In education, there are plenty of assumptions made about the children, families and communities. Making decisions and shaping policy based on “common knowledge” or assumptions that are not supported by the evidence can be a dangerous endeavor. Organizations are most effective when they are responsible stewards of data and make it easily accessible to those who need to use it. This article provides an example of how data can help expose myths about education as well as describe IDRA’s goals for data and analytics.
Prominent demographers regularly speak on the dangers of undereducation of the Hispanic populous and warn of the impending economic collapse that may result if nothing is done about it. But effective strategies can be blocked by mistaken claims that certain populations, such as Hispanic or low-income families, do not value education. Too many policymakers and school officials believe this myth in their attempts to explain away the relative underperformance of minority children in school.
But of course, all types of families value education (Bojorquez, 2014; Valencia & Black, 2002; Robledo Montecel, et al., 1993). One way this is clearly evidenced is by the increase in college enrollment over the past several decades.
In 2000, about 63 percent of high school graduates enrolled in college within one year of their high school graduation; by 2016 that figure had risen to 70 percent (NCES, 2015). Overall, more high school graduates enroll in post-secondary education than any other major transition category (i.e., military services or entering the workforce).
Taking a closer look at the college enrollment rates by race and ethnicity reveals more on the post-secondary landscape, especially among Hispanic students. The box on Page 4 presents data from the National Center for Education Statistics. In 2016, college enrollment rates were 71 percent for White students, 71 percent for Hispanic students, 87 percent for Asian American students, and 56 percent for Black students.
Notably, the increase in college enrollment rates for Hispanic students between 1990 and 2016 went from 53 percent to 71 percent. According to the data, Hispanic college enrollment is equivalent to that of non-Hispanic White college enrollment. For Hispanic youth, this was an increase of 18 percentage points within a 26-year period and the largest increase among all racial-ethnic categories during this time frame.
To illustrate the magnitude of this change in the Hispanic population, it took White youth 49 years to increase college enrollment from 54 percent in 1967 to 71 percent in 2016. These changes in the college enrollment rates are evidence of social and economic shifts across the country. Additional sources of school enrollment data can be found on the U.S. Census Bureau website.
Factors including the shift to an information- and service-driven economy, globalization, technological advancements and changes in college access policies have made these increases possible not only for Hispanic students but for all race-ethnic groups.
The dramatic increases in Hispanic college enrollment demonstrate a connection to education that is in stark contrast with conventional perceptions of Hispanic students and their families.
IDRA has committed to expanding data access in the coming months to the broader education community in Texas and the rest of the nation. This will include easy-to-use yet powerful metrics and visualizations intended to help educators and families understand and act on areas in education that need focus.
There are some important caveats to the increase in college access for Hispanic youth. There are noted differences in the types of colleges youth enroll in by racial/ethnic category. Hispanic youth enroll at much higher rates in two-year colleges than four-year universities. Two-year colleges provide an important vehicle for educational attainment for minority youth, however, they are also magnets for underprepared students. Many students entering two-year colleges require developmental education prior to taking credit-bearing courses toward their field of study.
One barrier to accessing credit-bearing courses in college is access to Algebra II in high school. For example, as of 2014, Texas stopped requiring high school students to complete Algebra II to graduate. This leaves room for more students to enter college unprepared to succeed in rigorous academic coursework (Johnson, 2018a; Johnson, 2018b). In fact, IDRA research found that fewer Texas school districts are enrolling students in Algebra II, especially rural districts that experienced a 24 percent drop (IDRA, 2018).
Access to data on schools and their college preparedness capacity is important for students and parents. They are especially important for Hispanic students in making post-secondary decisions. IDRA developed the OurSchool Data Portal, an interactive data tool that enables users to view college enrollment and preparedness metrics for all high schools in Texas. Students, parents, educators and community members can view data on school holding power, school success, college preparation, college success, college persistence, teaching quality, curriculum quality, parent and community engagement, and student engagement.
Educators also can leverage data to inform their teaching and learning practices. Doing so effectively means taking a guided and strategic approach to analyzing student-level data (Rouland, Shaffer & Schlanger, 2017). One resource to guide a data analysis strategy is the Toolkit for Effective Data Use. This toolkit was developed for schools as part of the Strategic Data Project initiative by the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University. The toolkit provides a comprehensive set of guides to analyze student level data, including pre-written statistical software code, visualization guides, data management guides, best practices, and example narratives for communicating analytic results.
At IDRA, our intent is to use data to understand truth about education and to combat myths about marginalized children and communities. We will examine where data has been misconstrued as poor research questions can guarantee poor results and can be intentionally misused against equity. Since the mission of IDRA demands all children are seen as valuable, data and responsible analysis must be used to its fullest potential to realize that vision.
IDRA has committed to expanding data access in the coming months to the broader education community in Texas and the rest of the nation. This will include easy-to-use yet powerful metrics and visualizations intended to help educators and families understand and act on areas in education that need focus. Since its inception, IDRA has made a commitment to use empirical evidence to push forward the mission of equity in education. IDRA will continue to provide data in innovative ways to ensure that all children get a quality, public education.
Bojorquez, H. (2014). College Bound and Determined (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association).
IDRA. (2018). Ready Texas – A Study of the Implementation of HB5 in Texas and Implications for College Readiness (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association).
Johnson, P. (October 2018). “Still Making a Case for Algebra II,” IDRA Newsletter.
Johnson, P. (May 2018). “Getting it Just Right! – Rigor and College Prep for All,” IDRA Newsletter.
National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). Fast Facts: Enrollment.
Rouland, K, Shaffer, S., & Schlanger, P. (June-July 2017). “Community and School Use of Data for College Readiness and Postsecondary Success,” IDRA Newsletter.
Robledo Montecel, M., Gallagher, A., Montemayor, A., Villarreal, A., Adame-Reyna, N., & Supik, J. (1993). Hispanic Families As Valued Partners: An Educator’s Guide (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association).
Valencia, R.R., & Black, M.S. (2002). “Mexican Americans Don’t Value Education !” – On the Basis of the Myth, Mythmaking and Debunking, 1(2), 81-103.
Bricio Vasquez, Ph.D., is IDRA’s education data scientist. Comments and questions may be directed to him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hector Bojorquez is IDRA’s Director of Operations. Comments and questions may be directed to him via email at email@example.com.
[©2019, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the January 2019 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]