Texas schools outperform Chicago

Don’t mess with Texas’ schools. Education Secretary Arne Duncan claimed Texas schools have “really struggled” under Gov. Rick Perry, now a GOP candidate for president. “Far too few of their high school graduates are actually prepared to go on to college,” Duncan said in a TV interview, adding he feels “very, very badly for the children there.”

Texas’ fourth- and eighth-graders “substantially outperformed” students in Chicago, the district Duncan ran before going to Washington, notes Andrew Rotherham in Time. The Texas high school graduation rate of 73 percent is slightly below the national average, but way above Chicago’s 56 percent graduation rate.

Overall, Texas scores are “right around the national averages” in reading and math on  NAEP, despite educating many immigrant students with poorly educated, non-English-speaking parents.  ACT reports Texas high school graduates only narrowly trail national averages for college readiness.

Duncan’s response to Rotherham:

“Texas has challenges. The record speaks for itself. Lots of other states have challenges too. But there is a lot of hard work that needs to be done in Texas and a lot of children who need a chance to get a great education.”

The statement is meaningless: All states have challenges that require hard work. The question is whether Texas is shirking.

Duncan’s claim of “massive increases in class size in Texas” is untrue, responds the Dallas Morning News. Primary classes, capped at 22 students, have remained stable. Secondary classes in core subjects are getting smaller.

. . . secondary math classes averaged 20.3 students in 2000-01 and dropped to 18.5 by last year. Average size of secondary English/language arts classes fell from 20.2 students in 2000-01 to 17.8 by last year.

In an e-mail to Duncan, TEA Commissioner Robert Scott added:

— Texas is ranked 13th in Ed Week’s Quality Counts report. Quality Counts gave Texas an “A” in “Standards, Assessment and Accountability,” and an “A” in “Transitions and Alignment” of the Texas system with college and career readiness. . .

— The Texas class of 2011 posted a record-high math score on the ACT college entrance exam. The Texas average math score was 21.5 and was higher than the national average of 21.1. ACT scores from 2007 to 2011 showed increases in all four subjects.

Texas fourth- and eighth-graders aced the 2009 NAEP science exam, Scott wrote. In eighth grade, black Texans were first in the nation compared to other blacks, white Texans tied with whites in high-scoring Massachusetts and Hispanics ranked eighth.

Perry has resisted Race To the Top, so perhaps Duncan’s antipathy is all about education policy. But it looks as though the education secretary is playing presidential politics. That’s not the way to build bipartisan consensus.




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  1. Why is Texas, a state, being compared to Chicago, a city?

  2. Why not BB? Overall state to state comparisons make no sense either. Only when you start breaking down results based on income and ethnicity do comparisons start to show something of interest.

  3. The blogger Iowahawk went after Krugman hammer and tongs when Krugman went down a similar road about Texas: http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2011/03/longhorns-17-badgers-1.html

    “..So how does brokeass, dumbass, redneck Texas stack up against progressive unionized Wisconsin?..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)

    To recap: white students in Texas perform better than white students in Wisconsin, black students in Texas perform better than black students in Wisconsin, Hispanic students in Texas perform better than Hispanic students in Wisconsin. In 18 separate ethnicity-controlled comparisons, the only one where Wisconsin students performed better than their peers in Texas was 4th grade science for Hispanic students (statistically insignificant), and this was reversed by 8th grade. Further, 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.

    Perhaps the most striking thing in these numbers is the within-state gap between white and minority students. Not only did white Texas students outperform white Wisconsin students, the gap between white students and minority students in Texas was much less than the gap between white and minority students in Wisconsin. In other words, students are better off in Texas schools than in Wisconsin schools – especially minority students.”

    • Thank you Dave S!

      I’m thrilled that Perry has joined the race because all of the candidates will have to address educational issues, state sovereignty, and the federal overreach currently underway with Common Core and Race to the Top.

  4. I noted this issue the other day — along with the fact that under the tenure of Arne Duncan, the Chicago Public Schools had a clear pattern of covering up the physical abuse of students by teachers and wrist-slapping the offenders. Definitely a case of Duncan displaying false compassion. http://rhymeswithright.mu.nu/archives/320367.php

    And for the record — this Houston-area teacher would be pleased to put my average student up against the average CPS student any day, secure that my kid would come out on top of Duncan’s kid 90% of the time.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    So Duncan is a political hack. Having found that out, I don’t know if I can sleep tonight.

  6. I don’t think voters are ready for a real Federalist (i.e., hands off) approach to education from a Presidential candidate.

    The Federal government exercises legitimate control over four K-12 school systems (the BIA schools, the Washington, DC schools , the DOD schools, and the US Embassy schools) and five post-secondary schools (US Air Force Academy at Boulder, Co., US Coast Guard Academy at New London, Ct., US Merchant Marine Academy Military Academy at Kings Point, NY, US Military Academy at West Point, NY, and the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD). The President needs no more authority than this to transform the US education system. W#ithout any mandates on US States or private sector employers, all the President hhas to do is mandate that these institutions make complete curricula (defined in course syllabi) available to anyone who asks, to license private-sector agencies like Sylvan Learning Centers, the University of Phoenix, and the Kumon Institute to proctor exams for a fee to be negotiated between the student and the exam center, and to mandate that Federal agencies accept diplomas and degrees earned through exam for employment purposes. Let competition between Sylvan Learning Centers and the Kumon Institute drive the cost of K-PhD schooling down to the cost of books and of grading exams.

    This proposal does not address one function of the US K-PhD school system. Under antidiscrimination lasw and “disparate impact” rulings against standardized tests in employment screening, employers have contracted-out the job of racial discrimination to schools and universities. “Must have a degree in X” means “whites and Asians only”.