According to the U.S. Department of Education Web site Ed Data Express, the racial and ethnic makeup of the nation’s schools in 2009 was:
- White: 53.7%
- Black: 16.6%
- Hispanic: 22.0%
- Asian/Pacific Islander: 4.9%
- American Indian/Alaska Native: 1.3%
Using data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) Common Core of Data, the Web site Ed Data Express publishes data on the percent of students who are white, Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native American. The data is available at the state level. Data at the district level is available at the Federal Education Budget Project. While data at the school level can be found at GreatSchools.
The U.S. Department of Education uses a standard classification of racial and ethnic groups: White, Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native American. While data on racial and ethnic enrollment is collected by NCES, the Federal Education Budget Project and GreatSchools web sites might be the best place to analyze it. The websites make it easy to compare states, district, and schools.
How to Use the Data
Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), public schools must reduce achievement gaps between students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Data on a school’s diversity allows you to evaluate your school’s demographics and ensure that all students are getting equal access to resources and achieving at high standards.
How the details were measured
The data is reported as the percent of students who are white, Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native American. It cannot be further broken down by socioeconomic status, English language learners, or special needs.
Limitations of the data
Each of the three websites use the federal government’s standard classification of major racial and ethnic categories. This approach does not allow students to classify themselves as multiracial. The classification system also lumps together large ethnic and racial minorities. There is no way to tell, for instance, if a student is a recent immigrant from Africa or if their family origins are African and they have lived in this country for generations.
Key Questions to Ask
Is racial and ethnic data accurate?
Given the importance of racial and ethnic data, you should inspect your numbers closely. If classification of a student is questionable, you should be sure to ask the student’s parents.
To calculate total enrollment, each of the websites rely on data from NCES’s Common Core of Data (CCD), a program that collects basic statistical information from every school in the nation. More information about the CCD system is available for downloading. You can also download the CCD data, although the CCD data may not always correspond with local data due to differences in data collection and reporting.
SchoolMatters and the CCD use the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s standard classification of major ethnic categories:
- White: A non-Hispanic person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East.
- Black: A non-Hispanic person having origins in any of the black racial groups in Africa.
- Hispanic: A person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
- Asian/Pacific Islander: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, or the Pacific Islands. This area includes, for example, China, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippine Islands, and Samoa.
- American Indian/Alaskan Native: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America and maintaining cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.
Under the classification system on the CCD website, students may not choose multiple categories, and there is no “other” category. They must choose one of the categories above.
There are some alternative data sources for this indicator. The most detailed comes from the U.S. Census Bureau, where you can download racial and ethnic data on school-age children for every county in the nation. To obtain the data, you should visit the American Community Survey site, and then click on detailed tables, then geographic area, and then choose table B14001, which provides school enrollment by level of school for populations three and over by race.
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