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Racial and Ethnic Classifications Used by Public Schools
NCES: 96092
May 1996

For Federal Reporting Purposes, How Do Public Schools Provide Racial Information for Students Who Are Reported Using Designations Other Than the Five Standard Federal Categories?

When schools use designations such as "other" or "multiracial" to classify racial and ethnic data, they are required to use the five standard categories specified in Directive No. 15 when submitting their data to the federal government. How do schools convert their records into data that are compatible with the federal guidelines?

Schools that indicated the use of any racial or ethnic categories other than the five standard ones were asked to select from a list of six procedures the one procedure that they use to aggregate the data for federal reporting. Separate responses were requested for "other," "undesignated," or "unknown" classifications and for "multiracial" or additional racial or ethnic categories (Table 4). Of those public schools that reported using any classifications other than the five standard federal categories (27 percent of all schools), approximately half (46-56 percent) indicated that their school district's central office handles the aggregating of information for federal reporting (Table 4).

Since this survey did not collect district-level information, the procedures these school districts follow are unknown. For those schools that indicated that the aggregating is done at the school level, many (35 percent) reported that students who are classified using any additional categories are distributed among the five standard federal categories based on which ones the school considers most appropriate. For example, students classified as Filipino would be aggregated into the Asian or Pacific Islander category. No more than 19 percent of these schools reported using any particular alternative procedure, such as determining the mothers' race or ethnicity and assigning students accordingly, or distributing the students by prorating data among the five standard federal categories.