“Dead Last” – The Label That Plagues Public Education in Texas

by Jon Williams

Every day, seemingly without exception, somebody from inside or outside of Texas sends me a message or posts to our FaceBook page the so-called “fact” that Texas is dead last in education and we need to “stop bragging” until we get that fixed. Of course “education” is a broad term, and it is never elaborated upon. Is that test scores? High School graduations? SAT/ACT test scores? I decided to investigate for myself. Here is what I found; below I will explain where their numbers come from and why Texas is still the greatest state in the nation regardless of the “numbers” they cite.

First, the source of the rankings that these folks generally point to are those of the National Education Association. With a fancy name like that, you’d assume that they are all about education. WRONG. They are a labor union. That’s right, the National Education Association (which donates millions of dollars every year to democratic candidates) has a vested interest in ranking a conservative “right to work” state like Texas low in their rankings since they are pushing for the opposite of free markets and competition. This isn’t an endorsement of political affiliations on either side of the aisle, it is simply an honest exposure so we can understand why they say what they do. Now that we’ve talked about the source of the numbers, er… propaganda, let’s examine Texas’ real education numbers. Texas is in fact ranked 51st in the nation (including Puerto Rico) in the High School graduation rate. However, that’s the only category in which we come in last; in every other category Texas ranks as average to above average when compared with the rest of the country.

Since the NEA is a left-leaning union organization, in fairness, I will quote a Alan Berube, a member of the Brookings think-tank (usually referred to as an arm of the Democratic Party).

“In a ranking of the 50 states plus Washington, D.C. in educational attainment, Texas was all over the map: 51st in high school (79.6 percent); 22nd in some college (22.6 percent); 44th in associate’s degrees (6.3 percent); 31st in bachelor’s degrees (25.3 percent); and 36th in graduate degrees (8.3 percent). The leading factor driving down the state’s rankings has little to do with the quality of public schools and everything to do with the rapid rate of immigration.”

Aha! So Texas’ overall education ratings are right in the middle of the pack, and well above average when it comes to 4-year degrees! (It can’t hurt that most Texans are raised as die-hard fans of one of the many fine Texas institutions of higher learning from birth).

As Mr. Berube stated above, the biggest negative influence on the Texas education system is immigration.

Immigration is a very real issue which Texas faces. With the longest land-border in the nation, we deal with illegal immigrants on a daily basis. These immigrants who have children and come from nations south of the border seeking a better life are here, and we Texans have to accept that they are here. (The Federal Government has neglected their obligations to protect our borders, in my humble opinion, but that is a thought for a different day). On a personal note, I constantly remind myself that if I lived a few miles south, I would try to bring my family to the land of opportunity, especially with the loose Federal policies in place. Platitudes aside, immigrants are here, and they are here to stay. The question then becomes, “What can we do?”

Responsible Texans know that if we were to simply disallow children of illegal immigrants from attending schools, then new – and worse – problems would likely crop up: Adolescent Crime, Gangs, and Child Labor Law Violations just to name a few. This doesn’t even take into account the future issues our state would face with a large population uneducated adults, of which, a large percentage would likely end up on welfare and be a further drag on society. We have to educate the illegal immigrant population, it’s the right thing to do, and in reality it is the only viable option we have.

Back to the real numbers. 64.5 percent of high school dropouts in Texas are Hispanic. As there is no hard data, using the numbers available to me, I calculate that between 35% and 55% of those dropouts are illegals. It is a broad range, but schools don’t collect data on immigration status, and I used numbers based on the Texas population as a whole, average number of children in illegal immigrant households based on estimated census data, and the Hispanic population in Texas based on census data. Texas Tribune estimates that approximately 84,000 kids drop out of high school each year. Using the numbers already cited above, this means that 54,180 of those kids are Hispanic, and 18,963 to 29,799 of those are illegals. If you subtract the illegals from the numbers which are counted, then our overall dropout rate decreases to approximately 83% (based on a 72% current dropout rate). Minus the illegal immigrants, Texas is 17th overall amongst all the states as far as dropout rates.

Once again, well beyond the national average.

Of course, illegal immigrants are a part of just about every community in Texas, and dropping them from our numbers is neither right nor fair. However, Texas has issues unique to Texas, and our state education system, while needing some improvement performs near the national average in almost every category. Do the numbers yourself (citations below)… I’m sure you’ll come to the same conclusion I have. Texas teachers and school districts are doing a heck of a job considering the circumstances beyond their control.

So the next time somebody tries to criticize Texas or Texans based on NEA propaganda, let them know you’re wise to their misleading data. Then tell them about the real Texas. (The Friendly State).

On a personal note, please know that I believe it is the parent’s responsibility to ensure their child has an adequate education. This article in no way undercuts to role of the parent at home in their part of their child’s education. In fact, the dropout rate would probably drop to near zero if parents were as involved in education today as my parents were during my upbringing.




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18 thoughts on ““Dead Last” – The Label That Plagues Public Education in Texas

  1. Please tell your individual to be part of the solution instead of ragging on the problem! I work damn hard in my classroom teaching not only the crazy curriculum (the Boston Tea Party is about to be classified as a terrorist act); but also how to think independently and rely upon themselves, do their taxes, research questions, etc. In addition, I parent, counsel, clothe and shoe many of them. I also work on teaching them accountability and responsibility. So when that person is truly ready to walk in my shoes, I’ll be more than glad to sit and take a rest for a while.

    • The only thing that has remotely saved us from the horrible C-Scope curriculum is dedicated teachers who see the problem and try to work around it. Thank you, Angela.

  2. thanks for the info. My son is scheduled to graduate from Louisiana Tech, May 2014 with a BS in Music Ed. I believe parents should be very involved from the time the child starts school til they graduate. As our children grew up, there was never a question as to whether the boys would go to college, it was always “where do you want to go”. I am Texans through and through, but when both boys got scholarships to LaTech, the mom in me said GO, WE HAVE NO MONEY TO SEND YOU TO SCHOOL! LOL

  3. This veteran Texas teacher thanks you for bringing some of the challenges that our Texan public schools face to the public’s attention!

  4. Jon – you should look at the Dept of Education test results comparing states on an apples to apples basis by using common test data across the states: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/statecomparisons/

    What you will find is that we do exceedingly well – at least at the median and many times in the top third — usually well ahead of such “progressive” strongholds as Illinois, Michigan, NY, California, and DC. Yes – our overall scores, especially in language arts, are drawn down by the large number of children raised in non-native English speaking households. When you separate the races, we do great — and in fact, our Hispanic kids out perform their peers in most other states.

    Shove that Dept of Education data in the faces of the trolls next time.

  5. I want to point out something else that is a driving factor – Texas has a high employment rate is fields that don’t actually require or honestly even check into HS Diploma – job’s that make significantly more money than most recent College Grads – Oil Field, and its related service industry’s – Just look to Midland area which is currently experiencing a boom – stay in school or go take a job making $4000 a month working 1 on 1 off – Just sharing other factors that skew their propaganda driven numbers – not the reality just their perception, and factor this in with the immigration issues and others – well reality and the numbers don’t mix – and they just look at numbers which are very misleading if you don’t know the reality!

  6. Compare TX to states where there are tests that must be passed to get a diploma, not just number of credits for high school classes. If you don’t pass the tests, you don’t graduate.

    • You actually have to pass the classes to graduate in Texas. The test to graduate here in CA is so easy a 4th grader could pass it. But they just pass kids through school here without learning anything.

  7. Jon: One of the things I learned early on in life is “Numbers don’t lie, liars use numbers”. There are probably a whole lot of things driving the quality of education, in this state, or any other state for that matter. The NEA has an agenda but so does the Republican Texas Legislature,. when some of them say that “education is getting along just fine, and we don’t need to restore any of the 5 BILLION dollars cut from the last educational budget”. So does the Texas Education Agency when they say “we will provide leadership, guidance and resources to help schools meet the educational needs of all students”.

    Some school districts are doing OK today, but those schools are the ones which have always had a rather large local tax base. Those schools have (and have always had) a very high graduation rate, a high percentage of students going on to get a college degree.etc. etc.

    Yes a “good education” is largely driven by the parents, but at least some of the time, one must consider the external factors that are driving the parents involvement.

  8. As a retired Texas public school teacher of 34 years, married to a retired Texas public school teacher of 34 years, my husband and I are well aware that numbers can be manipulated in a variety of ways. Thank you for speaking out.

  9. Quit being a white wagon burner and supporting the illegal aliens. They are only “here to stay” if Texans don’t say HELL NO and start busting chops. The day that happens, most of them will flee like cockroaches under a flashlight. The reason Texas is “dead last” in education, is because 1. the education system is jewed, and 2. White sellouts have enabled the violent and anti-social “peoples” that have come here TO REPLACE US PERMANENTLY.

  10. Why are illegal aliens (the children of anti-American raiders) IN OUR SCHOOLS. We have no duty to educate these little pigs, or to feed them, or to correct their incorrigible attitudes.

    • Roger, I am a native Texan, a 20-year veteran public school teacher, and feel over-taxed both financially and with responsibilities for others. Even so, I must come to terms with the facts that the CHILDREN of illegal aliens have no choice in the matter. They are not pigs. They are victims of their parents’ choices. We (USA) have made illegal immigration too appealing for too long, and the illegal immigrants are acting in their own self-interest to take care of their families by whatever means, even illegal ones. The children go where their parents dictate. The schools are told to make chicken burritos out of chicken scratch (you get the idea). I agree that responsibility should fall to each adult to take care of his/her own family, and those of us who support those who refuse to support their own are quite frustrated. But please, do not direct your anger at the children who have no choice.

    • Look a little deeper please. Would there be illegal immigrants working in the US if American companies and individuals refused to hire them. NO. Maybe you should focus your anger on those that actually hire them.

  11. Thank for pointing out something I have felt each time I hear Texas’ education mocked as last in the country. I doubt seriously that these statistics will be widely published. Liberal leaning media will not. And heaven help whoever has the intestinal fortitude enough to air this, would immediately be branded as racist ranting. Other comparisons could prove equally interesting.

  12. Too funny(or sad). When you compare the US to every other country in the world it usually comes up in the the thirties(usually tied with Cuba). At the very best Texas comes up AVERAGE with the rest of the country…………… I guess Texas should be PROUD of having third word countries having a better education rates then them.
    I would think Texas pride would want them to be THE BEST in the US and give competition to the other countries in the world. Not average of average……………..

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