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

3.1 State-Level Training and Communication

Just as policy and procedures development begins at the state level, it makes sense for the state to provide a broad framework for training and communication. These include:

  • Identify key players who should be involved in training and communication. At the state level, broad support should be obtained from the agency's leadership. Presenting the new race/ethnicity standards at leadership meetings helps leaders and senior personnel understand the federal reporting requirements and the system changes that should be made at the state and local levels to implement the new reporting format. Senior leadership can also serve as a good sounding board for cost estimates. Legal staff may be consulted about the implications of state laws on data collection, reporting, and maintenance. The anticipated outcome of this process is broad leadership support for the work needed to implement the new categories.
     

    The Massachusetts State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education developed a frequently asked questions website to address such questions as the following:

    • Is it legal for the state to collect racial and ethnic data?
    • For what purposes will the state use the educator racial data?
    • Why were the codes changed from the five categories to the present 62?
    • When did the change take place?
    • How are the data collected to reflect this change?
    • How do school districts report these data to the Department?
    • May school districts or families identify additional race or ethnicity categories?
    • How will the Department report the racial and ethnic data to the Federal government?
    • What are the implications for desegregation plans and the racial imbalance law?
    • Is there a sample letter for districts to use in their data collection?
    • How can schools/districts collect the race and ethnicity data for staff if staff refuses to provide the information?

    Source: http://www.doe.mass.edu/infoservices/data/guides/race_faq.html

    State data personnel whose responsibilities include collecting, maintaining, and reporting student and staff racial and ethnic data should be trained so that they can:

    • Understand the two-part question format and new race categories.
    • Understand the federal aggregate reporting requirements.
    • Understand guidelines that will be conveyed to school districts.
    • Identify specific changes to be made in their data systems to accommodate new requirements.
    • Assign responsibilities for making such changes (in-house personnel or vendors), and identify contact person(s) for each area.
    • Determine the implementation calendar, taking into consideration the agency's current data collection schedule.
    • Determine whether the agency wants to bridge data across the old and new standards.
    • Explore data bridging options and identify methodologies to be used, if the state decides to do this.

    Vendors are important players in this process. They should be involved in the early stage and be well informed of all the issues and changes in order to accomplish the following:

    • Understand the two-part question format and new race categories.
    • Understand the federal aggregate reporting requirements.
    • Identify specific changes to be made in their systems or products and provide minimum data standards.
    • Assign responsibilities for making such changes and identify a contact person.
    • Determine the implementation calendar, taking into consideration the agency's current data collection schedule.

    School district personnel should be made aware of the process early on, with follow-up sessions throughout the implementation process, to help them:

    Anticipating questions about race and ethnicity identification will help:

    • Middle Eastern students should be identified as "White," not "Asian."
    • Students from Spain should be identified as Hispanic and one or more of the racial categories.
    • Understand the two-part question format and new race categories.
    • Understand the federal aggregate reporting requirements.
    • Understand the state guidelines that will facilitate development of district policies and procedures based on their district's environment, including re-identifying students and staff, following up with parents for data, observing a student's race and ethnicity if parents decline to do so, and following coding requirements.
    • Develop their own plans for re-identification, including how and when it will be conducted.
    • Identify specific changes to be made in their data systems (e.g., student records, human resources records, testing) to accommodate new requirements.
    • Be aware of the types of assistance that are provided by state staff, and how to access this help. Understand the timeline for implementation.

    The state could determine the mechanism for training and communication, which may include annual data staff meetings, staff orientations, web-based meetings, teleconferences, an online or telephone help desk, manuals and documentation, or any combination of the above. It is estimated that training needs will be heavy at first, but may be absorbed by regular established venues after the first year of implementation.

  • States can take the lead by providing useful training materials and communication tools from their websites, such as:
    • Sample letters to parents and educators (Exhibit 3.1 includes an example of an early communication letter to the parents sent by Montgomery County [MD] Public Schools. Exhibit 3.2 includes a sample letter that can be used to communicate with staff members regarding the changes.)
    • Sample data collection forms
    • Answers to frequently asked questions, especially questions regarding the legality of collection and the rationale for the change
    • Data dictionary
    • State-adopted racial and ethnic codes.
question point What Do the New Standards Mean to School Districts?

School districts vary in size, organization, and function of the chain of command.  The focus on training and communication at the local level would be on implementing local policies and procedures, so that the re-identification process is carried out in the most consistent way to garner accurate data. Some preliminary work in planning and orienting all of the parties involved in these changes will have substantial payoff later on.

  • Identify key players who should be involved in training and communication.  At the local level, broad support should be obtained from leadership such as superintendents and boards of education.  Presentation at leadership and board meetings will clarify the new federal requirements, and the system changes specified by state to implement the new reporting format.  This is an opportunity to present cost estimates and review state laws on data collection, reporting, and maintenance.  Legal staff may be consulted.  The anticipated outcome of this process is broad local support for the work to introduce new race and ethnicity data standards.
  • School district data personnel whose responsibilities include collecting, maintaining, and reporting student and staff racial and ethnic data should be trained to do the following:
    • Understand the two-part question format and new race categories.
    • Understand the federal aggregate reporting requirements.
    • Understand relevant state guidelines and standards.
    • Review existing data to anticipate challenges and questions, then communicate with the state education agency for clarification.
    • Identify specific changes to be made in their data systems to accommodate new requirements.
    • Develop policies and procedures that cover assignment of responsibilities, data collection and verification, communication and follow-up with parents, procedures to encourage self-identification, training for observers assigning race and ethnicity, and record retention and disposal.
    • Assign responsibilities for making such changes to in-house personnel or consultants, and identify a contact person(s) for each area.
    • Determine the calendar of implementation, taking into consideration the current data reporting schedule.
    • Determine how the re-identification will be conducted.

Vendors should be involved in early stage of this process, to do the following:

  • Understand the two-part question format and new race categories.
  • Understand the federal aggregate reporting requirements.
  • Identify specific changes to be made in their systems or products and provide minimum standards.
  • Assign responsibilities for making such changes and identify a contact person.
  • Determine a calendar of implementation, taking into consideration the agency's current data collection schedule.

School personnel, specifically the principal or his/her designate, should be made aware of the process early on, especially if observer identification is to be done at the school.  Besides the content areas for school district training listed above, districts can provide some “real life” practice as school personnel analyze their current student population, develop scenarios of possible observer misidentification, and anticipate possible data entry errors.

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