Ethnicity and Race Categories for CEDARS
LanguagesA-Z IndexPrinter Friendly Image

 For more information
 please contact:

 Customer Support
 (360) 725-6371 or
 1 (800) 725-4311

  Comprehensive Education Data And Research System (CEDARS)

New Federal and State Ethnicity and Race Categories
for CEDARS Data Collection

Updated April 17, 2012

Why are schools collecting ethnicity and racial information?
Each year, school districts in Washington are required to report student data by ethnicity and race categories to OSPI. Ethnicity and race categories are set by the federal government, the Washington State Legislature, and OSPI. 

The Comprehensive Education Data and Research System, or CEDARS, is the OSPI system responsible for collecting this data from all 295 Washington school districts. CEDARS is managed by the OSPI Student Information office.

Because the requirements are changing for collecting this data, OSPI has drafted a sample form to help districts visualize how the collection form for parents and students might look. This sample form is shown below. (Districts can download the form on the CEDARS site.) It is NOT required that districts use this form as their own, and it is provided only as a sample. Most districts will incorporate the collection of new ethnicity and race information into their regular student information forms.

Is this data collection new?
Yes and no. Collecting ethnicity and race data is not new, but there are new categories. CEDARS currently collects and reports ethnicity using: Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Black or African American, Hispanic, Caucasian, American Indian or Alaskan Native, Multiracial and Unknown. Federal rules now require all states to separately report ethnicity (Hispanic/Non-Hispanic) and race. The requirements are based on the U.S. Department of Education Federal Register 59267 (PDF).

The new federal rules require states to use a two-part question:

  1. Is your child Hispanic/Latino or not Hispanic/Latino?
  2. What is your child's race?

Washington has adopted standards that allow one or more selections from 57 racial categories. If one parent identifies with one race and the other parent with another, you will be able to check both races for your child.

Effective for the 2010-2011 school year, CEDARS data must include data in both ethnicity and race.

Why is this information needed?
The demographics of our society have changed dramatically in the last few decades. This information will allow parents to describe their children more accurately. Ethnic and race data are used to evaluate instructional needs so districts can provide the best education for all students. The federal government requires all states and school districts to use new categories for reporting ethnicity and race. Districts report this information for funding and evaluation, as well as for civil rights compliance.

Do I have to answer both questions?
Yes, everyone must have a response to both questions. The new federal requirements say Unknown, Multiracial, and Not Provided will not be valid responses to ethnicity or race identification questions.

If parents, guardians or students do not provide both ethnicity and race information, districts are responsible for assigning categories based on observation. Additional information about observer identification can be found on the CEDARS site.

Can a student self-identify his or her ethnicity and race categories?
A high school student may self-identify his or her ethnicity and race categories. It is recommended that the parent or guardian select ethnicity and race categories for students who are not yet of high school age. School personnel are to accept an individual's self-identification of his/her ethnicity and race. Self-identification is a basic principle underlying these changes. For students who are under 18, parents or guardians will generally select the ethnicity and race categories.

What if the information is not provided by the parents, guardians or student?
Self-identification is the preferred way of selecting an individual's ethnicity and race, although a person is not required by law to make these selections.

The federal government requires the use of observer identification of students' ethnicity and race, as a last resort, if such information is not provided by parents or students. Parents who are reluctant to identify their children’s ethnicity and race should be informed that observer identification will be used if they refuse to self-identify. Follow-up steps if parents choose not to self-identify include reviewing the enrollment form with the parent at registration, sending a second letter, or making a phone call to the parents.

Observers are trained on the procedures for ethnic and race identification. Observers should never tell parents or students how to classify themselves.

What is the purpose for this change?
There are several reasons, but here are a few. The new standards for collecting and reporting ethnicity and racial data allow individuals to more accurately identify themselves. These standards are required for federal education funding and accountability reporting. The new categories for ethnicity and race are consistent with data collected by the U.S. Census. Also, members of different ethnic and racial groups want to know how students in different groups are performing academically, and in which programs and courses of study they are enrolled.

What data is a school district required to report?
A school district is required to report individual student records in CEDARS with both pieces of data, ethnicity and race, identified for every student record.

What does OSPI report to the federal government?
OSPI is required to report the total number of students in various categories in each school to the federal government, but it does not report individual student data. These reports help the district and the state keep track of changes in student enrollment and various outcomes (such as graduation rates) to ensure that all students receive the educational programs and services to which they are entitled.

When will I have to submit this information to my school district?
Starting in September 2010, all public schools in Washington will need to start using these new categories. School districts may elect to start collecting this data earlier. Please complete and submit the form as requested by your child's school district.

What does this form look like?
A sample version of the new form is shown below. School districts are not required to use this form. Each district is encouraged to develop its own procedures for data collection, which might include additional ethnic and race categories.

Who do I contact with other questions?
For questions on data coding and student information, please contact Sheri Dunster at (360) 725-4996 or by e-mail at You may also e-mail Robin Munson at

For more information about CEDARS, please contact OSPI Customer Support at (360) 725-6371 or call toll-free at (800) 725-4311. Agency TTY is (360) 664-3631 or e-mail




Old Capitol Building, PO Box 47200, 600 Washington St. S.E., Olympia, WA  98504-7200  (360) 725-6000  TTY (360) 664-3631
Contact Us    |    A-Z Index    |    Site Info    |    Staff Only    |    Education Data System (EDS)