Are Wisconsin Schools Better than Those in Texas?

Education in Wisconsin is a hot topic these days. Accordingly, Paul Krugman of the New York Times has shared with us the thought that low-spending Texas is as a result burdened with rotten schools:  “The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings.”  Following suit, the Economist, once a purveyor of pretty objective information, tells us that on test score performance Wisconsin students rank 2nd in the nation, while Texas is 47th.

But, as a shrewd blogger from Iowa, commenting under the moniker, Iowahawk, points out, the Wisconsin advantage disappears, once you look at each ethnic group’s test score performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress separately.  Iowahawk is careful to point out that he is not saying students of different ethnicities have varying abilities, but he makes no bones about the fact that they come to school with differential preparation and therefore it is appropriate to look separately at how a state’s schools educates each group. Here are the results:

2009 4th Grade Math

White students: Texas 254, Wisconsin 250 (national average 248)
Black students: Texas 231, Wisconsin 217 (national 222)
Hispanic students: Texas 233, Wisconsin 228 (national 227)

2009 8th Grade Math

White students: Texas 301, Wisconsin 294 (national 292)
Black students: Texas 272, Wisconsin 254 (national 260)
Hispanic students: Texas 277, Wisconsin 268 (national 266)

2009 4th Grade Reading

White students: Texas 232, Wisconsin 227 (national 229)
Black students: Texas 213, Wisconsin 192 (national 204)
Hispanic students: Texas 210, Wisconsin 202 (national 204)

2009 8th Grade Reading

White students: Texas 273, Wisconsin 271 (national 271)
Black students: Texas 249, Wisconsin 238 (national 245)
Hispanic students: Texas 251, Wisconsin 250 (national 248)

2009 4th Grade Science

White students: Texas 168, Wisconsin 164 (national 162)
Black students: Texas 139, Wisconsin 121 (national 127)
Hispanic students: Wisconsin 138, Texas 136 (national 130)

2009 8th Grade Science

White students: Texas 167, Wisconsin 165 (national 161)
Black students: Texas 133, Wisconsin 120 (national 125)
Hispanic students: Texas 141, Wisconsin 134 (national 131)

Perhaps those unionized schools in Wisconsin are not so hot after all. A careful econometric study of collective bargaining in education by Caroline Hoxby shows that unions drive up the costs without generating any benefits for students.

– Paul E. Peterson

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