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United States. OCR is responsible for ensuring compliance with civil rights laws in higher education, in addition to elementary and secondary education (although the E&S survey and this report cover only the latter). More than two-thirds of the approximately 5,000 complaints it fields each year involve elementary and secondary schools (U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, 2000a).
Since 1999, survey data have been available to OCR staff either over its private Internet-based network or on compact disks in a format that enables users to compile descriptive statistics and to combine data from different schools and districts. Although some lawyers in the regional offices often use E&S data in their work, most OCR staff seldom, if ever, use them. One reason for this lack of use is that OCR staff have not been provided with technical assistance or professional development on how to access and manipulate the data or on how the survey data could be used in enforcement activities (Peter McCabe, former director, E&S survey, personal communication, 2002).
Historically, OCR has been primarily interested in the collection of E&S survey data as records rather than in the analysis or dissemination of findings. The data, collected and certified by superintendents and principals or their designees, sometimes have been used by OCR officials as background information as they investigate complaints. Except for a brief period in the late 1970s and early 1980s when books containing descriptive statistics for all surveyed districts and schools were produced (e.g., U.S. Department of Health Education and Welfare, Office for Civil Rights, 1978), the only access to E&S data that OCR staff had was in the form of paper copies of all the compliance reports (i.e., the E&S survey forms) submitted by individual schools and districts. The reports were shipped to each of the 12 regional offices in cardboard boxes. In this format, the data could be used as background information while investigating complaints involving individual schools and districts, but for little else. OCR has not routinely analyzed or even compiled the data, although the data from each administration of the survey have been recorded and stored in a computer-readable format for every administration of the survey since 1968.
The most common use of the survey data by OCR is to identify schools and districts where discrimination may be occurring. As noted by OCR attorney Richard Foster (personal communication, October 2001), “If the data can get us closer to where discrimination is really occurring, then our enforcement work becomes more effective.” Compliance reviews are selected partly on the