Investigating Race and Gender Bias in Our Schools

Herb Dempsey

How do minority males do in specific classes?  How do girls do in getting equal treatment, as schools give them their piece of the civil rights' pie? These questions and more can be answered using the U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights Data Collection, which is based on data from thousands of schools. On March 21, 2014, an important national analysis tool was reopened to the public.

In an announcement by the Office for Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Education the Civil Rights Data Collection is again online after a redesign of the user interface. Here is how this database can be used to answer a wide spectrum of important social questions.

The potential of the collection may be found in some background documents by OCR:

The data sets were originally designed in 1968 to present some selected facts about school achievement by minority groups for analysis and research in the field of education. Education is now being touted as the potential savior for the world’s chronically depressed economies and the guarantees of equality have jumped in value.  Civil rights are based on some fairly simple arithmetic and the potential of the database for those doing simple comparisons are computer enhanced in 2014.  How do minority males do in specific classes, discipline and a host of other areas?  How do girls do in getting equal treatment as schools give them their piece of the civil rights' pie?  The results are all here in data points from thousands of schools.

Try it out. For example, go to In the center of the page are a couple of options. To try out the database, click on one, e.g., the Detailed Data Tables option. There will be some fields to fill in. To find out about Lincoln High School, for example, write Lincoln in the school name field. If you type Lincoln High School, you won’t find it. Then fill in the city Tacoma and the state Washington. Click on Search and explore topics you find on the right side of the results page.

While not every district is represented and not every school is available for every year, the potential of having millions of data points available is obvious. As far as the data being reliable, it was entered by the districts.  As far as the data being valid, OCR does not apparently check anything in the database.

There are some quirky results, such as schools claiming to have "no interscholastic athletics" but showing full athletic schedules, when we examine their websites.  Even with the obvious weaknesses in the database the effect of millions of new pieces of information will allow those who are computer savvy to reach new conclusions and support some old ones.

Using some data that are now well over five years old, OCR hints at the potential of the data sets: