Has Texas Increased Its College-Going Culture?

Posted on September 14, 2011

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Today, TEA posted a press release on the TEA homepage (see http://www.tea.state.tx.us/news_release.aspx?id=2147503072).

In the release, Commissioner Robert Scott states, “There is clearly an increase in the college-going culture in this state.” Well, that may be true, but the SAT data does not support such a statement.

In fact, as shown below, when one compares the number of graduating seniors taking the SAT (data from The College Board in their “College-Bound Senior” reports) to the number of non-special education graduates in Texas (from TEA Academic Excellence Indicator System and Standard Reports on the TEA website), there is no apparent increase in the percentage of graduates considering college over the past 6 years.

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t really look like an increase to write home about.

There has been an increase in the percentage of non-white taking the SAT that exceeds the increase in the percentage of non-whites graduating from Texas high schools. But, overall, the SAT test-taking rate provides no support for Commissioner Scott’s conclusion.

Also, note that the TEA press release provides no information about how the Texas SAT scores had one of the largest decreases in average scores in years. Math was down. Critical Reading was down. Writing was down. Why was this data absent from the press release?

Sure, some of this decrease can be explained by the increase in the percentage of test-takers from 2010 to 2011 and by Simpson’s paradox (all sub-group scores improve but the overall scores decline because of shifting demographics), but how can the state work together on identifying strengths and weaknesses of Texas education when those in charge of the education system cannot be honest and transparent about data?

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