Friday, July 27, 2012

Texas Birth Rate dropping faster than U.S. Birth Rate.

While the number of births in the City of Dallas dropped 11.5% from 2007 to 2010, the number of births in Texas dropped by 5.6%.  For Texas this was a drop from 17.0 births per thousand to only 15.3 births per thousand population.  See data at where it shows that only 385,746 babies were born in Texas in 2010.  Since there are multiple indications that immigration into Texas has slowed down, it is very possible Texas will not have enough first graders in 2016 to go above the 2011-12  first grade enrollment record of 392,276.  The 2012-13 first grade enrollment may set a new record for Texas, but birth rates indicate that 2012-13 enrollment may remain the record for the next several years, unless immigration reductions are not as significant as some estimates say.

From 2007 to 2010 the birth rate per 1,000 population for the entire U.S dropped from 14.3 to 13.5, the lowest birth rate in a century for the U.S..  While the Texas birth rate dropped 1.7 percentage points, from 17.0 to 15.3, the U.S. dropped .8 percentage points, half as much as the drop in Texas.  (See )   If this rate of change in Texas continues, Texas will achieve the same low birth rate of the rest of the US within a few years.  It is even possible that by now, 2012, Texas may have already dropped below a replacement birth rate and is below a 14% birth rate.

If you googled news for "birth rate" on 7-29-12 there were over 52 hits within the previous 48 hours.  Here is an example of one of the headlines: "Birth Rate Plunges, Projected To Reach Lowest Level In Decades."

11-18-12 update:  Googling "birth rate" today showed that two weeks ago multiple headlines reflected that the US now has the lowest recorded birth rate in history.  The replacement rate required for a stable population is 2.1 babies per woman.  The current birth rate is 1.9 and therefore below the replacement rate.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Is Texas's Dropout Rate Progress slowing down?

This morning there was a wonderfully positive article in the New York Times titled "Texas's Dropout Rate shows Positive Signs."   It is regretful that this article was not printed over a year sooner when the data was becoming obvious that significant progress was being made improving the Texas Graduation Rate.   What is important is that now Texas has in the national media an article that we can authentically celebrate!

But for how long? There are beginning to appear faint indications in the data that the progress may be slowing down.  This graph is one indication:
Texas Graduation Rate Improvement measured by Cumulative Promotion Index, 2007-2011
(Right click on above image and select "open link" to enlarge and/or print.) 

The Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI) is the measurement used in many nationwide studies of graduaton rates including the Diplomas Count annual report on our nation's high school graduation rates.  It is the only graduation rate measurement that both counts movement by all four years in high school and only uses the current year's data in the calculation. The others use data from three previous years as well as the current year. Thus the CPI is the most current and the most predictive measurement. The fact that the rate of improvement for the CPI is now going down in Texas is reason for concern. The previous two years had improvements of  6 and 3.5 percentage points in the CPI in Texas. Then in 2011 Texas only saw an improvement of 7/10ths of one percent.

Below is a graph using three measurements that were recommended to be used in March of 2011 as a "Report Card" from 2012 to 2016 on the 2011 Texas Legislature. It is virtually certain that the $5.4 billion cut in education will negatively affect the progress Texas has been enjoying since 2006.  It appears we are beginning to see that change start.  The most predictive of these three measurements, the Cumulative Promotion Index, has a rate of improvement that has dropped dramatically.
Texas Graduation Rate Progress 2006 to 2011
(Right-click on the above image and hit "open link" to enlarge and/or print.)
The above graph comes from the data since 2006 in the spreadsheet below.
Texas Schools Enrollment By Grade 1997 to 2012
(Right-click on spreadsheet and hit "open link" to enlarge and/or print.)
This data clearly documents the progress in Texas using three common graduation rate measurements.  These are different from the Texas Education Agency measurement, but both this data and the TEA data document the same progress.  The Cumulative Promotion Index, the only measurement that uses only the current years data in the calculation, is also the only measurement currently indicating a reason for concern. 

We must see more of an improvement in the CPI for 2012. If not, this may be the start of seeing more statewide statistics reflecting deteriorating academic achievement due to the $5.4 billion in education cuts made by the 2011 Texas Legislature.

8-11-12 Footnote: It is now being written about in multiple news stories that 48% of Texas schools have failed to meet the federal AYP standard.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Equity, a DISD Problem?

Equal treatment and education for all students is an issue in every school and school district. It is an issue in DISD.

Dallas must decide how equal we want our educational opportunities to be in DISD. Finland decided decades ago for complete equality for all students.  This difference is combined with teachers who come from the best performing 10% of students in Finland, and who then must all secure masters degrees before teaching with slightly higher salaries than U.S. teachers.  Finland has now enjoyed producing the highest achieving 15 year olds in the world for the past decade, sharing top honors with one or two other nations for the highest average scores on earth in the PISA exams given in 65 nations.  One fourth of the nations taking the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) have students with better average scores than the United States.

Equal educational opportunity for all students is one of the central issues negatively affecting education in the U.S.. But, where is DISD?  If equity among schools were a national priority then funding and public focus would be on all schools.

In the chart below are comparisons of the major high schools in DISD on various measurements.  This list is in order with the high schools with the most teacher time allocated per student listed first. These are planned teacher allocations for the 2012/13 budget year.  If you allocate teacher time with a 40 hour week you quickly find that the first schools listed are the schools with over half an hour per week per student more teacher time than the other schools down the list.

The percent of Anglo enrollment in each school is also given along with poverty levels and recent SAT/ACT achievement history. What questions does this data produce?

Teacher Allocation by High School for 2012-13 DISD budget with poverty levels and SAT/ACT scores given for recent years.
(Right-click and hit "open link" to enlarge and/or print.)
Thoughts on the data reflected in this chart are welcome:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Graduation Rate Questions in Dallas

While questions remain about graduation rates in Dallas ISD, several facts are certain.  First the graduation rate is terribly bad, even after the wonderful improvements in recent years.  Second, there have been very real and very significant improvements beginning in about 2006 with the DISD graduation rate.  Nobody watching student numbers and achievement can debate these facts.  The continuing debate is in how to most accurately count graduation rate numbers. 

The DISD rate allows for the "coding in or out" of students who transfer between schools, who leave DISD, who die, or who have other valid reasons for transfering out of DISD.  Except for the 8th to 9th grade transfer, enrollment numbers always go down from grade to grade in DISD. Most of the transfers are transfers out, and allow DISD to remove that child from any "dropout" designation. 

There are two critical questions.  First, how many of these transfers are valid versus how many are used as a cover so as to get a higher graduation rate?  Second, since the non-dropouts should be transfering to another school, where is the school with increasing enrollment?  When you expand the counting to the entire state of Texas ( ) you find that the students being lost, and showing up in no other school in Texas, are not accounted for in the official TEA graduation rate. They may claim that these students are leaving Texas, but why is Texas not loosing population?  A 9th grade cohort graduation rate far below what is claimed by TEA is indicated.

The following chart shows the contrast between what is certainly one of the most widely known national graduation rate tabulations, the Promotion Rate, and the rate that is used by Dallas ISD, similar to the TEA method.

Comparison of Dallas ISD Graduation Rate Claims by High School
(Right-click and click "open link" to enlarge and/or print.)
Historically DISD has lost 7.1% of 12th grade enrollment before graduation.  Since the Promotion Rate does not allow for this loss, this chart demonstrates that an average of well over 25% (7% + 18%) of DISD 9th grade students are somehow "coded out" and not counted in the graduation rate calculations used in the data shared in the Dallas Morning News blog of 7-6-12:

Since the DISD claims a 2011 graduation rate of 77% and my "raw graduation rate" ( of 52% for 2011 are 25 percentage points apart, these calculations are almost perfect.

Do we help our students by somehow lessening the degree of urgency regarding students not graduating in Dallas?  Who does this help?

Monday, July 16, 2012

21 DISD Dropout Factories: Enrollment and Progress 1996-2012

The following charts present the 1996-2012 enrollment for each of the 21 Dallas Non-Magnet High Schools who were each listed as a "Dropout Factory" on the 2007 list made by John Hopkins University.  Due to significant improvement in almost all of the 21 schools, 7 of them would no longer be on the "Dropout Factory" list. (To be on the list a school has to have a three year average promotion rate below 60%.  The promotion rate is the percentage of 9th grade students reflected in the 12th grade enrollment three years later.)

The schools are listed in three groups: 6 North Dallas Schools, 6 Southeast Dallas Schools, and 9 Southwest Dallas Schools.  All of these charts come from one spreadsheet.  If you would like a copy please email and I will gladly sent you a copy of the spreadsheet. 

To enlarge or print the images below just right click on any of the following charts and click "open link."
Woodrow Wilson, W.T.White, & Thomas Jefferson
High Schools
North Dallas, Hillcrest, Bryan Adams, & Seagoville High Schools
James Madison, Lincoln, Skyline, & Samuel High Schools
Spruce, Carter, & Adamson High Schools  

Molina, Roosevelt and Pinkston High Schools
Kimball, South Oak Cliff, and Sunset High Schools
A Maceo Smith High School
Right-click on the above images & hit open link to enlarge.

The average Promotion Rate for the 21 DISD non-magnet high schools listed above was only 45.1% which more than placed them below the 60% average. Notice the bottom line above and the constant improvement in the Promotion Rate for DISD until this past year, 2011-12, when the average Promotion Rate of 60.5% was achieved by all these original 21 "Dropout Factory" schools.  This is wonderful progress!  Hopefully progress will continue and never waiver.

Friday, July 13, 2012

How K-8 Schools Lessen Middle School Problems

Fifty years ago, as the existence of separate middle schools and junior high schools became normal, there was virtually no research into the value of that division. The logic used to form these separate schools was based on the value of the separation of younger children from teenagers enduring the changes of puberty, but there was no research. There was especially no research following current academic standards to justify the value of this separation.

The most basic question now regarding the K-8 idea is “How would you address the concerns of the older, pubescent students being around the younger students?” This question relates to a much larger question regarding the intense behavioral issues that usually present themselves in current middle schools. The answer relates to a multitude of issues created by having separate middle schools:
  1. Well managed elementary schools are comfortable and safe locations for students. When 5th graders are forced to leave at the end of the year they are going into a strange school, usually more distant from their home.
  2. This middle school transition happens as the movement to puberty begins. They leave to go to an often much larger school where all the students are making the same unsettling transition through puberty.
  3. They must re-establish themselves in the new school and too often act out in the process. They are often victimized by other students going through the same process. To continue this process in their elementary school allows them to remain in familiar surroundings, familiar people, and not have to re-establish their status in a new, strange institution.
Due to all three of these reasons there are fewer behavioral problems in a K-8 school where the upper class students fall into the status of being the “older” or “senior” students on campus, often falling into a mentoring role. Normal precautions must be taken to keep them separate from unrelated younger students, but this is not a normally documented issue in the thousands of K-8 schools in the US.  There is also almost always a value in older siblings remaining in the same school as their younger siblings.
In Dallas ISD, if many elementary schools were to decide to follow Rosemont Elementary and embrace the transition to becoming a K-8 school it could eventually lead to the re-dedication of some middle schools into becoming K-8 schools themselves.  In could constrict the attendance areas of elementary schools so that less travel is needed and more students can walk to school. 
Dallas births fell from 24,242 in 2007 to 21,444 in 2010, a drop of over 11.5%. This indicates a similar drop in DISD enrollment should be planned for. This is a perfect time to plan for the re-purposing of middle schools into K-8 schools as elementary schools with adequate space can evolve into K-8 schools instead of being closed due to enrollments below capacity.
Questions about this issue are welcomed. Please study the research at . The most recent of that research is a July 2011 Harvard University study that has emphasized the urgency of an improvement for our public schools. This extensive research concluded (page 23): "Taken as a whole, these results suggest that structural school transitions lower student achievement but that middle schools in particular have adverse consequences for American students." If parents agree, they must demand change, especially here in Dallas due to the publicly acknowledged issues with our DISD middle schools.

How DISD graduation rate could go up while loosing more students

Graduation rates are calculated following student loss in high school.  DISD has been making so much progress improving their graduation rate that now the major loss appears to be moving from the critical 9th to 10th grade transition to the increasingly critical 5th to 6th grade transition.
Dallas ISD 5th and 9th grade student enrollment making successful transition to next grade since 1998
(Right-click on above image then click "open link" to enlarge and/or print.)

The blue line in the above chart, representing student loss from 5th to 6th grade, started going down as DISD middle schools began expanding to include the 6th grade. The word-of-mouth reputation of middle schools continued to deteriorate leading to the attrition rate between 5thand 6thgrade increasing significantly in recent years. That attrition rate went from an average of 2.3% prior to 2003 to an average over 11.3% the past two years. See the graph and spreadsheet above.  It is reasonable to project that this loss of students will increase this year with the removal of the final 6th grade students from elementary schools and their placement in middle school.

The second line above, the red line, demonstrates the continuing improvement of ever greater percentages of the 9th grade going on to the10th grade.  Historically most DISD dropouts had never made it to 10th grade in the past.  That is no longer true.  Now the much smaller number of DISD students who continue to drop out do it after making it into the 10th grade.

From 2007 to 2011 the DISD graduation rate improved according to every graduation rate measurement. This progress happened, and is now set up to continue, due to wonderful progress made eliminating the 9th grade bulge and increasing the percentage of 9th graders who make it to the 10th grade. Below is the spreadsheet that created the above graph and demonstrates these graduation rate improvements
Dallas ISD Enrollment 1996-2012 demonstrating attrition and graduation rate improvements
(Right click above spreadsheet and hit "open link" to enlarge and/or print.)
The above chart and spreadsheet both demonstrate the improvement with 9th to 10th grade transfers and the deterioration of the transfer percentages from 5th to 6th grade. If these patterns continue, the 5th to 6th grade transfer will replace the 9th to 10th grade transfer as the one loosing the most students in Dallas ISD.

While all graduation rates are calculated using students movement after middle school, the largest and most consistently growing losses within DISD are now happening before middle school. 

Another chart tracking these losses between 5th, 6th, 7th ,and 8th grade can be seen at .  It clearly shows how the 5th to 6th grade transition moved to become the transition when most students, over 1,200 each year, are now being lost in DISD.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Middle School Attrition, 1,350+ students now lost annually in 5th to 6th grade transition

For the past 6 years Dallas ISD has lost over 1,200 students, over 10% of the district 5th grade enrollment, each year between the 5th and 6th grade.  The last two years that loss has been over 1,350 students. Sixth grade is now the beginning of middle school in DISD for almost all DISD students. It is an annual loss that was no different from other middle school grades before 2006.  Then the 6th grade was moved into the majority of DISD middle schools.  It is now the norm for the first year in middle school in almost all middle schools. Study the chart below:
Middle School Transition & Attrition in DISD 1997-2012
(Right-click on above chart and hit "open link" to enlarge and/or to print.)
The 5th to 6th grade losses accelerated as the move to 6-8 middle school format happened. The data used in the chart above comes from the chart below.   
Dallas ISD Enrollment By Grade 1996-2012 with 5 most recent years of average SAT/ACT scores
(Right-click and click "open link" to enlarge and/or print.) 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Teacher Distribution & College Readiness by Dallas ISD High School

The following chart, an expansion of an earlier chart, shows various general patterns within DISD relating to college readiness scores by school and the allocation of teacher time for each student. It also includes the AEIS (Academic Excellence Indicator System) rating for each school for the past 3 years.
DISD Teacher time allocated by student and by school in 2012-12 budget and the SAT/ACT achievements of those schools in 2010, the most recent year for which such data is on the DISD web site.
(Right-click on the above chart and "open link" to enlarge it and/or print it onto one page.)
I do not yet know what, if any, conclusions can be made from the above beyond the need for more improvement in college readiness among all DISD students. The allocation of teacher time & talent is a critical variable in achieving that goal.