Advancing Equity Through Data Justice

Data are an invaluable asset to educational systems — but what happens when data don’t accurately represent the students, families, or communities the system serves?

Region 16 Comprehensive Center is supporting the Oregon Department of Education as they begin to identify and address limitations in data collection policies, practices, and processes in Oregon.

This work is part of data justice, defined by Coalition of Communities of Color as an “approach that redresses ways of collecting and disseminating data that have invisibilized and harmed historically marginalized communities” (Coalition of Communities of Color, n.d.).

“This is a moral issue,” said Carmen Xiomara Urbina, deputy director of the Oregon Department of Education. “For too long, inappropriate data identification and collection systems in our state have led to the erasure of our BIPOC communities. Staying the course to reach data justice means we will arrive at a time and place where students can be fully themselves and embrace their multiple identities.”

Equitable data use begins with equitable collection and identification: when students’ identities remain invisible, so too do their needs and experiences. When we begin to see students in the totality of their identities, we can close opportunity gaps, improve access, and design systems where every student can thrive. But how can state education agencies start down the path toward data justice?

Interviews with staff across the Oregon Department of Education revealed four key recommendations for moving toward data justice at state education agencies: deepen collaboration, improve access, train staff, and build capacity.

Deepen Collaboration

To achieve data justice, state education agencies need to involve students and their communities in building inclusive research agendas. Student and community input can surface community needs, priorities, and strengths.

With these needs, priorities, and strengths in mind, agencies can collect data that represent and impact the communities they serve.

Get Started:

  • Build on existing community engagement opportunities

Improve Access

With an agencywide community-informed research agenda in place, state education agencies can begin to prioritize, align, and centralize their data collection, analysis, and reporting.

Centralizing data can reduce the workload on staff members by increasing cross-office collaboration and simplifying the process of prioritizing and responding to external data requests.

Get Started:

  • Develop a one-stop data shop accessible to education agencies, families, and communities

Train Staff

All state education agency staff members should know what data are available and how to implement strategies and policies for ethical and responsible use.
State education agency staff members who understand the role of data in supporting — or undermining — system improvement are better positioned to support students, improve access, and transform policies.

Get Started:

  • Offer trainings on data collection and data justice
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities of the staff who steward your data

Build Capacity

Like data justice, culturally responsive and equitable research and evaluation (CREE) underscores the importance of engaging impacted communities in research design, data collection, and analysis (Tate Woodson, 2021).

Equitable research and evaluation can lead to more accurate data, more appropriate research, and more effective solutions.

Get Started:

  • Offer trainings on CREE principles and practices

What’s Next?

Region 16 will continue to support the multi-phase initiative around data justice during the 2023–24 school year. This year, the Oregon Department of Education continues to work toward accurate identification of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students. When AI/AN youth are accurately identified, both students and districts can receive the resources they need.

This blog was co-written by authors at Region 16 Comprehensive Center and Education Northwest.

Coalition of Communities of Color. (n.d.). Research and data justice.

Tate Woodson, T. (2021). Using a culturally responsive and equitable evaluation approach to guide research and evaluation. Mathematica.


Published August 23, 2023

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