Student Retention: About the Data

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Oklahoma Watch’s story on student retention in kindergarten through third grade relies mostly on data from the Civil Rights Data Collection, a division of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

The department collects data from all schools in the country every other year on a range of topics including student demographics, enrollment, AP classes, suspensions and retentions. All public schools and districts are required to not only report the data but ensure its accuracy. The most recent data covers the 2015-16 school year and was released in April.

The Civil Rights Data Collection defines students retained as “a student who is not promoted to the next grade prior to the beginning of the following school year. Students are not considered retained if they can proceed to the next grade because they successfully completed a summer school program or for a similar reason.”

In order to calculate the retention percentages found in our story and interactive graphics, we divided the retention numbers from the Data Collection by enrollment numbers in the department’s Common Core of Data from the 2014-15 school year (because this would have been the students’ peer group before retention.)

There may be errors in the Civil Rights Data Collection, as with any self-reported data. The department has a process for districts to report erroneous data, and it occasionally releases updates with corrected data. We focused on statewide results to minimize the impact of individual school errors.