Thursday, May 9, 2013

Texas School Rankings: Opinions often based on inaccurate statistical analysis.

United High School, Laredo, Tx.
It has always amazed me that those who keep statistics on school performance always fail in reporting the anomalies in their arguments.  I am talking about statements that are made in opinion pieces, much like the ones that appear in today's San Antonio Express News.

From an opinion piece titled: "Texas education system must change for our future"

It is not a coincidence that more than one-fourth of Texas high school students fail to graduate on time. For African-American and Hispanic students, the dropout rate is more than one-third.
Out of all 50 states, Texas has the highest percentage of adults who have not completed high school. Not only does it threaten the economic well-being of all Texans, it has and continues to impede economic progress for at least two generations of Mexican-Americans and African-Americans in Texas.

If a person reads that an knows nothing about Texas, then one would believe that Texas is very bad at educating our children.  However, if you were to take some of the lowest common denominators out of the equation across the board for the whole United States school system, and then rank Texas, we would be ranked much higher than we are today.

What is one of those common denominators?  Illegal immigrants who come here with no education (adults who have not completed high school), and unable to speak English.  These folks are counted by the U.S. Census Bureau yet they are not segmented as illegal immigrants.  This makes it impossible to accurately determine the rankings of any state's education system.

Why, you say?  Would you rank your school system as a poor performing district if 60% of the kids attending did not speak English, and had very little previous education in their home country?  Would the numbers be skewed?  Of course they would.

Would you rank your state school system as poor performing if your state was home to more illegal immigrants adults who had no high school education from their home country than the other states you are being compared to?  Of course not.

I am not saying anything here about immigration reform.  That is another topic in its self.  

What this post is about is numbers used to compare Texas with other states.  States that have a small illegal immigrant population.  States that have no border with Mexico, where thousands of kids come across the border each day and attend U.S. schools in border towns.  

Fact (from Department of Homeland Security report on immigration, read here):

California has 25% of the 11.5 million illegal immigrants.
Texas has 16%
Next 8 states have avg. 4%
Last 40 states have avg. .7%

Unless you can show education stats where these people are segmented, your data is skewed, and therefore useless in setting policy.  And if you don't fix the statistical model, you are making wrong decisions.

Accurate statistics can help you make decisions.  Flawed models can ruin your business.  That is Business Policy 101.  I would think it should be Education Policy 101.


  1. I had not thought about this, in depth, when looking at statistical rankings- but it makes sense...So many reasons I think changing how it's tabulated and analyzed would be problematic.....changing the model would be quite difficult, I'm sure....

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