Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

April 29, 2007

Data pictures

Filed under: Accountability, Higher Education, Texas — texased @ 1:04 pm

These graphs show the graduation rate and per student expenditures for Texas Colleges according the College Results Online website.

2005 Public Texas Colleges

2005 Private Texas Colleges

April 28, 2007

Meaningless numbers?

Filed under: Accountability, college rankings, Education Finance, Higher Education — texased @ 8:00 pm

I’ve been spending way too much time on the College Results Online website but it provides basic information that you won’t find on any college website. I’ve actually downloaded some of the Texas data into a spreadsheet to take a closer look at patterns and such–what can I say, my thesis was on dropout statistics?

Anyway, some interesting information from 2005.

  • Number of students in public four year institutions listed on the website: 316,417
  • Percentage of those students enrolled in schools with less than a 50% six year graduation rate: 63%
  • Percentage of students in public four year institutions considered under-represented miniorities: 35%
  • Percentage of under-represented miniorities enrolled in public schools with less a 50% six year graduation rate: 80%

Other facts:

  • Student Related Expenditures per FTE for UTSA in 2002: $5,752
  • Student Related Expenditures per FTE for UTSA in 2005: $5,396
  • Student Related Expenditures per FTE for UT-Austin in 2002: $9,205
  • Student Related Expenditures per FTE for UT-Austin in 2005: $11,344
  • Number of public schools that had a decrease in student related expenditures from 2002 to 2005: 5
  • Number of public schools that had an increase in student related expenditures from 2002 to 2005: 21

April 24, 2007

Public policy in Texas–I’ve got mine

Filed under: Top Ten Percent Rule — texased @ 10:41 am

Let me start by saying that there are many deserving high school graduates who will not get into UT Austin, one of the state’s two tier one universities (according to US News and World Report which is a whole other issue), because of the top ten percent rule. I think this is something that everyone following the debate can agree upon. The question is what to do about it.

The easy, and definitely Texas style approach, is to get rid of the rule. For many, this makes perfect sense since so many applicants with better qualifications are being turned away from the state’s flagship institution. The supporters of this approach like to focus on qualifications. So lets talk qualifications.

First, don’t even bring up SAT scores. The SAT was suppose to be an indicator of college readiness, of the likelihood that those with higher scores were more likely to succeed at college than those with lower scores. UT’s own analysis shows this is not the case. I’ve already discussed this in previous posts so I won’t do so again here. If it’s not a qualification of potential college success, it’s nothing more than a placement test for college math at best.

How about the general quality of the high school program? People are being rejected even after passing several advanced placement exams and taking dual credit classes. Under the Top Ten Percent Rule, these kids are losing their positions to others who probably have lower gpas and never took any advanced placement classes. This is the crux of their argument, these students are more “qualified” than those who attend lesser schools.

There is a pathetic example of the “faulty logic” behind this argument at what I assume to be a UT student blog. The example uses gymnastics saying the Olympic Team will admit only the top ten percent of all gymnastic competitions so that they have the best, most diverse team. However, since the programs include the special Olympics, you obviously don’t get the best.

Hmmm, so some high schools are at the level of special Olympics compared to others? The problem is that the results do not support the “logic.” The “special Olympic” students are doing very well by all of UT’s own measures. So that must mean that these other students should be admitted because they would do even better than the ones who are already succeeding. And because they’re not being admitted to UT, they’re having to go to out of state, or even to Harvard instead. Not the type of argument to get the people protesting in the street.

What happens next is that those who want to eliminate the rule resort to the diversity argument. What about all those poets, musicians, or students who are working to support their families? The number of minority students admitted will ultimately top out under the top ten percent rule. So where’s the needed flexibility? This would be a much more convincing argument if the stats showed that UT was a beacon for diversity before the rule was implemented. Again, there are more minorities enrolled before the rule had been implemented and more students from a broader geographic region than before. What kind of diversity are we aiming for here?

To sum up, yes, people are being rejected who have more academic “qualifications” than some of those being accepted. So what? Name any competitive school in the nation where that isn’t the case.

I began by saying that focusing on the injustices of the top ten rule is a typical Texas policy response. Why? Because it puts a band-aide on the system without having to recognize the underlying issues of the problem. And that recognition would end up costing a lot more money than just getting rid of the rule.

All these people complaining about how students from less qualified high schools are being admitted don’t want to ask the question why are these schools less qualified? After all, aren’t they all public schools? Never mind, they paid good money to live in a Collin county school district and its up to other families to do the same.

All these people complaining about how students are being rejected by the state’s tier one university and having to go out of state aren’t asking why Texas has only two tier one schools. It doesn’t bother them that twice as much money is being spent on students at UT Austin than on those at UT San Antonio. What bothers them is that it isn’t being spent on their kids. They would rather pay extra to send their kids to an out of state school than invest money in improving Texas schools.

What theTop Ten Percent Rule has done is demonstrated the lack of accessible high quality (at least by reputation) education in Texas. It’s a classic example of the role of a legislature in creating and distributing opportunities–how much pie will Texas pay for and who gets it. Rather than figure out how to make more pies, the Texas legislature just wants to change who gets access to the existing pies.

Any policy that refused to address the basic causes of an issue will eventually fail. Unfortunately, since the effects of the failure won’t necessarily be felt in the next few classes of Texas college students, legislators and citizens are content to just focus on getting their fair share. It kind of makes you wonder about the quality of education they have received–probably from Texas.

April 23, 2007

Bond elections should be in September

Filed under: education — texased @ 7:23 pm

Our local school district has a bond election coming up and we just received our  tax appraisal notices. Someone had the audacity to post information about the bond issue on our local neighborhood group. Needless to say, the immediate response was that our taxes our high enough as is, etcetera, etcetera.

Two things really bugged me. The first was the person who acknowledged that we pay no state income taxes in Texas but that the property taxes were still outrageous. So it’s common knowledge that homeowner property taxes are high because we don’t have an income tax and business property is incrediably undervalued because transaction prices don’t have to be disclosed but this person still can’t look past their immediate tax bill. Would he vote for a candidate who supported an income tax? No, because “they would still have a property tax no matter what other revenue is generated.” Ah, but I’m sure he is enjoying living in a house that costs only two thirds of what it would in Austin or Dallas and only half or a quarter of what it would be on either coast.

Then there is the argument that as houses are built, the tax base is being expanded to pay for the new schools so we don’t need any bonds. I think our district is growing by something like 4,000 kids a year. So while I’m pretty sure most, if not all, of the residents of the neighborhood paid for their houses with loans and not out of their current salary and it’s standard business practice to take out a loan for new structures based on future sales, school districts and government in general must pay as it goes. The bond is based on the taxes that the new houses will pay. The amount of taxes generated by a new house the year after it is built isn’t going to to support the two new kids who will be entering the school system.

I’m not saying that the proposed schools amenities couldn’t be scaled back some. There are some pretty nice schools being built around here. But then again, there are some pretty nice houses being build here as well and you’re still taking home a bigger percentage of your paycheck than in most other places.  If the reputation of the local school district is one of the selling points in buying a house in the area (and it is-our high school plays in the “Gucci bowl”) then maybe you should expect to have to help pay for that reputation. Geez, I homeschool my son and I’m not complaining about the property tax increase.

April 22, 2007

Indicators of college effectiveness

Filed under: Accountability, college costs, Higher Education, Texas — texased @ 3:21 pm

Even though my son has shown absolutely no interest in colleges (except for their football programs) I have been looking at the possibilities. Given that we can expect to qualify for zero financial aid and finding myself leaning toward small, private schools, I’ve started thinking about is it really worth it to spend $30,000 a year to send him to one school over another. I realize that my primary concern is that he actually graduates. Now try finding graduation rates on college websites.

But I did find the Education Trust website. This site allows you to search for colleges based on various parameters including graduation rates. So if you enter a search for colleges that have a 75% or higher graduation rate within six years, you’ll get a list of 170 colleges that meet the criteria. Of those colleges, five are in Texas:

Rice University – 89.9%
Southwestern University – 78.2%
Texas A & M – 77.3%
Austin College – 75.6%
The University of Texas at Austin – 75.1%

No wonder people are upset up the top ten percent rule. It’s either UT or A&M in terms of getting your kids into a public school from which you have a reasonable expectation that will graduate.

Now I understand about self-selection and the problems associated with the other public universities and that you get as a good of an education as you want no matter where you go. And ultimately, if the other schools get some of the students that would have previously gone to UT Austin, their graduation rates can be expected to rise. But given the amount of money that students, parents, and the state of Texas (although it has been decreasing dramatically over the past few years) pay for higher education combined with our low ranking in the number of college graduates, shouldn’t we be looking at how to keep more students in school to graduate? I don’t think you’re going to solve this through tuition de-regulation.

April 18, 2007

This wouldn’t have anything to do with athletics?

Filed under: Accountability, sports, standards — texased @ 7:43 pm

Senate panel votes to toughen no-pass, no-play | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas Southwest:

Although the standard requires students to earn at least a 70 in every subject to participate in extracurricular events, lawmakers authorized school principals to exempt students in honors and advanced placement courses so they wouldn’t be discouraged from taking tougher classes.

When the rule was revised in 1995, the Legislature opened a loophole in the law that gave school districts wide latitude in deciding what courses could be exempted from no-pass, no-play. That led to exemptions for classes such as jewelry-making, photography, professional baking, choir and theater production.

“It turned out that school districts were exempting courses that aren’t tough but are called honors classes so they don’t count against the no-pass, no-play statute,” said Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, author of the bill and vice chairman of the education committee.

The Austin school district, for example, exempts 166 courses, including auto repair, cooking and hospitality.

Hmmm, do you think this is because students are abusing their eligibility for debate by getting exempt from classes?

April 17, 2007

I don’t think I would survive as a teacher

Filed under: Accountability, Teacher issues — texased @ 9:29 am

We have been meeting with several families to do some subjects together and all I can say is that I don’t know how teachers do it. Why do they go before a class of 20 or 30 students, most of whom don’t want to be there, many who don’t have paper or pencil much less homework with them, and try to teach to those remaining who may not be willing participants but are at least not disruptive? And then people want to evaluate you on your student’s achievement. I simply can’t imagine that seeing the “light bulb” going off in a couple of students is worth it all. Needless to say, I’m having some serious doubts about continuing our co-op next year.

April 13, 2007

Enough said

MySA.com: Metro | State:

The classification system that long has arranged Texas high school football programs by enrollment size for the purpose of competitive parity may be on the verge of its most radical alteration ever.

University Interscholastic League athletic director Dr. Charles Breithaupt said his organization’s legislative council will be presented in June with a formal proposal that would carve all UIL classifications into two divisions for football competition only.

The proposal, Breithaupt said, would achieve an even higher degree of competitive balance by grouping more school of similar size together.

Frontpage, above the fold news for the San Antonio Express News.

April 12, 2007

How it all starts

Filed under: cultural values, High School — texased @ 8:48 am

High School Students Upset Over Holocaust Assignment | WOAI.COM: San Antonio News:

Students and teachers said the students tagged as Jews were forced to stand against the wall as those portraying Germans passed by in the hallway. The Jewish students were also the last to eat lunch and had to pick up everyone’s garbage, the station reported.Some students said the exercise got out of hand when the German students spat on or hit the Jewish students. “They would spit on them.

They would push them down the stairs. They would be really rude,” student Tiffany Zimmerman said. “I think it was too rough and over the edge.”

Aune said this was the fifth year the school has run the Holocaust exercise. He said he had not received any reports of students spitting, pushing or tripping one another.

“I think that some of the kids were kind of harsh, but it taught us a little bit about how it was back then,” student Trevor Smith said.

I think that this exercise was more revealing than most realize. The lesson isn’t about how Jewish students were treated, the real lesson is how easy it is for people to start treating people badly on the slightest premise. You wonder how the Holocaust happened, look at how easy it was for students to start spitting on others given the excuse.

April 11, 2007

Avoid the UT Austin classes on logic

Filed under: Top Ten Percent Rule — texased @ 7:50 am

The article is talking about the tuition deregulation and the rising cost of attending a state school. And then for some reason, we’re warned about the a train wreck coming if the top ten percent rule isn’t changed at UT Austin. Huh?

Senators pan tuition hikes | WFAA.com | Local News: TV:

Lawmakers tried but failed to regain control over tuition two years ago. And deregulation has a powerful supporter in House Speaker Tom Craddick.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said the two-year, $152.1 billion budget his committee approved Tuesday provides enough money for state schools to forgo tuition increases.

With the top-10 admissions law, Mr. Powers said, UT is headed for a “train wreck” because more than 70 percent of students are admitted based solely on class rank.

“When we get to 80 and 90 percent it will be dire, and when we get to 100 percent it will be catastrophic,” he said. UT officials say that could happen by 2010.

What does the top ten percent rule have to do with tuition deregulation? Why will it be catastrophic when they get to 100 percent? Am I missing the connection? Maybe if tuition increases enough and financial aid decreases, UT wouldn’t have to worry about pesky students from predominately poor, urban, or minority schools from enrolling and opening up more slots for diversity candidates who didn’t make the top ten percent.

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