Some facts about Texas minority kids!

MONDAY, JUNE 11, 2012

And the ways of the white “liberal” world: Last Friday, we mentioned the oddness of Gail Collins’ remarks to Rachel Maddow about the Texas public schools. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/8/12.

Collins has written an alleged book about Texas. In a brief discussion with Maddow, she managed to author the highlighted claim:
COLLINS (6/4/12): On behalf of the rest of the country, I said, “OK, Texas, if you’re prepared to spend a bunch of money educating many, many, many, many of these babies really, really well, then maybe we have no reason to complain.” But they’re not.

They’re cutting back on education. The school scores are terrible. The SAT scores are among the lowest in the country. That’s 10 percent of the future workforce of America because of the size of the state and the birthrate.

So stuff like that really matters to the rest of us. And if Texas, which is going to be a majority Hispanic state within the next decade or so, if Texas can’t get a grip on these problems, then it goes in places that it’s not good for us to be going as a country.
Did we mention the fact that Collins just wrote a book on this topic? We thought you ought to know the truth about those Texas test scores.

As Collins herself recently noted, the “gold standard” of American educational testing is the National Assessment of Educational Testing (the NAEP), a widely-praised federal program which has existed since 1970.

This program tests fourth- and eighth-graders in reading and math. What did Texas scores look like in the most recent testing, which occurred in 2011?

Let’s consider eighth-grade math. Basically, Texas kicked the nation’s keister. The average score for all eighth-graders in Texas was 290, compared to the national average of 283.

Texas outscored the nation by seven points. How big a difference does that represent? A rough rule of thumb is often applied to scores from the NAEP, according to which ten points is roughly equal to one academic year.

In our view, this is a very rough rule of thumb. But this rule of thumb is routinely applied in the nation’s “press corps” when it produces gloomy judgments about the nation's schools. In this case, the rule of thumb would suggest that Texas eighth-graders outpaced their counterparts around the nation by almost one full year.

That would be a substantial difference. But the story only gets better for Texas when we “disaggregate” the scores—when we look at the achievement of the state’s many low-income and minority kids.

Texas has a much larger proportion of minority kids than the nation as a whole. Given the realities of American education, that makes it even more impressive when Texas outscores the nation straight-up, as it did in eighth-grade math.

But among low-income and minority kids, the Texas advantage only grows. Here’s the dope:

Among low-income white kids, Texas outscored the nation by twelve points (290-278). Among low-income black kids, the Texas advantage was 16 points (274-258). Among low-income Hispanic kids, Texas outscored the nation by 14 points (280-266).

Within the American context, those are impressive test scores. So why did Collins say what she did? For this fairly obvious reason: Despite having written an alleged book, she didn’t have the slightest idea what she was talking about. Indeed, something similar happened when she did a book interview with Salon this weekend.

At one point, the question of public schools arose. And d’oh! Collins did it again:
SALON: I know a reporter who goes up to public officials all the time and says, “Tell me what you think the percentages of Anglo kids in the Dallas school district and the Houston school district are,” and he says they always get it wrong.

COLLINS: It’s what, like, 20 percent. It’s very low.

SALON: Oh, brace yourself: The percentage of Anglo kids in Dallas school districts is 4 percent; in Houston it’s 8 percent.

COLLINS: There you go.

SALON: That’s the future.

COLLINS: Sorry, I’m off. (laughs) I overestimated.
You sure did, abused-dog breath! As usual, Collins thought this whole thing was very funny. She (laughed) in reaction to her latest wildly bogus guess.

The irony here is gorgeous. In best liberal fashion, Salon’s Kyrie O'Connor intended to chuckle about how clueless those Texas officials allegedly are. As it turned out, Collins—promoting her important new book—was just as clueless, probably more so.

We have no idea why Collins would have thought that twenty percent of Dallas’s school kids are Anglo. Given the norms of urban school districts, we have no idea why she would have thought that twenty percent would be "very low." Well actually, we probably do. We think the answer is fairly obvious:

Collins doesn’t care about public schools. She doesn’t care about low-income kids, except to the extent that their lives can be used to extend her tribal themes—in this case, the idea that the rubes in Texas are running schools with horrible test scores.

In fact, Texas is a high-scoring state on the NAEP, which Collins recently cited as our most reliable testing program. But in the pseudo-liberal world, you can always make yourself popular by reciting claims like the one Collins made to Maddow. By the way, Collins doesn’t seem real high on minorities at all. This is the statement which led to Salon’s question about Texas schools:
COLLINS: [F]or a border state, I would argue that Texas is less lunatic on the subject of immigration issues than other places around it, like Arizona. They’re much more comfortable with their long-term identity as a place with a very large Hispanic population. That is not to say that they’re comfortable with the idea that this is soon going to be a majority Hispanic state in which Hispanic people, politicians and business leaders would be running things. I don’t know that the adults, at least, of Texas are ready for that one yet.
Are the Hispanic adults of Texas “ready for that one?” How about the black adults? Or are only white people adults in Collins’ world? Gaze on the world of Gail Collins!

What might an anthropologist say about the world represented by Collins? About a “liberal” world which is willing to tolerate relentless nonsense like this? Rather plainly, this “liberal” world stop concerning itself with the interests of black kids a long time ago. But its members still like to praise their own well-known racial greatness.

What might an anthropologist say about a culture like that?

Two final points:

First, we haven’t read Collins book, but we’ll advise you to be careful about her comments on the teen birth rate in Texas, which seems to be a point of emphasis. Texas does have one of the nation’s highest teen-age birth rates. But its rate has been dropping fast, and here too, the overall data are tilted by the state’s demographic factors.

Final point: Collins knows nothing about public schools. By normal standards of assessment, she doesn’t care about minority kids—doesn’t care about them at all. She’s perfectly happy to spout bogus claims, then laugh it when she does. But here's what the icon Maddow said as their session closed:
MADDOW: Thank you, Gail. It’s the funniest political book of the year. Really smart.
“Really smart,” the former Rhodes Scholar said, to a guest who had just managed to utter a cosmic howler as part of a very brief segment.

Collins doesn’t have the first freaking clue. But Maddow said she’s really smart. Liberal viewers felt all warm inside.

What might an anthropologist say about a culture like that?

The famous old link between Boston and Austin: Massachusetts is often praised as our highest-scoring state. Meanwhile, Collins rolls her eyes at those sad Texas scores. But in eighth-grade math, Texas outscored Massachusetts among all groups of low-income kids—black kids, white kids, Hispanics.

What might an anthropologist say about this? She might start by informing herself about test scores in Texas. To do so, she might use the NAEP Data Explorer.

From there, she’d click on MAIN NDE. After that, she’d be on her own.


  1. Quaker in a BasementJune 11, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    I know this isn't really the point of the post, but holy moley! Only 4 percent of students in the Dallas school system are Anglo? How is that possible?

    Do all the white kids go to private schools? Have white families all moved out of the Dallas school district? That statistic begs for an explanation.

    1. The statistic is accurate. You can get a report here.

      2011-2012 Student Enrollment
      Totals by District for District: 057905
      [ TEA Home Page ] [ Standard Reports Home Page ]

      Region: 10 County: DALLAS COUNTY District: DALLAS ISD (057905) Campus: ALL (ALL )


      Student Count
      Black or African American 38,497
      American / Indian or Alaska Native 636
      Asian 1,758
      Hispanic 108,318
      Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific 172
      Two or More Races 743
      White 7,451

      I don't have statistics, but probably most of the white kids do go to private schools (mostly religious academies, I'd guess); also there is a lot of "white flight" to the northern suburbs.

    2. Region: 10 County: DALLAS COUNTY District: RICHARDSON ISD (057916) Campus: ALL (ALL )


      Student Count
      Black or African American 8,564
      American / Indian or Alaska Native 128
      Asian 2,544
      Hispanic 14,329
      Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific 43
      Two or More Races 882
      White 10,554

      Region: 10 County: COLLIN COUNTY District: PLANO ISD (043910) Campus: ALL (ALL )


      Student Count
      Black or African American 6,106
      American / Indian or Alaska Native 179
      Asian 11,363
      Hispanic 12,223
      Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific 41
      Two or More Races 1,880
      White 23,867

      Region: 10 County: COLLIN COUNTY District: FRISCO ISD (043905) Campus: ALL (ALL )


      Student Count
      Black or African American 4,219
      American / Indian or Alaska Native 241
      Asian 5,365
      Hispanic 6,033
      Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific 49
      Two or More Races 1,081
      White 23,135

      Region: 10 County: COLLIN COUNTY District: ALLEN ISD (043901) Campus: ALL (ALL )


      Student Count
      Black or African American 1,959
      American / Indian or Alaska Native 118
      Asian 2,627
      Hispanic 2,596
      Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific 66
      Two or More Races 830
      White 11,309

  2. We read this post and our analysts confess to puzzlement. (True, there's only one of us but, like Bob, we're partial to the royal "we".)

    How good or bad *are* Texas schools? What do slightly above average results on one math test, administered to one grade, mean? How useful are state-to-state comparisons anyway? What kind of populations are being compared? What percentage of children in any even system, regardless of race or ethnicity, are native English speakers?

    *Do* Texas high-school children perform poorly on SATs? If so, do poor scores indicate that SATs are of little or no value in assessing academic performance, because a test administered to the eighth grade is, in the view of some, the "gold standard" and the best overall measure of the success of a school system, in which case, Texas is slightly above average?

    We confess, we don't know anything about the Texas school system or the NAEP and can't answer any of these questions.

    We further confess that we didn't learn anything about it here.

    What we did learn is that Gail Collins is an idiot, in case we might have missed any of the previous thousand posts on that very vital subject.

    1. We confess, we don't know anything about the Texas school system or the NAEP and can't answer any of these questions.

      Or anything else, outside of how to troll blog comment sections.

    2. @Matt in the Crown

      It it takes a troll to want to know the actual facts of the matter, as opposed to whether someone is an idiot or a moron in the view of The Daily Howler, then there are probably more than few trolls hanging about.

      But you can congratulate yourself for not being one of them.

    3. Anonymous @ 12:25

      Wouldn't the burden be on Collins to reconcile the good NAEP scores with her preferred narrative that education in Texas is a total disaster?

      (Oh, and seven points is significant on the NAEP, as Somerby points out. It's not "slightly above average.")

      (Oh, and one other thing: most of the questions in your second paragraph can by answered by following the link to the NAEP Data Explorer that Bob so thoughtfully provided you with.)

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. In Chicago the percentage of Caucasian kids is 9%. Does this make the Dallas Houston numbers look any different?

  5. @Camcambo:

    I don't believe these figures are as current as they might be, but according to the Texas State Controller, Texas is #49 in verbal SAT scores in the nation (493) and #46 in average math SAT scores (502).

    If this is "kicking the keister" of the rest of the nation, what does failure look like?

    Now, maybe there's an explanation for these numbers, and that Bob is right after all: Texas is doing significantly better than the national average, despite these dismal, rock-bottom numbers.

    As for Collins', we (and Bob Somerby) have no way of knowing what she looked at in Texas, because nobody's read her book. In fairness, one would be surprised to find she did commendable job, but one also have hoped that a post of several hundred words devoted to revealing what a clown Collins is, based on her claims about Texas, would at least attempt establish the actual results in Texas.

    Of course, when the first priority is going after Collins, yet again, such inconveniences tend not to get in the way at The Daily Howler.

    1. SAT scores? If I recall correctly, SATs are only given to college-bound High School seniors; how could they be any kind of accurate measure of how well Texas schools are doing in general, unless your only criterion is production of college-bound graduates at the end of the process? Meanwhile the NAEP is given to 4th and 8th graders, who seem to be doing quite well; so maybe one can conclude that Texas HIGH SCHOOLS stink, if anything can be concluded from SAT scores.

    2. If they do well on the NAEP, why don't more of them go on and take the SAT? Why don't more of them go to college? Something is odd here, and it goes way beyond the inanity of Gail Collins and Rachel Maddow.

    3. The NAEP is the gold standard for comparing school systems. The SAT is not but you've decided instead to focus on it.

      As Bob has explained, of course, you at least need to account for the vastly higher than average number of English as a Second Language students taking the SAT in Texas. And, as with the NAEP, another thing you should do to slightly repair interpretation of SAT scores is to compare ethnicity by ethnicity. Are, for example, Hispanics in Texas doing better or worse than Hispanics in Arizona or California? But, in the end, you have that excellent measure of schooling quality, the NAEP, why not just use that?

    4. @fairleft

      I don't know where Bob explained all that but, unlike The Howler, I'm willing to offer a correction, or at least a partial one.

      The crucial factor in SAT scores appears to be the participation rate. Some states are as low as 3%, while others near 100%. Obviously, the more kids who take the test, the lower the average scores will be.

      In the case of Texas, participation is fairly high -- it ranks 18th. So comparing Texas to states with higher scores but much lower participation is meaningless. For a true comparison, you would need 100% in all states.

      However, it's also important to note that Hispanics populations between states can't be usefully compared without noting the percentage of native English speakers, which appears to be somewhat higher in Texas than other states with large Spanish-speaking populations.

      In any event, the Texas SAT scores aren't as bad as they look, based on the higher than average participation rate in Texas.

  6. Bob, isn't it time you admitted that you hate Gail Collins because she's Irish?

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