OCR Data Reveals Major Inequities in Resource Availability

in NEWS FROM THE ACCESS NETWORK

Data released last month by the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education (OCR) revealed major gaps in educational resources and opportunities provided to low income and minority students. Specifically, this extensive study found that:

Schools serving mainly African-American students are twice as likely to have teachers with only one or two years of experience than schools in the same district serving mainly White students.

Less than one-fourth of school districts surveyed ran prekindergarten programs for children from lower income families.

2% of the students surveyed with disabilities were enrolled in at least one Advanced Placement class.

Approximately 3,000 surveyed schools did not offer Algebra II classes last year and approximately 7,300 surveyed schools did not offer calculus.

The Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) of 2009-2010 covers the 2009-2010 school year.  This data collection is the largest assemblage of public school demographic data ever compiled and is the first data collection to report students’ participation rates in algebra, college-preparatory courses, and teacher experience.  The primary purpose of the CRDC is to acquire data about the ability of public schools throughout the country to provide equal educational opportunities across race/ethnicity, sex, limited English proficiency, and disability categories.

The 2009-2010 CRDC is a two-part survey that includes all districts with more than 3,000 enrolled students, state-operated schools for students who are deaf or blind, and state-operated long-term juvenile justice facilities and boot camps—more than 72,000 schools and 7,000 districts in total.

This data collection consists of a wide range of data, including: school characteristics, enrollment, math and science course-taking, the certification requirements of full-time employees, and the total number of students awaiting special education evaluation. The data in Part 1 of the study, which are provided by school, but not by state, can be found at the Office of Civil Right’s website: http://ocrdata.ed.gov. A further analysis of the data alongside other federal education data undertaken by ProPublica found that in some states high-poverty schools are less likely to have students enrolled in Advanced Placement or higher-level math and science classes.  Their compete results and methodology on their Educational Opportunity Project are available to the public.

The second installment of the Civil Rights Data Collection is expected to be released in the fall.  This dataset will include information, amongst a host of issues, regarding grade-level promotion rates, teacher absenteeism rates, school funding, incidents of harassment and bullying, and student discipline. The next data collection—which occurs on average every two years—is expected to include every public school in the country.

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