Longhorns 17, Badgers 1

In “low-tax, low-spending Texas, graduation rates are low, writes New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. SAT scores are low in the five states without collective bargaining for teachers, reports The Economist. Texas ranks 47th, while Wisconsin is second.

“The point being, I suppose, is that unionized teachers stand as a thin chalk-stained line keeping Wisconsin from descending into the dystopian non-union educational hellscape of Texas,” writes Iowahawk. Actually, Texas is out-educating Wisconsin, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress, which breaks down test scores by grade, state, subject and ethnicity.

“A state’s ‘average ACT/SAT’ is, for all intents and purposes, a proxy for the percent of white people who live there,” writes Iowahawk, who attributes the test gap to differences in socioeconomic status, racism and family structure. Wisconsin (4% black, 4% Hispanic) will have higher average scores than Texas (12% black, 30% Hispanic). When scores are disaggregated by race and ethnicity, “brokeass, dumbass, redneck Texas” does better than “progressive unionized Wisconsin” for whites and blacks and Hispanics.

2009 4th Grade Math

White students: Texas 254, Wisconsin 250 (national average 248)

Black students: Texas 231, Wisconsin 217 (national 222)

Hispanic students: Texas 233, Wisconsin 228 (national 227)

2009 8th Grade Math

White students: Texas 301, Wisconsin 294 (national 294)

Black students: Texas 272, Wisconsin 254 (national 260)

Hispanic students: Texas 277, Wisconsin 268 (national 260)

2009 4th Grade Reading

White students: Texas 232, Wisconsin 227 (national 229)

Black students: Texas 213, Wisconsin 192 (national 204)

Hispanic students: Texas 210, Wisconsin 202 (national 204)

2009 8th Grade Reading

White students: Texas 273, Wisconsin 271 (national 271)

Black students: Texas 249, Wisconsin 238 (national 245)

Hispanic students: Texas 251, Wisconsin 250 (national 248)

2009 4th Grade Science

White students: Texas 168, Wisconsin 164 (national 162)

Black students: Texas 139, Wisconsin 121 (national 127)

Hispanic students: Wisconsin 138, Texas 136 (national 130)

2009 8th Grade Science

White students: Texas 167, Wisconsin 165 (national 161)

Black students: Texas 133, Wisconsin 120 (national 125)

Hispanic students: Texas 141, Wisconsin 134 (national 131)

Whites, blacks and Hispanics do better in Texas than in Wisconsin in 17 comparisons; Hispanics score insignificantly higher in science in Wisconsin in fourth grade.

Texas students exceeded the national average for their ethnic cohort in all 18 comparisons; Wisconsinites were below the national average in 8, above average in 8.

In addition, the racial achievement gap is much wider in Wisconsin than in Texas.

Non-union Georgia also does well in comparison to Wisconsin, though not as well as Texas, writes Kyle Wingfield.

The Economist’s SAT scores are both out of date and meaningless, writes Angus Johnston. Using current data, Wisconsin ties for 17th on the ACT. Very few Wisconsin students take the SAT. Texas ranks “45th on the SAT with 53% participation, 33rd on the ACT with 33% participation.”

In a follow-up post that serves as a statistics primer, Iowahawk breaks out ACT scores by race and ethnicity for Wisconsin and Texas and explains Simpson’s Paradox.

He also links to Michael Pollard’s NAEP analysis: “After controlling for ethnicity, compared to the running-dog Gang of Five non-collective bargaining states (TX, VA, SC, NC, GA), Wisconsin is a (1) middling performer for white students; (2) below middling for Hispanic students, and (3) an absolute disaster for black students.”

About Joanne


  1. Lou Gots says:

    The elephant in the living room is so close one can smell the peanuts on his breath.

  2. SuperSub says:

    mmmmmmm…peanuts… I’m sorry, what were we discussing?

  3. Wonder when we will get to enjoy Krugman’s reevaluation of union presence in education?

  4. Read the column, MTheads; nothing Krugman said is contradicted by anything Ms. Jacobs or anyone else posted.

  5. Read the column, MTheads; nothing Krugman said is contradicted by anything Ms. Jacobs or anyone else posted.
    Other then Mr. Krugman’s intention which is to suggest that the lack of a teacher’s union results in poorer educational results without being so indecorously explicit as to be under some obligation to prove it.

  6. Mike

    (By the way, given the current efforts to blame public-sector unions for state fiscal problems, it’s worth noting that the mess in Texas was achieved with an overwhelmingly nonunion work force.)

    Agreed he doesn’t explicitly compare educational outcomes between states with and without public unions. He implies it instead. Now we know why. It is because the numbers don’t work in his favor.

  7. I wonder how many non-English-speaking illegal immigrants Wisconsin has to deal with relative to Texas? Unless you control for that, state-to-state comparisons aren’t really meaningful.

  8. What I really can’t fathom is why anyone actually listens to Paul Krugman in areas outside his economic specialty of international trade. All he brings to the table is empty political sloganeering and logically tenuous accusations couched in such a way as to be irrefutable. When he’s out of his area of expertise, Krugman is an intellectual charlatan.

    In this specific case, Krugman displays fallacy number 1 when it comes to education. His argument is that Texas is doing poorly in education because fewer kids graduate high school. But, as has been proven over and over, high school graduation and actual learning are in no way correlated.

    If the point of the education machine is to get diplomas in students’ hands, then Krugman is on firm ground. If the point is learning, then he has just been proven quite wrong.

  9. Actually, what Krugman said is that Texas has more dropouts. Iowahawk couldn’t win on that one, I suppose, so he searched for a statistic where Wisconsin might look worse.

    But here’s the problem: If Texas has a significant dropout problem — and it does — then SAT scores should soar, since the low-scoring students are falling out. But so should NAEP scores, especially for 8th and 12th grade.

    Why didn’t Iowahawk answer apples for apples?

    How is Texas’s SAT average boosted by leaving so many kids unsuited for college and not even taking the test?

    Why is Iowahawk laying off all the differences on race — how can that fail to be an argument based in racism?

    Texas is in a lot worse trouble than Wisconsin in education right now. Gov. Perry screwed up his accounting, and produced a whopping, $25 billion shortfall by cutting property taxes statewide, and failing to replace the income. Texas schools will bear the brunt of the budget cuts, if Perry has his was — he’s working hard to kill public education in Texas, even if he has to drag down the university systems with him.

    In spirit, and apples to apples, I think Krugman’s right. It’s difficult to tell here, in the belly of the Texas beast — but you may want to do more sleuthing on your own.