Try this at home: How equitable is your high school?

Earlier this week, the Department of Education released data compiled through its Civil Rights Data Collection program. For the first time since 2000, every public school in the country was surveyed, and for the first time ever, the results of the survey are being made public in a searchable database.

The database has the potential to be a great resource for student journalists who want to learn more about their schools. According to the Department of Education's website, the survey collects information on the educational programs and services offered and breaks it down by race/ethnicity, sex, limited English proficiency and disability. The survey also provides data on high school retention, suspension rates and teacher pay.

To look up your own school, go to the Department's Civil Rights Data Collection website and click "find school- or district-level summaries." Type in the name of your school (in the example below, I looked up my high school - go Eagles!), and then select your school from the results.

CRDC search results

Clicking on the name of your school takes you to a summary page, but you can also download the results to Excel by clicking "Export to Excel." On the summary page, information is broken down into several categories that look at school makeup, teacher pay, college and career readiness, and discipline.

Among the statistics you can look up:

— Teacher experience, absences and pay:

East Meck teacher experience


— The race/ethnicity of students enrolled in Calculus, Chemistry or Physics:

East Meck college readiness


— The race/ethnicity of students who took the SAT or ACT tests, compared with the school enrollment: 

East Meck SAT/ACT enrollment


— The race/ethnicity of students who received in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions, or expulsions:

East Meck discipline


— The number of students referred to law enforcement, or with school related arrests, or with expulsions under zero-tolerance policies:

East Meck arrests

— The number of students enrolled in Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes, broken down by race/ethnicity:

East Meck AP enrollment

As with any statistics, this report won't tell the whole story, and it might not even be reflective of the school currently, since policies and programs may have changed since the survey year (in this case, 2011). But it's a good starting point for student journalists who want to learn more about the inner-workings of their school, and it could prompt further reporting. If you run into trouble understanding the results, feel free to contact SPLC.

Tagged: Department of Education, newsgathering, Office of Civil Rights, public records, school discipline, School Discipline-Due Process, Story Ideas, Try this at home