Alongside the start of the new school year, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights informed school superintendents that it will administer a 2021-2022 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC).

The effort marks the first time that OCR has conducted a CRDC – including all public school districts and their schools – for two years in a row, and covering the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 periods.

In a press release, the Education Department said the additional data collection will “help advance equity at a time when the nation’s educational landscape has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and schools are receiving substantial new Federal funding to address new and longstanding challenges.” The data will be analyzed and then used to inform decision-making regarding additional support that schools, educators, and students need. It will also help OCR to ensure that schools and districts are complying with civil rights laws.

“Without timely and robust data about students’ educational experiences, we cannot begin to understand and then address the impact that the pandemic has had – and continues to have – on student learning and success,” said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “We know that by working together, and by making this data available to educators and the public, we will improve educational opportunities and outcomes for our children and youth.”

The decision has already received praise from leaders on Capitol Hill.

“Understanding the impact of the pandemic on students is a critical step to helping them get back on track. This is particularly important in light of reports showing that the pandemic worsened achievement gaps across the country,” said House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., in a statement.

“I applaud the Education Department for taking proactive steps to better understand how the pandemic has affected students and for their effort to examine the disproportionate impact on students of color,” Rep. Scott said. “Earlier this year, Congress and the Biden Administration made a historic investment in students and schools through the American Rescue Plan. This data will be a vital tool to help schools target resources where they are needed most.”

The CDRC already gathers and makes public data regarding student access to educational courses as well as school climate factors, such as the use of discipline and student experiences of harassment and assault, from nearly every public school serving students from pre-K through 12th grade in all 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

The department said that the 2021-2022 Civil Rights Data Collection will ensure that the agency and the public have “the data necessary to better understand the experiences of students as the country continues to grapple with the impacts of COVID-19.”

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