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Texas Has America's Highest Graduation Rate.

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 978 -- Stop Saying Texas Has A High Dropout Rate Or Low Graduation Rate-

Columns and blog posts about Texas have become almost a shorthand way of talking about all that is still right in America. There is still a place that is like the rest of America was in the Reagan era. There's hope here. And jobs. And optimism.

The Texas Model is widely seen as the path to opportunity and prosperity. And rightfully so.

But what about education? Doesn't Texas have one of the worst high school dropout rates in the nation? No. It doesn't.

It turns out that Texas is not only killing it economically (job creation, etc.), the Lone Star State now has the second best overall graduation rate (on each of these graphics, click for larger version):


Texas trails only Iowa (89%) and ties with Wisconsin, Vermont, and Nebraska at 88%. Texas far outperforms California, New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, progressive left-wing model states.

[These numbers come from the United States Department of Education, via a relatively new standardized method of measuring. Before, graduation rates were much more of a hodgepodge of apples versus oranges versus pears.

These states were chosen for comparison against Texas in these graphs because they are prominent liberal states of varying sizes. Tiny Rhode Island, among the more liberal states in America, is also the home state of gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis (the one best known for advocating for elective late-term abortion and for falsifying her biography).]

What is amazing about this is that Texas is tied for the second best graduation rates in the nation, despite a demographic profile that would predict otherwise:


Students in Wisconsin, Vermont, and Nebraska are 74%, 93%, and 71% white, respectively. Iowa students are 82% white, meanwhile. Massachusetts has a relatively high overall graduation rate (but still not as high as in Texas), mostly because its demographic profile is far whiter than the national average.

And speaking of white students, just like with NAEP scores, white students in Texas outperform white students elsewhere:


Texas ties with New Jersey for first place among white students at 93%. For reference, Wisconsin, Vermont, Nebraska, and Iowa measure in at 92%, 88%, 91%, and 91%, respectively.

But what about Hispanic students?

Texas wins outright, no ties:


Texas: 84%

Those other states near the top of the overall leaderboard?

Wisconsin: 74%
Vermont: n<
Nebraska: 78%
Iowa: 77%

If these states had demographic profiles more like Texas, they would certainly slide on the rankings. Indeed, if Massachusetts had the demographic profile of Texas, its overall graduation rate would be roughly 75-76%, rather than 85%. And if Texas had the demographic profile of Massachusetts, its overall graduation rate would bump up past 91, closer to 92%.

Let's look at black students next:


Texas has the best graduation rate in the nation among black students, again outright, no ties, at 84%. Montana and Tennessee are tied for second place at 79%.

For the record, Wisconsin, Vermont, Nebraska, and Iowa have black graduation rates of 64%, 72%, 74%, and 74%, respectively. Much, much lower than in Texas.

The next category we'll look at is Native Americans: called American Indians and Alaska Natives by the U.S. government. Texas ties for second among this cohort:


Only Tennessee bests Texas in this category, at 88%. Texas ties with Missouri at 87%. Again, Wisconsin, Vermont, Nebraska, and Iowa come in at 77%, >=80, 67%, and 73%, respectively, demonstrating that these states at or near the top of the overall rankings aren't especially great at graduating minority students.

Moreover, Texas towers over California, New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island among Native American students.

But what about Asian-American students, or as the government categorizes them, Asian and Pacific Islander? Texas again ties for second place:


New Jersey comes in at 95%, while Texas ties with West Virginia and Vermont at 94%.

California has a much larger population of Asian-American students than any other state, but Texas has a much higher graduation rate among them.

The U.S. Department of Education also looks at low income students, and guess what, Texas does the best among this cohort:


Among low income students, Texas ties for first place in graduation rates with Indiana, at 85%. Tennessee comes in next at 82%.

Then there's students of two or more races:


This could be the face of America in a few more generations: a true melting pot. And Texas comes in with the best multi-racial graduation rate, at 92%. New Jersey is next, at 90%. Alabama and Maryland tie for third among the states, at 89%.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin, Vermont, Nebraska, and Iowa measure in at -, 76%, 85%, and 84%, respectively, for mixed race students.

And if multi-racial students in a demographic melting pot are the future of America, and Texas and California are two major competing models America might follow, the Lone Star State clearly gets the better of the Golden State, with a score of 92 to 74.

And finally, there's disabled students.

Montana is best, at 81%. Arkansas comes in at second place among disabled students at 79%. And Texas and Kansas are tied for third place at 77%.


Now, I went ahead and came up with some adjusted graduation rates for Texas, California, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Vermont, Nebraska, and Iowa, if the states had different demographic profiles.

For example, if all the states mentioned just before had the demographic makeup of the United States, the graduation rates would look more like this:
Texas: 90%
New York: 77%
California 82%
Massachusetts: 81%
Rhode Island: 75%
Wisconsin: 83%
Vermont: 85%* (*Vermont's Hispanic score was undetermined due to an extremely low number of Hispanic students, so I generously gave Vermont a tie with first place Texas at 84% among this cohort.)
Nebraska: 85%
Iowa: 85%

And if every state looked like Texas, the adjusted graduation rates would look more like:
Texas: 88%
New York: 75%
California 76%
Massachusetts: 76%
Rhode Island: 72%
Wisconsin: 80%
Vermont: 84%*
Nebraska: 83%
Iowa: 82%

Oh, how the might Iowa has fallen.

Here's a visual of what some of the better performing states would look like with other states' demographic profiles:

graduationrates copy.001.jpg

Texas improves with essentially any other demographic profile. Massachusetts improves a bit with the profiles of Iowa, Vermont, and Wisconsin, but falls hard with the profiles of Texas or California. And speaking of California, it improves with every profile, except Texas' demographics, demonstrating that Texas has slightly tougher demographic hurdles to overcome than California, yet Texas is succeeding while California is struggling (in a lot of ways).

More states with other states' demographic profiles:

graduationrates copy.002.jpg

Again, to see any of these graphics larger, just click on them.

Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis' home state, Rhode Island, performs relatively poorly already, but if it had the demographic profiles of Texas or California (or the United States at large), its adjusted graduation rate would be even lower, down in the low 70s.

But what about Iowa? Iowa is technically the only state with a higher graduation rate than Texas. But what about adjusting for various demographic profiles? As noted already, the mighty Iowa falls:

graduationrates copy.003.jpg

And if your mind thinks the other way around, here is the inverse way of visualizing these:

graduationrates copy.004.jpg

Again, Texas already comes in at second place overall without making any adjustments, but the Lone Star State towers over other states when taking demographics into account.

Also, note that Vermont is still likely inflated in these visualizations, because we had to use some figure for their Hispanic graduation rate, and because they didn't really have enough Hispanics to have a graduation rate for Hispanics, we just used Texas' outstanding rate (the best in the nation), which is giving Vermont the benefit of the doubt and then some.

More demographic profiles applied to states:

graduationrates copy.005.jpg

And a final look at a few more (with California and the United States included again):

graduationrates copy.006.jpg

Again, if Texas and Iowa went head to head on Iowa's demographic terms, Texas wins by 4%. If the two states go head to head on Texas' demographic terms, Texas wins by 6%. And based on America's demographic profile, Texas beats Iowa by 5%.

But again, even though Texas has much more challenging demographic realities, it still comes in at second place overall, practically tied with Iowa's first place showing.

So, if you're a white student, a black student, a student who is Hispanic, a Native American student, an Asian-American student, a low income student, a multi-racial student, or a disabled student, and your goal is to graduate high school, you're better off in Texas than just about any other state. Indeed, if you are any sort of student, you're likely better off in Texas than just about anywhere else. On a variety of measures, not just graduation rates.

So, can we please put to bed the myth that Texas has a high dropout rate or "ranks 50th in education" (whatever that even means)?

This is great news for Texans, but some Texas proponents concede arguments they shouldn't be conceding on this issue, to those who believe Texas represents all that is wrong with the world.

For example, columnist Morris Beschloss from Hot Springs, California set out to pen a comparison of Texas and California, favorable to the Lone Star State. And he did. And he made his point very well. But he also could have been a bit clearer when rebutting the common liberal canard about Texas' graduation rates:

The best that the anti-Texan example block can counter with is that the Longhorn State has the lowest percentage of high school graduates of any state in the union. This argument is offset by the fact that Texas has a burgeoning young Hispanic immigrant population, which has propelled San Antonio into the number two position among Texas's big cities. These young people are fast integrating into Texas's superior job prospects, which will allow for a more prosperous successor generation.

His rebuttal to the rebuttal isn't bad at all. Indeed, many of the alleged statistical problems with Texas are explained entirely by our relatively large population of recent immigrants, as visualized above. But Beschloss, like far too many champions of the Texas Model, doesn't explain that the anti-Texas attack is at best just plain misleading and at worst just plain bogus. And probably intentionally so. The liberals who tout this specious figure the loudest and most often also suggested-- laughably-- that Texas is "on the brink," which should tell you everything you need to know about their ideological framework.

While Texas may or may not have a relatively low percentage of people with high school diplomas, that figure is not the same thing as state high school graduation rates, and it doesn't really tell us anything at all about the effectiveness of a state's education policies. And even if it did, that figure would only tell us so much about a state's education policies over the past decade or so, since the total adult population reaches back to people who were graduating or choosing to drop out back in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, etcetera, etcetera.

In fact, Texas' high school graduation rates are actually the best (or very, very close to the best) in the country, as explained above. Having a lot of fairly recent immigrants (and, perhaps, older folks who dropped out many decades ago to work or get married) without diplomas doesn't negate that. If anything, it makes the state's success story all the more remarkable.

So, on graduation rates, Texas is performing better than the rest of the country. Is that enough?

Of course not.

The education industrial complex still spends too much to achieve too little:


Spending growth has far outpaced enrollment growth, inflation, or any other reasonable explanation for such bloat.

There is still entirely too much of a one-size-fits-all approach to education, and entirely too many kids finishing high school without employable skills.

Solving the problematic gap between good schools and bad schools all too often results in harming good schools (through Robin Hood, inattention, administrative bloat, etc.), without truly helping the poor performing schools.

There are still too many highly-paid, non-teaching educrats in off-campus administrative positions making too many top-down edicts to too few effective, appropriately compensated, empowered, well-equipped teachers.

Indeed, while the number of Texas students increased by 37% between 1992 and 2009, the number of teachers increased by 50%, and the number of non-teaching school personnel increased by a stunning 172%:


Non-teaching administrators often have salaries that could fully fund a handful of teachers' salaries annually.

There is still not enough choice or competition in the education system; indeed, the whole thing is still structured too much like a 19th century factory, and it is failing to to produce a 21st century citizenry and workforce.

Local government debt, driven largely by local education bonds that voters rubber stamp in elections scheduled at strange times of the year, is too high and getting higher still. Exorbitant property taxes, meanwhile, which largely fund our state's education system, prevent Texans from truly ever owning their own homes.

It's important to have good schools and decent facilities in a community, but are $60,000,000 stadiums that only hold up for one season the cause or merely the symptom of a broken tax/debt/spending system?

And finally, demographics might be a good explanation for why Texas is not number one in certain education metrics, but it can't be an excuse. Ultimately, our students are simply our students, regardless of their backgrounds.

The reality is that the nation is going to start looking more and more like Texas, demographically-speaking, and, in the meantime, Texas has to do a better job demonstrating that the "Texas Model" is not just more successful than the liberal model for educating minority students, but that it is actually just successful, period. Otherwise, we might all end up like California, with worse dropout rates and NAEP scores than the Lone Star State despite having a demographic profile very similar to Texas'.

Moreover, Texas students aren't merely competing against California students or Iowa students or New York students. They're all competing against Korean students. And Taiwanese students. And Indian students. Being better than California isn't good enough. We should want our kids to perform better than the kids in emerging nations.

There are billions of reasons for serious education reform in Texas and across the country. At the K-12 level. At the collegiate level. Everywhere. I'm encouraged by Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott's education plan thus far (part 1), and I hope that there are enough reform-minded State Representatives and State Senators to act on the substantive and thoughtful ideas found in it when the Texas Legislature meets again in 2015.

The contrast between Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis is clear, as @RightWordWriter noted on Twitter:


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Homelessness.

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Posted by Will Franklin · 31 March 2014 02:22 PM