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Managing an Identity Crisis: Forum Guide to Implementing New Federal Race and Ethnicity Categories
NFES 2008-802
October 2008

Appendix B. Letter Issued by U.S. Department of Education and Answers to Selected Policy Questions Related to the Final Guidance

Letter from Bill Evers, Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development1

August 1, 2008

Dear Colleague:

I am writing to provide you with information elaborating on final guidance on the collection and reporting of racial and ethnic data by educational institutions and other grantees that the U. S. Department of Education (Department) published in the Federal Register on October 19, 2007 (72 Fed. Reg. 59267) http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2007/pdf/E7-20613.pdf.

As you may know, since 1977, the Department, along with the other Federal agencies, has been collecting aggregated data on race and ethnicity by asking for student data using five categories. In 1997, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published new revised standards for the collection of data on race and ethnicity. The Department's October 2007 publication of final guidance, after considering public comments, aligned the Department's policy for collecting and reporting racial and ethnic data with OMB's revised standards. State educational agencies, local educational agencies, postsecondary institutions, and other educational institutions and Department grantees are required to report racial and ethnic data to the Department using the categories set forth in its 2007 final guidance starting with information concerning the 2010–11 school year.

The change in collecting and reporting racial and ethnic data allows individuals to self-identify their ethnicity and race, and permits individuals to select more than one race and/or ethnicity. This change allows individuals to more accurately reflect their racial and ethnic background by not limiting them to only one racial or ethnic category. We recognize that this requires some changes to the education information systems in the school districts, postsecondary institutions, and State agencies across the country.

To assist with the transition to the new collection and reporting standards, enclosed are responses to key questions we have received since publication of our final guidance. Specifically, we address:

  • the “two-part question” to be used (question #2),
  • actions to be taken when a response is not complete (question #3),
  • retention of original responses (question #4), and
  • timeframes for when the Department will begin collecting and reporting data by new racial and ethnic categories (question #5).

These questions, and others that arise from the field, will be published online along with other links and resources at www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/opepd. In addition, postsecondary institutions can access additional information from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) website.

We encourage you to take steps to ensure the quality, accuracy and completeness of these data. You should emphasize the importance of facilitating the self-identification process and accurately collecting and maintaining complete data about each individual, including if necessary, the use of observer identification at the elementary and secondary school level if complete data are not provided by each individual or on behalf of the individual.
In addition to the Department's resources in support of this transition, the following entities will be providing assistance and additional support:

  • Elementary and Secondary: A task force of State and school district data experts from the National Forum on Education Statistics will publish a “white paper” on the issues and the challenges associated with this data collection and reporting change across K–12 districts and state agencies. You may find this document a useful resource since it is expected to report about the experiences of States that have already completed or started the process of implementing these data collection and reporting changes. This document, along with other resource documents from OMB and others, will be found on the ed.gov sites listed above when they are published.
  • Postsecondary: The Association for Institutional Research is developing a web portal for information related to the changes to collecting and reporting racial and ethnic data to IPEDS. In addition, the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) is developing additional resources for state postsecondary education agencies. Links to these resources as well as additional information for postsecondary education institutions and state agencies will be made available at the IPEDS website.

If you have further questions about the guidance or its requirements for the collection of data on race and ethnicity, please contact Patrick Sherrill in the Performance Information Management Service. For postsecondary questions, please contact Elise Miller at the National Center for Education Statistics.

Sincerely,

/s/

Bill Evers
Assistant Secretary,
OPEPD

Enclosure

Policy Questions on the Department of Education's 2007 Guidance on Collecting, Maintaining and Reporting Data by Race or Ethnicity2

August 2008

  1. What's changing, why is it being changed, and how did you develop the standards?
  2. What does the two-part question to be used for collection look like?
  3. For how long, and in what format, must an institution maintain the original responses to this data collection?
  4. What are the aggregate reporting requirements for elementary and secondary education institutions and agencies?
  5. What are the aggregate reporting requirements for postsecondary education institutions and agencies?
  6. What are the earliest and latest times for submitting data in the new racial and ethnic categories to the Department of Education?
  7. What should be done if a respondent does not respond to both parts of the question?

1. What's changing, why is it being changed, and how did you develop the standards?

In 1997, the Office of Management and Budget published new standards for Federal agencies on the collection of racial and ethnic data. Since that time, the Department carefully examined its options for implementing the 1997 Standards and discussed the options with a variety of individuals and organizations representing educational institutions to ascertain their needs and interests, and examined how other agencies collecting similar data were providing guidance. The Department carefully balanced the needs of collecting comprehensive and accurate data in carrying out its responsibilities with the need to minimize burden as much as possible.

These new standards, developed by the Department after considering public comment, revise data collection standards in place since 1977. They allow a respondent to self-identify his or her race and ethnicity, and allow a respondent to select more than one racial or ethnic designation. The new standards require the use of a two-part question, focusing first on ethnicity and second on race when collecting the data from individuals. In the October 2007 guidance published by the Department of Education (Department) (72 Fed. Reg. 59266 (Oct. 19, 2007), at http://www.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/other/2007-4/101907c.html, the Department addresses how it will require racial and ethnic data to be collected and reported to the Department under programs administered by the Department. The Department's guidance also explains how education institutions and other Department grantees should modify their data collection and reporting systems to respond to the OMB standards.

2. What does the two-part question to be used for collection look like?

There are two different parts to the question, requiring two distinct responses. The first part asks about the broad category of ethnicity, and the second part asks about the more narrow divisions of race. The first part asks the respondent to identify his or her ethnicity as a Hispanic or Latino. The second part asks the respondent to identify his or her race or races. Provided below is an example (see http://nces.ed.gov/statprog/2002/std1_5.asp) of the questions.

The ethnicity question is:

  • What is this person's ethnicity?
    • Hispanic or Latino
    • Not Hispanic or Latino

The race question is:

  • What is this person's race? Mark one or more races to indicate what this person considers himself/herself to be.
    • White
    • Black or African American
    • Asian
    • American Indian or Alaska Native
    • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander

Additional racial or ethnic categories that are sub-categories of the categories used in the two-part question may be used if the educational institution collecting the data deems such distinctions valuable. For example, if there is a large population of Asians and differentiation of the multiple subcategories is worthwhile to the State or other educational institution, data within those sub-categories may be collected. In this case the individual could choose among Asian subcategories (for example, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Pakistani, and Indian). Similarly, if there is a diverse population of Hispanics and differentiation of the multiple subcategories is worthwhile to the State or educational institution, data within the Hispanic/Latino category may be collected. For example, individuals could choose among Hispanic subcategories such as Mexican, Cuban, or Puerto Rican. These subcategories would be for the use of the State or educational institution and would not be reported to the Department.

There is no “multiracial” or “other race” category used when collecting data from individuals using this two-part question for ethnicity and race. However, a respondent may report having more than one race.

3. For how long, and in what format, must an institution maintain the original responses to this data collection?

Because the collection of the data is associated with the disbursement of Federal funds, the regulatory requirement for maintaining original individual responses is a minimum of three years unless there is an audit, inspection, review, or investigation that has not been resolved (in that case, the responses must be maintained until resolution is complete). Institutions must maintain the information in the responses as it was collected using the two-part question, in case the Department needs it in the exercise of its oversight and enforcement responsibilities. In addition, other statues or regulations, such as the Common Rule for the Protection of Human Subject in Research (34 CFR 97), may require that individual responses be retained for a longer period for some data collections.

4. What are the aggregate reporting requirements for elementary and secondary education institutions and agencies?

For Federal reporting requirements aggregate data about all elementary and secondary students will be reported to the Department using one of the seven aggregate reporting categories discussed in the guidance. These reporting categories are—

  • Hispanic/Latino of any race,
  • For individuals who are Non-Hispanic/Latino
  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian
  • Black or African American
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
  • White
  • Two or more races

In some instances, it may be necessary for the Department to request additional information about the race and ethnicity of individuals in elementary and secondary schools (such as the individual responses as discussed under question 2 above) in order to resolve specific issues, e.g., those presented in a discrimination complaint or compliance review.

For elementary and secondary students, if an individual (or the parent on behalf of the individual) does not complete the two-part question, then the educational institution should take steps to collect and document information that enables the school to include the individual in one of the seven Federal reporting categories. The Department's existing policy of using observer identification in these cases remains unchanged from previous guidance provided by the Department.

5. What are the aggregate reporting requirements for postsecondary education institutions and agencies?

For Federal aggregate reporting requirements, postsecondary educational institutions will be required to report data using the nine reporting categories discussed in the guidance that includes:

  • Nonresident aliens (for whom neither race nor ethnicity is reported),
  • Hispanics of any race,
  • American Indian or Alaska Native non-Hispanic,
  • Asian non-Hispanic,
  • Black or African American non-Hispanic,
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander non-Hispanic,
  • White non-Hispanic,
  • Two or more races non-Hispanic, and
  • Race and ethnicity unknown.

Postsecondary institutions, students, and staff should be provided with the opportunity to self-identify by reporting their ethnicity and race on the data collection form. For Federal reporting, there are two additional categories used in higher education that are not used in reporting elementary and secondary education data: “Nonresident aliens” and “Race and ethnicity unknown.” While the use of third-party observation is permissible at the postsecondary level, it is not required. Therefore, if an individual omits or refuses to provide his or her racial or ethnic identity, the person should be reported in the race/ethnicity unknown category. In some instances, it may be necessary for the Department to request additional information about the race and ethnicity of individuals at the postsecondary level (such as the individual responses as discussed under question 2 above) in order to resolve specific issues, e.g., those presented in a discrimination complaint or compliance review.

6. What are the earliest and latest times for submitting data in the new racial and ethnic categories to the Department of Education?

The Department is requiring that educational institutions and other Department grantees begin reporting data using the new collection procedures and aggregate reporting categories no later than for data about the 2010–11 school year. Education data systems must collect these data from individuals utilizing the two-part question. The Department's primary elementary and secondary data collection system, the EDFacts Education Data Exchange Network (EDEN) Submission System will be able to receive data in the new categories beginning with the 2008–09 school year. Educational institutions and grantees implementing the new guidance procedures for collecting and aggregating ethnicity and race data may begin reporting those data according to the revised categories as early as for school year 2008–09. However, data on the 2010–11 school year or later MUST be collected and aggregated in accordance with the new guidance and reported using the new categories.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education System (IPEDS) will accept data in the new categories starting with the 2008–09 data collection. In 2008–09 and 2009–10, the new categories will be optional for all IPEDS components. Starting in 2010–11, institutions must report the new categories on the Fall Enrollment and Human Resources components. Starting in 2011–12, institutions must report the new categories on the 12-month Enrollment, Completions, and Graduation Rates components.

7. What should be done if a respondent does not respond to both parts of the question?

For elementary and secondary education students, if an individual (or the parent on behalf of the individual) does not complete the two-part question, then the educational institution should take steps to collect and document information allowing the reporting of the individual in one of the seven Federal reporting categories. The Department will continue its existing policy of using observer identification in these cases. If only one part of the two-part question is unanswered, the educational institution should take steps to ensure that the respondent has intentionally refused to complete both parts of the question, before using observer identification if there is not enough information in the response to allow for proper reporting within one of the seven categories.

For postsecondary institutions or other educational institutions serving adults such as grantees of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, presenting the data collection form with the two-part question to students and staff is sufficient to ensure that individuals have had an opportunity to respond. No use of observer identification is required.

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1 Retrieved on-line at http://www.ed.gov/policy/rschstat/guid/raceethnicity/letter.html.
2 Retrieved on-line at http://www.ed.gov/policy/rschstat/guid/raceethnicity/questions.html.


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