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Secretary DeVos’s Proposal to Eliminate Data Points from the Civil Rights Data Collection is Deeply Troubling

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has proposed eliminating nearly thirty data points from the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), including data pertaining to teacher experience, school finance, and advanced coursework. Secretary DeVos’s proposal is deeply concerning and inconsistent with the Education Department’s (ED) mission of “fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.”

While eliminating these data points may reduce the burden on school districts, the loss of this information far outweighs any modest benefit districts may experience. Should these data points disappear, so, too, does the transparency families and communities want and need to be better informed as to the quality of schools they desire and support.

Evidence demonstrates the importance of teacher experience, yet ED has proposed to eliminate the collection of data on the number of first- and second-year teachers in schools. Data from the CRDC demonstrate that the percentage of teachers in their first year of teaching is twice as high in school districts with the highest concentrations of Black and Latino students in comparison to school districts with the lowest percentages of Black or Latino students. According to an analysis by the Alliance for Excellent Education, 13.9 percent of public-school classroom teachers were in their first year of teaching in school districts with an average concentration of Black or Latino students above 75 percent during the 2015–16 school year. However, only 6.0 percent of teachers were in their first year of teaching in school districts with an average concentration of Black or Latino students at or below 25 percent. Eliminating this data point will not assist in eradicating this disparity. It could, however, make closing this disparity less of a priority by removing the data from the public eye.

Research shows that school funding influences student achievement, yet ED has proposed to eliminate all data collection related to school finance. Even if one disputes the growing evidence that education spending is associated with better student outcomes, it is still prudent to collect information on how billions of taxpayer dollars are spent and to ensure they are distributed equitably.

A 2014 CRDC analysis found that education spending on our most vital educational resource—our teachers—is inequitable. For nearly one-quarter of school districts, a salary gap of at least $5,000 exists between educators working in high schools serving the highest and lowest percentages of Black and Latino students. ED’s proposal to eliminate the collection of school finance data would undercut efforts to ensure that taxpayer dollars are equitably distributed to support all students, particularly those who have been historically underserved.

Further, even though the completion of accelerated coursework improves students’ preparation for college, gives high school students the opportunity to earn college credit, and reduces student debt, ED has proposed to reduce data collection regarding Advanced Placement enrollment and test-taking. According to an analysis conducted by the Government Accountability Office using data from the CRDC, “among schools that offer [Advanced Placement], roughly 70 percent of low-poverty schools offered more than 10 different AP courses, compared to about 30 percent of high-poverty schools.”

At a time when the nation’s economy demands higher levels of education than ever before, more must be done to ensure equitable access to accelerated coursework. ED’s proposal will limit the ability to identify and address disparities in access to advanced coursework for students most in need of opportunities and support.

ED’s proposed reductions to the CRDC would have a ripple effect beyond the CRDC itself. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) linked reporting requirements on State and district report cards to CRDC in several areas, including advanced coursework. By reducing data elements within the CRDC, ED is, in effect, reducing the information that will be made available on State and district report cards, despite congressional intent for these report cards to highlight data collected through the CRDC.

We measure what matters. This proposal from ED sends an unfortunate message regarding the interest and intention of the federal government to maintain its historic role of ensuring all students have access to a high-quality education. I urge Secretary DeVos to reconsider this proposal and restore these data elements, as well as each data element listed in this document from All4Ed.

Deb Delisle is president and CEO of the Alliance for Excellent Education.