National Center for Education Statistics

New Release: Forum Guide to Collecting and Using Disaggregated Data on Racial/Ethnic Subgroups

By the National Forum on Education Statistics’ Disaggregation of Racial/Ethnic Subgroups Working Group

Across the nation, our schools serve a diverse student population reflecting a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, interests, identities, and cultures. The more accurately education data reflect the diversity of the student population, the better prepared education practitioners will be to customize instructional and support services to meet those students’ needs.

Local and state members of the National Forum on Education Statistics (the Forum) convened a Data Disaggregation of Racial/Ethnic Subgroups Working Group to identify best practices for disaggregating data on racial/ethnic subgroups. The Forum Guide to Collecting and Using Disaggregated Data on Racial/Ethnic Subgroups is intended to identify some of the overarching benefits and challenges involved in data disaggregation; recommend appropriate practices for disaggregating racial/ethnic data in districts and states; and describe real-world examples of large and small education agencies disaggregating racial/ethnic data successfully. This resource will help state and district staff better understand the process of disaggregating data in the field of education. It can also help agency staff determine whether data disaggregation might be an appropriate analytical tool in their communities, and, if so, how they can successfully institute or advance a data disaggregation project in their agencies.


The guide is organized into the following chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Introduction to Data Disaggregation in Education Agencies explains the purpose of the document; describes the concept of data disaggregation for racial/ethnic subgroups; discusses why the issue is becoming increasingly important in many communities; refers to current U.S. population data; and provides a case study of why this type of data collection can be important and advantageous in a school district.
  • Chapter 2: Strategies for Disaggregating Racial/Ethnic Data Subgroups recommends specific strategies for disaggregating data, including tasks undertaken during the two major phases of the effort: (1) needs assessment and (2) project implementation.
  • Chapter 3: Case Studies offers an in-depth look at how the disaggregation of racial/ethnic subgroup data is already being implemented through a wide range of state and district case studies.

Examples from the case studies and other education agencies are used throughout the document to highlight real-world situations. For instance, readers will learn how Highline (Wash.) Public School District changed the information it gathered on students to support its community’s commitment to equity and how the Springdale (Ark.) School District is using data to better serve its growing population of students from the Marshall Islands.

The recommendations in the resource are not mandates. Districts and states are encouraged to adapt or adopt any recommendations they determine to be useful for their purposes.

About the National Forum on Education Statistics

The work of the National Forum on Education Statistics is a key aspect of the National Cooperative Education Statistics System. The Cooperative System was established to produce and maintain, with the cooperation of the states, comparable and uniform education information and data that are useful for policymaking at the federal, state, and local levels. To assist in meeting this goal, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education, established the Forum to improve the collection, reporting, and use of elementary and secondary education statistics. The Forum addresses issues in education data policy, sponsors innovations in data collection and reporting, and provides technical assistance to improve state and local data systems.

Members of the Forum establish working groups to develop best practice guides in data-related areas of interest to federal, state, and local education agencies. They are assisted in this work by NCES, but the content comes from the collective experience of working group members who review all products iteratively throughout the development process. After the working group completes the content and reviews a document a final time, publications are subject to examination by members of the Forum standing committee that sponsors the project. Finally, Forum members (approximately 120 people) review and formally vote to approve all documents prior to publication. NCES provides final review and approval prior to online publication.

The information and opinions published in Forum products do not necessarily represent the policies or views of the U.S. Department of Education, IES, or NCES. For more information about the Forum, please visit or contact Ghedam Bairu at

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