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

5.5 Bridging

  • “Bridging” refers to the process of making race data collected using the 1997 standards comparable to data collected using the previous 1977 standards, to allow time trend analyses using those data. It is encouraged, but not required. (See the end of this section for a discussion of NCLB reporting requirements.) Following a shift to the 1997 standards for collecting racial and ethnic data, which include five race categories and offer respondents the opportunity to select multiple races, it may be necessary for agencies to use two sets of data for a finite length of time referred to as a “bridge period.”
  • To facilitate the study of historical trends in data collected before and after the shift to the new standards, during this bridge period agencies will not only collect new data along the 1997 guidelines, but may also consider creating a “bridging estimate,” defined as a “prediction of how the responses would have been collected and coded under the 1977 standards.” In other words, the bridge data set estimates how the newly identified multiracial populations would have identified themselves under the old single-race system. (A bridge is a crosswalk between two systems; it can work in either direction, from new to old, or old to new.)
  • Bridging will be a 1-year process only for some purposes, but will have to be done for multiple years for others (e.g., graduation or 3-year AYP). The Final Guidance states that bridging is possible and encouraged, though not required. It refers to the OMB Provisional Guidance on the Implementation of the 1997 Standards for Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity (December 15, 2000)8 for guidance on bridging the data collected before and after the change. In that document, eight techniques are described that can be used for bridging data in the two or more races category back to the five single-race groups. Appendix C offers a study on bridging methods as background information. The analysis presents 13 data-bridging methodologies for states' consideration: 9 studied by the OMB; 1 developed and used by NCHS; and 3 alternative methods. While states may exclude several of the 13 from consideration rather easily, many will remain as viable options. The appendix summarizes each methodology's merits and weaknesses and offers some best-practice recommendations. If states decide to bridge, a single bridging methodology should be selected based on such considerations as the characteristics of local populations as well as data processing capabilities. The same method should be used by all districts in the state for purposes of NCLB.
  • ED encourages states to bridge and/or use one of the data allocation measures in their transition to the new racial and ethnic reporting categories, as appropriate. For example, states that are using a longitudinal analysis as a part of identifying school districts with significant disproportionality or disproportionate representation that is the result of inappropriate identification will, if they continue to employ a longitudinal analysis in making one of these determinations, need to use one of these bridging and/or allocation methods as they transition to using new categories.
  • While states are encouraged to select a methodology for bridging the data for trend analysis, the Final Guidance does not require converting historical data at the state, district, or school levels. The focus right now is on collecting the best possible individual data, thus ensuring the quality of the data sets.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Reporting Under the Final Guidance

  • States will continue to have discretion in determining which racial groups are “major” for the purposes of fulfilling accountability requirements for making AYP determinations and issuing state and local report cards.
  • States will continue to be able to count individual students as a part of the same “major” racial groups for AYP purposes in the same manner that they do currently.
  • States are not required to change the race and ethnicity categories used for AYP determinations.
  • States are not required to change the manner in which individual students are identified at the school level for the purposes of making AYP determinations. For example, if a state currently uses the “Asian or Pacific Islander” group for AYP determinations it can continue to use this category as a “major” racial group rather than using the two new categories of “Asian” and “Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.”
  • If a student is currently identified as African American for AYP purposes at the school level when the student would be Hispanic and African American under re-identification, the school may continue to identify the student as African American for AYP determinations. For other data reporting to ED, however, this student would be counted as Hispanic.
  • States will have discretion to change the "major" racial groups used to make AYP determinations, pending a submission of an amendment to the state's Consolidated State Accountability Workbook to ED. States may therefore use bridging and allocation methods to ensure that accountability determinations accurately account for the possible shifts in demographics and are not due to the change in the manner in which students are included in the major racial and ethnic groups.


8 The Provisional Guidance can be found at: