New federal data offers insights on school safety, STEM courses and more

Last month, the U.S. Department of Education released its Civil Rights Data Collection  for 2015–16, offering the public new statistics on enrollment demographics, opportunity gaps and other civil rights issues that affect K-12 public school students. The U.S. Dept. of Education also released two accompanying briefs on School Climate and Safety and STEM Course Taking using the new data. Here are some of the key findings from the new data briefs:

School Safety & Climate

Nearly 1.1 million incidents of serious offenses (violence with or without weapons, possession of a firearm or explosive device, threats, robbery, etc.) were reported during the 2015–16 school year nationwide. The vast majority (94 percent) of these reports were of a physical attack or fight without a weapon or a threat of a physical attack without a weapon. While the data does not report on the total number of school-related shootings, 0.2 percent of all schools experienced at least one incident involving a school-related shooting.

The data collected also includes incidences of bullying and harassment on the basis of sex, race, color or national origin, disability, sexual orientation and religion. In 2015–16, nearly 135,600 allegations of harassment or bullying were filed: 41 percent were on the basis of sex; 23 percent were racially motivated; 16 percent had to do with sexual orientation; 11 percent were focused on disability; and religiously charged incidences made up the last 8 percent. A detailed breakdown of students affected by these incidences is available in the School Climate and Safety brief.

The Dept. of Ed’s brief also delves into law enforcement referrals, school-related arrests, school discipline and more.

STEM Course Taking

The CRDC included a variety of new data points this year. Among the new components are data on class offerings, enrollment and pass rates for math classes in middle and high schools. The STEM data show persistent opportunity and achievement gaps for students of color. For instance, while 85 percent of white and 74 percent of Asian students passed eighth-grade Algebra I, only 72 percent of Latino students, 65 percent of African-American students and 24 percent of Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander students did the same. High schools with high African-American and Latino student enrollment offered advanced mathematics, calculus and physics courses at rates of 10 percentage points (or more)  lower as compared to all high schools.

Of the 16.7 million high school students in the nation, overall enrollment in high school STEM courses was middling to high: 12.5 million students, or nearly 75 percent of the total population, were taking Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, advanced mathematics and/or Calculus; and approximately 9 million students, or 54 percent, were in Biology, Chemistry and/or Physics courses. The data also show that male and female students are enrolled at about equal rates.

Learn more about national trends in STEM course offerings, enrollment and student achievement in the Dept. of Ed’s STEM Course Taking brief.


For more information about the Civil Rights Data Collection database, check out Education Week’s FAQ.