Via Will Franklin on Google+, “Another great data-rich takedown of Barack Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.”
Will’s referring to this post by Andrew Biggs at The American:
The Obama administration made what was supposed to be a pre-emptive strike on Texas Governor Rick Perry, but which turned out to be, in baseball terms, a “swing … and a miss.” The administration unleashed Education Secretary Arne Duncan to attack Texas’s record on education, with Duncan saying he feels “very, very badly for the children.” When pressed to explain precisely what Texas has done wrong on education, Duncan came up a bit short on specifics. The Education Secretary’s arguments have generated a lot of useful discussion across the web, but I thought I would throw some rudimentary data analysis into the picture.
To start, if you want to get an accurate picture of the quality of a school system, you ideally want to measure inputs and outputs: what does a school system generate given what it starts with? One input is money, which we’ll look at. But another, more important, input is the kids entering the system. Put simply, Texas schools start with many kids from poor or single parent homes, or for whom English isn’t a first language. You wouldn’t, after all, expect schools in inner city Chicago—those once overseen by Secretary Duncan—to outperform schools in suburban Lake Forest. Controlling by race isn’t a perfect way to handle this, but to ignore race is to say that schools bear full responsibility for the performance of kids who come from extremely challenging backgrounds, which is silly.
If you look at Texas’s simple average test scores in reading and math for fourth and eighth grade students, they’re about average—not great, but not terrible. Why Duncan would pick on a state that’s in the middle of the pack rather than a true laggard is anybody’s guess. But even then, the comparison is bogus simply because Texas schools serve a population with several challenges, in particular many low-income and Spanish speaking children.
Go read the entire thing, as you’ll need to arm yourself with as much information and data as possible to refute the lies and myths that will be used to attack Gov Perry during his campaign.