Letter from Bill Evers, Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development
August 2008

August 1, 2008

Dear Colleague:

I am writing to provide you with information elaborating on final guidance on the collection and reporting of racial and ethnic data by educational institutions and other grantees that the U. S. Department of Education (Department) published in the Federal Register on October 19, 2007 (72 Fed. Reg. 59267)

As you may know, since 1977, the Department, along with the other Federal agencies, has been collecting aggregated data on race and ethnicity by asking for student data using five categories. In 1997, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published new revised standards for the collection of data on race and ethnicity. The Department's October 2007 publication of final guidance, after considering public comments, aligned the Department's policy for collecting and reporting racial and ethnic data with OMB's revised standards. State educational agencies, local educational agencies, postsecondary institutions, and other educational institutions and Department grantees are required to report racial and ethnic data to the Department using the categories set forth in its 2007 final guidance starting with information concerning the 2010-2011 school year.

The change in collecting and reporting racial and ethnic data allows individuals to self-identify their ethnicity and race, and permits individuals to select more than one race and/or ethnicity. This change allows individuals to more accurately reflect their racial and ethnic background by not limiting them to only one racial or ethnic category. We recognize that this requires some changes to the education information systems in the school districts, postsecondary institutions, and State agencies across the country.

To assist with the transition to the new collection and reporting standards, enclosed are responses to key questions we have received since publication of our final guidance. Specifically, we address:

  • the "two-part question" to be used (question #2),
  • actions to be taken when a response is not complete (question #3),
  • retention of original responses (question #4), and
  • timeframes for when the Department will begin collecting and reporting data by new racial and ethnic categories (question #5).

These questions, and others that arise from the field, will be published online along with other links and resources at In addition, postsecondary institutions can access additional information from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) website at

We encourage you to take steps to ensure the quality, accuracy and completeness of these data. You should emphasize the importance of facilitating the self-identification process and accurately collecting and maintaining complete data about each individual, including if necessary, the use of observer identification at the elementary and secondary school level if complete data are not provided by each individual or on behalf of the individual.

In addition to the Department's resources in support of this transition, the following entities will be providing assistance and additional support:

  • Elementary and Secondary: A task force of State and school district data experts from the National Forum on Education Statistics will publish a "white paper" on the issues and the challenges associated with this data collection and reporting change across K-12 districts and state agencies. You may find this document a useful resource since it is expected to report about the experiences of States that have already completed or started the process of implementing these data collection and reporting changes. This document, along with other resource documents from OMB and others, will be found on the sites listed above when they are published.

  • Postsecondary: The Association for Institutional Research ( is developing a web portal for information related to the changes to collecting and reporting racial and ethnic data to IPEDS. In addition, the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) ( is developing additional resources for state postsecondary education agencies. Links to these resources as well as additional information for postsecondary education institutions and state agencies will be made available at the IPEDS website (

If you have further questions about the guidance or its requirements for the collection of data on race and ethnicity, please contact Patrick Sherrill in the Performance Information Management Service ( For postsecondary questions, please contact Elise Miller at the National Center for Education Statistics (

  Bill Evers
Assistant Secretary,


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Last Modified: 08/08/2008