Saturday, January 22, 2011

Texas Education Progress endangered by planned 2011 Budget Cuts

Any failure to meet the additional costs for public education in Texas, due to inflation and normal student number increases, will end the accelerating progress Texas has enjoyed over the past four years. ( Click Texas Budget Surplus to see how costs could be met.) The failure to meet such cost increases will also endanger the progress projected by the increasingly rapid decrease in the 9th grade bulge found in Texas enrollment patterns. All progress will be in danger if the normal cost increases are not met. But the 11%-13% in cuts recommended in the Legislature will be an educational disaster for Texas children!

Patterns of progress over the past 4 years are clearly illustrated in the spreadsheet below.  It is a spreadsheet of enrollment by grade numbers for all Texas public schools.  It includes grades from 8th to 12th and graduation numbers from 1997 to 2010. It provides five measurements drawn from these enrollment numbers to track Texas educational progress:

Two measurements in this spreadsheet are related to the 9th grade bulge.  They measure it from both incoming and outgoing student numbers. As the percentage of 8th grade enrollment reflected in 9th grade enrollment grows, the bulge is disappearing. As recently as 2008 Dallas ISD had 9th grade enrollments that were over 35% larger than their 8th grade enrollments. Students were "stuck" in the 9th grade, repeating it more than once until they either pass on to 10th grade or dropout. The second "9th grade bulge" related  measurement counts the percentages of 9th graders who pass on to 10th grade the next year. In too many school districts the majority of dropouts never make it to the 10th grade. In Dallas ISD we had years as recently as 1999 when less than 60% of 9th grade enrollment was reflected in the next years 10th grade enrollment. This year, 2010-2011, the DISD 10th grade enrollment is over 82% of last year's 9th grade enrollment, the highest percentage on record for recent decades! As the 9th grade bulge disappears dropout rates will continue to go down.

The data above was used to create the following graph on each of the five measurements to more clearly document progress.  Notice especially the most recent Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI) measurement clearly illustrated in the graph below for the Class of 2009. This 5.9% CPI is almost double the second strongest improvement (3.2%) for any of the CPI rates that preceeded it in this chart covering 12 years! Texas is headed in the right direction!

The Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI) is a measurement more frequently found in academic circles, but it is a very solid predictive measurement for the direction that graduation rates are going. It takes the measurements from the same four transitions gathered in the graduation rate that normally follows only one group of students over the four transitions toward graduation: 9th to 10th grade, 10th to 11th, 11th to 12th, and 12th to graduation.  The CPI takes the measurements from these same four transitions but from four different student groups making those transitions within one 12 month period.  Thus the CPI for 2009 measures the transition of the 9th, 10th, and 11th grade classes of 2008-2009 to the next grade in 2009-2010, and the transition of the 12th grade class of 2008-2009 to graduation.  The CPI graduation rate measurement is more timely, and also more predictive due to the fact that three of the four groups measured will be graduating at some time in the future.

The projected progress in Texas seen in the 5.9% improvement in the CPI will continue to happen unless there is a significant disruption in the funding of educational services provided to children. To continue the current progress cost increases due to growing student numbers and inflation must be met. But the 13% cut now proposed in the Texas Legislature will be a disaster! It shows no awareness by the lawmakers who are supporting such recommendations of what is happening both in Texas schools, and in the criminal justice system. Where on the priority list for each of these legislators are the children of Texas?

A 5.9% improvement in the Texas graduation rate would mean that over 18,000 more students are receiving a high school diploma. If that were not happening, what would the ultimate cost be to Texas for 18,000 more citizens without diplomas?

The normal high school graduate makes $10,000 more in annual income than the normal high school dropout. With 18,000 more citizens paying taxes as they spent that average $10,000 extra in annual income for 30+ years that would amount to $5.4 billion dollars more in spendable income in Texas. (18,000 x $10,000 x 30 = $5,400,000,000)  This 5.4 billion dollars comes from a 5.9% increase in graduation rates being achieved for only one year. Add to that number the savings due to decreased law inforcement, less incarceration, and other social costs saved when students graduate and do not drop out.  Money invested in education is the best investment. 

Copies of the spreadsheets used in these calculations are available by request. All data used in these calculations come from the TEA web siteChallenges to this data, and these conclusions, are welcome!

Bill Betzen