Christina Quintanilla-Muñoz, M.Ed. • Knowledge is Power • March 3, 2021 •Christina Quintanilla-Muñoz

Part of the misleading conversations about “divisive” concepts imply that collection of student data is a bad thing. Some discourage any reporting on inequities revealed by data. But data –disaggregated data – is essential to ensuring equal and equitable educational opportunity for all students.

The U.N. Statistics Division (UNSD) recognizes data disaggregation as one of nine key principles of the “data revolution,” which outlines key actions for the sustainable improvement of the “quality and availability of statistics.” Disaggregation of data ensures it is reliable, accessible, inclusive and transparent – all of which are necessary for ensuring safe and equitable schools.

Disaggregation of data refers to the decomposition of gathered data into smaller, more meaningful subpopulations. For example, a state education agency, such as in Texas, may report data disaggregated by demographic dimensions, including geographic identifiers, such as school district and campus by legislative districts, and various student characteristics, such as grade level, sex, race/ethnicity, economically disadvantaged status, emergent bilingual status, program participation and other socioeconomic indicators.

Data reported by intersectional disaggregation can help inform equitable school policies and practices that cultivate student success. It can provide a more finely detailed illustration of students’ experience in school.

Conversely, aggregate-level data grouped by broad categories can obscure underlying disparities that exist between student subpopulations within the larger population. Separating and reporting data by multidimensional categories can reveal the nuanced experiences of students and provide a holistic scope for schools to provide tailored interventions.

Access to disaggregated data can enhance schools’ understanding of their students’ experience through observing important overarching trends in behavior and achievement. It can help focus their improvement efforts toward advancing sustainable and equitable solutions that address unique student needs.

Federal and state education agencies must continue expanding data collection and publication showing intersectional categories to ensure all students benefit from equitable access to educational opportunities in schools. Data disaggregation represents a critical transformative strategy toward achieving equity in schools by helping to unmask discriminatory school policies and practices that disproportionately impact students of historically disenfranchised identities.

IDRA recently submitted a comment letter with recommendations for the Civil Rights Data Collection, including general reporting procedures and demographic data elements, emergent bilingual (English learner) student data, and school discipline and policing.

[©2021, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the March 3, 2021, edition of Knowledge is Power by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]