education to be successful.

Yet despite the gains we’ve made as a country, too many students are not receiving the education they deserve, and it is our collective duty to change that. Data is crucial to this work and helps us understand the extent of educational inequity throughout the U.S. and make informed decisions for action.

Since 1968, the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), formerly the Elementary and Secondary School Survey, has collected data on key education and civil rights issues in our nation’s public schools. Our office uses this data to focus our equity efforts and monitor the effectiveness of our programs. Earlier today we released new data from the 2011-12 collection, and for the first time since 2000, we collected data from every public school in the nation. This newest collection also includes data on preschool suspensions and expulsions for the first time as well.

Below are five striking new facts from the 2011-12 CRDC collection:

  • Access to preschool is not a reality for much of the country. About 40 percent of public school districts do not offer preschool, and where it is available, it is mostly part-day only. Of the school districts that operate public preschool programs, barely half are available to all students within the district.
  • Suspension of preschool children. Black students represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment but 42 percent of preschool students suspended once, and 48 percent of the preschool students suspended more than once.
  • Access to courses necessary for college is inequitably distributed. Eighty-one percent of Asian-American high school students and 71 percent of white high school students attend high schools where the full range of math and science courses are offered (Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, calculus, biology, chemistry, physics). However, fewer than half of American Indian and Native-Alaskan high school students have access to the full range of math and science courses in their high schools.  Black students (57 percent), Latino students (67 percent), students with disabilities (63 percent), and English learner students (65 percent) also have diminished access to the full range of courses.
  • Access to college counselors is uneven. Nationwide, one in five high schools lacks a school counselor.
  • Disparities in high school retention.  Twelve percent of black students are retained in grade nine – about double the rate that all students are retained (six percent).  Additionally, students with disabilities served by IDEA and English learners make up 12 percent and five percent of high school enrollment, respectively, but 19 percent and 11 percent of students held back or retained a year, respectively.

Learn more about the CRDC at

Catherine E. Lhamon is assistant secretary for the Office for Civil Rights.


  1. What is more important than preschool is getting young children who live in inadequate home environments in a quality setting during the day. Young children need a quality environment to play in that is staffed by people that understand the wide developmental range of children and behave appropriately themselves–this doesn’t have to be preschool. Preschool is oversold. And I don’t find some of the so called research in support of research compelling–some was limited to very specific circumstances and does not address alternative settings.

    I am very willing as a taxpayer to help finance qualified guidance counselors and math and science and language arts education. I am unwilling to fund preschool for every child.

    I would also like to understand more about why certain groups are suspended more than others from preschool before a conclusion is drawn that there is illegal discrimination present.

  2. School districts are desperately trying to decrease suspension rates despite clear infractions against the code of conduct. Teaching young people how to conduct themselves is becoming a labor beyond the role of educating children in subject matter. “What is the value of freedom if you are at liberty to play the fool?” Locke. Hard work, responsibility, proper conduct have become vague due to the excuse of “cultural diversity.” Our educational system is playing the harlot to the guise of equity.

  3. I can’t believe the just found out that minorities get an inferior education. Minority schools get the worst teachers, financing and community participation. It’s been like that for years. Just ask yourself; “where does the money come from that goes to our schools?” Rich neighborhoods get better schools, poor neighborhoods get inferior schools. Our state school tax distribution systems are the problem. As a teacher, I would go where the money is.
    Does that help??

    • I believe that even in the worst neighborhoods, the property owners pay high taxes and get very little for their money, somehow the services offered to the minority people are always inferior. Teachers, Police Officers, Sanitation worker, you name it, hardly any of these workers are vested in the community they work. They merely show up to collect their salaries and leave. They don’t spend money or time outside the walls of their respective place of employment. They don’t give a
      hoot whether the schools are good or bad. Their interest is not in the well-being of the community.
      Educating our children includes building up the children’s self esteem inside and outside of the school, respecting the inherent dignity of living beings is the starting point.

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