Since 1997, federal agencies have been working to adopt the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. These standards replace those that have been in effect since 1977. The new standards separate race and ethnicity and include two categories for data on ethnicity. There are five categories for data on race, and respondents are now allowed to choose more than one race. The new standards are as follows:
In August 2006, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released proposed plans for revising the way state education agencies (SEA) (states) and local education agencies (LEA) (school districts) are expected to maintain, collect, and report data on race and ethnicity. After reviewing extensive comments and feedback, ED released Final Guidance on Maintaining, Collecting, and Reporting Racial and Ethnic Data to the U.S. Department of Education (Final Guidance) in October 2007.3 The Final Guidance, effective as of December 3, 2007, drives future reporting of racial and ethnic data to all programs within ED. The guidelines specify both the new categories for individual-level data, and the aggregated categories to be used for racial and ethnic data reported to ED. In August 2008, a letter was released by Bill Evers, ED's Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, to elaborate the Final Guidance. The letter is accompanied by a list of answers to related policy questions in both elementary/secondary education and postsecondary education settings.
Regardless of the race combinations of individuals, each individual must be counted in exactly one of the following race and ethnicity combinations when being reported to ED or other federal agencies:
Reporting requirements by 2010. States and districts will be required to report aggregated data (not individual student records) to ED using these new standards by the fall of 2010 for the 2010–11 school year. Note that this does not include aggregated data for the 2009–10 school year. For example, dropouts and high school completers for the 2009–10 school year, which may not be reported until the winter of 2010, may be reported under the old race and ethnicity categories.
The new standards are part of federal education reports that districts and states submit to receive funds such as those provided through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). They are part of the required ED accountability reports collected through the EDFacts data collection system. Within ED, the Office for Civil Rights collects data at the school and district levels to assist with its enforcement of laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race and national origin, among other personal characteristics. Under the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA), states are required to collect race and ethnicity data on students with disabilities. Data collected through the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education that account for progress in meeting the goals of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act include information about students' race and ethnicity. All these data collections are tied to federal funding, and comply with the new OMB guidance for collecting racial and ethnic data.
The new race and ethnicity categories will also be used by other federal agencies in civil rights compliance monitoring and equal employment reporting for the public and private sectors and for all levels of government. The new racial and ethnic data standards have already been implemented by many federal agencies.
More accurate statistical information. Outside ED, the new race and ethnicity categories were used by the U.S. Bureau of the Census in data collection, tabulation, and reporting in the 2000 Census. Health agencies have since taken the initiative of adopting the OMB race and ethnicity categories in their data collections; the Federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) began to collect data using the new race and ethnicity categories in fall 2007.4
|What Do the New Standards Mean to School Districts?
The evolving racial and ethnic composition of the school population also provides a strong incentive for reporting data that more accurately reflect the student body. Parents want the opportunity to more fully describe their children's heritage. Districts and states need data to track and assess racial and ethnic disparities and to measure the effectiveness of school programs in reducing performance differences between groups of students. An effective accountability system relies on precise data, and the new categories can benefit operational decisions as well by more specifically acknowledging racial and ethnic heritage. For example, districts may use the more precise descriptions of their students' backgrounds to better provide instruction and services.
3 See appendix A for the full text of “Final Guidance on Maintaining, Collecting, and Reporting Racial and Ethnic Data to the U.S. Department of Education,” Federal Register, Vol. 72, No. 202, Friday, October 19, 2007.
4 As of the writing of the Final Guidance, the new race and ethnicity categories are adopted in the Employer Information Report (EEO-1). “The EEOC plans to update the other reports to use the same race and ethnic categories as the new EEO-1 but, before doing so, will give respondents a full reporting cycle to change their recordkeeping. Source: EEO Surveys.