by Catherine E. Lhamon
Since 1968, Congress has charged the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to administer the Civil Rights Data Collection, or CRDC, collecting information from public elementary and secondary schools and districts about equity in students’ access to education. The CRDC has collected information about student access to courses, teachers and other school staff, and positive school climates. These data provide crucial information to OCR and to school communities and researchers about students’ educational experiences.
Today, OCR announced that it has submitted to the Federal Register for public comment a proposed CRDC for the 2021-22 school year. OCR developed these data elements after conducting listening sessions with stakeholders, including school administrators, teachers, and education advocacy organizations. OCR proposes to collect new data and restore key data categories from previous collections, to better understand a range of student experiences, including the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on students. Highlights of the proposed changes include:
- The addition of COVID-19 data elements to learn the extent to which schools are offering remote and/or in-person instruction to students during the 2021-22 school year;
- The restoration and expansion of data about preschool students and teachers, including data elements regarding preschool students with disabilities who receive special education and related services and those who are English Learners; the extent to which schools have teachers with one or two years of experience; and teacher certification status;
- Revisions to the restraint and seclusion definition; and
- The addition of a nonbinary option to male/female data categories for those schools and districts that already collect that data, to ensure inclusion of accurate information about student identities and experiences where the data are available.
In August 2021, OCR announced the administration of a 2021-22 CRDC, marking the first time that we will conduct a data collection from all public schools and districts for two school years in a row. OCR added this additional collection to ensure effective civil rights data collection about and response to students’ educational experience in the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, CRDC collections have captured data suggesting that some students may have experienced gaps in educational resources, opportunities, and outcomes that OCR, and school communities should analyze and evaluate. The 2021-22 CRDC will serve as an important tool to understand the extent to which the pandemic impacted such gaps and/or affected student access to education in other ways. It will also assist the Department and school officials with assessing the initial impacts of federal funding awarded to schools and districts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proposed 2021-22 CRDC data elements are available here. Members of the public will have 60 days to submit comments. Your feedback will assist us in collecting civil rights data that will help identify and address inequities and further OCR’s mission to ensure that our nation’s students have equal access to educational opportunities through the enforcement of civil rights laws.