Gap Analysis Report 2010

 

Gap Analysis 2010

Executive Summary

 

The North Texas Regional P-16 Council has entered into its seventh year. This report is the 7th annual Gap Analysis Report since the first one in 2003. As its precedents, the current report focuses on the key achievement and other non-academic indicators for PK-16 students in the Dallas/Fort Worth region. The 2009 Gap Analysis Report also resembles the 2007 and 2008 reports on presenting data primarily in graphs rather than in tables. It continues to use the drop-down list box along with the graph to consolidate the visual presentations as in the last two gap reports. This 2009 report is particularly similar to the 2008 one for two reasons. First, the core data elements guiding the gap analysis from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) P-16 Initiatives Division basically remain the same as in the last year. Second, the north Texas regional council continues to perform the trend analyses as in 2008. Hence, in most cases, the 2009 report extends the data analysis in the previous report to the next data point. However, the dropdown combo box feature cannot be easily implemented in a MS Word document. Thus, this document often only presents the charts for the state, the regional council, or the ESC regions in the case of combo boxes, whereas the information at the district level is defaulted to the Excel document.

Although the gap analysis report for each year in north Texas builds on the earlier work in general, each year's report has updated in the breadth and depth of the information presented. There is no exception this year. In addition to the updated analysis with newly available data, the 2009 report adds more data analysis for the comparison of performances in the latest two years, and for the postsecondary education enrollment in the north Texas region. On the other hand, some parts in the 2008 report such as the histograms of the TAKS scale score distributions in middle school are dropped for the sake of brevity. Overall, the 2009 gap analysis report has four main purposes: (1) presenting the performances in the regional council and its member school districts on the 12 key indicators with the 2008-2009 or 2007-2008 data depending on the provided  data points, (2) conducting the horizontal gap analysis between the regional council and the state on the core indicators if applicable, (3) tracking the changes on the 12 data elements from 2008 to 2009 or from 2007 to 2008, and (4) identifying trends over time on the relevant indicators with multi-year data.

To achieve the above goals, six data sources are utilized in this report. The 12 core data elements, provided by the THECB, are the primary data source. However, the 6th-8th grades retention data are directly extracted from the TEA website (http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/acctres/retention/years.html), rather than from the data files provided by the THECB P-16 Initiatives. The second source is the TEA’s Lone Star Report System (http://loving1.tea.state.tx.us/lonestar/Home.aspx). It is used to analyze the performances of Accountability Ratings and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in the local school districts. The high school graduation data are from the Texas PK-16 Public Education Information Resources (TPEIR) (http://www.texaseducationinfo.org/tea.tpeir.web/topic_graduate.aspx). The fourth data source is the TEA’s AEIS website on TSI's Higher Education Readiness Components (http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/aeis/2009/district.srch.html). The data on higher education enrollment are from the fifth source - Texas Higher Education Data: High School to College Linkages (http://www.txhighereddata.org/Interactive/HSCollLinkFilters/HSGradEnrolByCountyDistrict.cfm). Finally, the U. S. Census Bureau website is used to update the regional demographic profiles. This executive summary offers highlights of the 2009 report. The previous reports and the current detailed report are available at www.coe.unt.edu/NTP16as usual.

Part one of this report provides the contextual references for the 2009 Gap analysis as in the previous gap report. It first examines the latest demography and its changes in the general population in north Texas. It then explores the demographic profiles of the regional school districts in the school year of 2008-2009 and the changes from 2008 to 2009. Finally, it focuses on the accountability rating and adequate yearly progress (AYP) in the regional school districts in the school year of 2008-09 and their changes over the years. In general, the analysis starts with the data in the latest year as the snapshot, and then performs the trend analysis to track the changes over time.

On the general population, Texas had grown almost twice as fast as the nation from 2008 to 2009. All of the four north Texas counties except the largest Dallas County had grown even faster than the state. Smaller counties seemed to grow faster. More than half of the Texans in 2008 were non-Anglo, almost 20% higher than the nation. The percentage of people under poverty was also 2.6% higher than the nation average of 13.2% in 2008. In the four north Texas counties, Dallas County had the largest ratio of underrepresented population, followed by Tarrant County. Both were more diverse than the state population. The other two counties (i.e., Collin and Denton) appeared to have lower percentages of underrepresented populations than the state in 2008.

On the school profiles, the overall ECE-12 enrollment in the state and the regional council had increased 1.6% and 1% from 2008 to 2009, respectively. Large ISDs tended to change slower than small or medium ones. The criteria or threshold values used to classify the large, medium, and small ISDs in the 2008 gap analysis report appeared to be still valid in 2009. The total student population in the two large ISDs (i.e., Dallas and Fort Worth) had dropped 0.5% to 48% from 2008 to 2009. Both the state and the North Texas Regional P-16 Council had become more diverse on student composition from 2008 to 2009. The regional council had grown even faster than the state in the Hispanic, low SES, and LEP students. The regional council was greater than the state on diversity in terms of the ratio of underrepresented students in 2009. The trend analysis on the student composition from 2003 to 2009 reveals a pattern of positive increases of the Hispanic and low SES students and negative decrease of the White students in the state, the regional council, and the member districts. Furthermore, the regional council had larger average annual growth rates on the Hispanic, Low SES, and LEP students than the state from 2003 to 2009. However, for the African American students, both the state and the council had little changes in the seven-year period. The tracking of the total ECE-12 student size from the school years 2002-03 to 2008-09 indicates that the regional council had grown at an annual rate of 1%, slower than the 2% growth rate in the state in the same period. Small and medium districts generally had grown faster than the two large ones.

On accountability ratings, the regional council had made great progress, especially on 'Exemplary', in the school year of 2008-2009. The regional council was 1% behind the state on the total of 'Exemplary' and 'Recognized' in 2008, but it surpasses the state about 10% in 2009. On AYP, both the state and regional council had improved about 6% on 'Met AYP' and dropped 8-9% on 'Missed AYP' from 2008 to 2009. The gap between the council and the state on 'Met AYP' has narrowed to 0.1% from 0.9% in 2008.  The trend analysis based on the six-year data from 2004 to 2009 on accountability ratings indicates that both the state and the regional council generally had steady growth on 'Exemplary' and 'Recognized'. Meanwhile, the category of 'Academically Acceptable' demonstrated stable decreases. Unfortunately, the category of 'Academically Unacceptable' had not declined as desired. These changes seem to suggest a pattern of two growing clusters at the two ends of the accountability rating continuum. For the change trend of AYP, both the state and the North Texas Regional P-16 Council had negative annual growth rates around -1.0% from 2004 to 2009, implying that they had even become worse on ‘Met AYP’ in the six-year period.

In summary, the diversity in the general population and in the public ISDs in north Texas had been greater than that in the state in the past years. Furthermore, the regional council had grown faster than the state on diversity, especially on the Hispanic and low SES groups. The non-Anglo students in the regional council was almost 78% in the school year of 2008-09, 12% higher than the statewide average. On accountability ratings, both the state and the regional council had made much progress from 2004 to 2009. In addition, the regional council had grown much faster than the state in the six years, especially in the last two years. However, they had not improved on AYP rating in the six-year period.

  

Overview of PK-5 Findings

The second part of this report covers (1) the public Pre-K enrollment in 2008-09, (2) first graders meeting standards for 2nd grade by the end of 1st grade in reading and mathematics in the school year of 2007-2008, and (3) the TAKS performances in Grade 3 Reading, Grade 4 Writing, and Grade 5 Mathematics on meeting the minimum passing and commended standards in 2008-2009. Additionally, this report extends the previous trend analysis on meeting the passing standards on the Grade 3 Reading, Grade 4 Writing, and Grade 5 Mathematics TAKS tests to include the data in the school year of 2008-2009.

The North Texas Regional P-16 Council increased 1.7% on the total public PK enrollment from 2008 to 2009. Some small districts demonstrated large changes. The ethnic composition of the enrollees in 2009 was primarily the same as that in the previous year. The sum of the African American and Hispanic children was still over 90% as in 2008. The ratio of low SES children in the council had slightly increased 1% to 89% from 2008 to 2009. The trend analysis indicates that the regional council had grown at an average annual rate of 3.6% on the total public PK enrollment in the past six years from 2004 to 2009. Small ISDs were likely to have large growth rates.

On the indicators of meeting the grade level for the first graders, the regional council had increased 6% in reading to 90% in 2008, whereas the state had grown 2% to 86% from 2007 to 2008. In mathematics, the regional council had increased 9% from 84% in 2007. Meanwhile, the state has increased only 1% to 91% in the same period. In other words, both the state and the regional council had made progress in both reading and mathematics from 2007 to 2008, but the council had improved even faster than the state. By the end of the school year 2007-08, the North Texas Regional P-16 Council had surpassed the state in both reading and mathematics from the similar or even lower level in 2007. Nevertheless, there were still 10% and 7% first graders struggling in reading and mathematics, respectively, in the school year of 2007-08 in the regional council. In addition, there were wide variations in the regional school districts on the ratio of first grade students participated in the ARI and AMI programs. Thus, we should continue to improve the ratios of 1st graders meeting the grade level in reading and mathematics, especially in the ISDs with high percentages of children struggling in reading and/or mathematics.

On the 3rd grade TAKS test in reading, the regional council had increased 3% to 87% on meeting the passing standards from 2008 to 2009, making the council-state gap to 2% from 3% in the earlier year. On meeting the commended standards in Grade 3 Reading, the council had remarkably grown 11% to 45% from 2008 to 2009. Meanwhile, the state also had increased 8% to 47%. Thus, the gap between the council and the state had narrowed down to 2% from 5% in the school year of 2007-08. On Grade 4 Writing, the regional council still had about 90% of children meeting the passing standards in 2009 as in 2008. The state had slightly reduced 1% to 91% from 2008 to 2009. Hence, the council-state gap has been closed to 1% from 2% in 2008. On meeting the commended standards in Grade 4 Writing, both the council and the state had grown 2% from 2008 to 2009. The council was still 3% below the state by the end of the school year 2008-09. On Grade 5 Mathematics, both the state and the regional council had shown virtually no changes on meeting the passing standards from 2008 to 2009. The council was still 3% below the state as it was in 2008. However, both the council and the state had increased 5% on meeting the commended standards from 2008 to 2009. The regional council was still 1% below the state in 2009 as in 2008. For the ISDs or individual groups, the low performance ones had generally demonstrated large growth rates from 2008 to 2009. In conclusion, both the state and the North Texas Regional P-16 Council had significantly improved in Grade 3 Reading on meeting the both standards and in Grade 5 Mathematics on meeting the commended standards. In contrast, there were little changes on meeting either of the two standards in other TAKS tests. Overall, the regional Council had grown faster than the state from 2008 to 2009. Thus, the gaps between the council and the state appeared to be gradually closed.

The trend analysis on meeting the passing standards in Grade 3 Reading, Grade 4 Writing, and Grade 5 Mathematics in the seven-year period from 2003 to 2009 shows that the state, Regions 10 and 11, and most of the 14 ISDs had positive annual growth rates, although the rates were typically less than 2%. The low performance educational constituents generally demonstrated higher annual growth rates than the highly performed ones. It was also found that there were wide differences in the school districts, even in those with similar socio-demography. Thus, it is critical to identify the key success factors in the highly improved districts and share the best practices.

The third part of this report concentrates on (1) the TAKS indicators in middle school including 6th grade reading and mathematics, 7th grade reading, mathematics, and writing, and 8th grade reading, mathematics, and science in 2008-09; (2) the retention rates in the school years of 2005-2006, 2006-2007, and 2007-2008 in grades 6-12; (3) the first-time 9th grader taking 10th grade courses in the class of 2008-2009; (4) the first-time 9th grader advanced to 10th grade on time in the class of 2007-2008; (5) the 12th graders taking advanced courses in the class of 2008-2009; (6) the outcomes of the 9th grade cohort in the class of 2004-2005 in the school year of 2007-2008; and (7) the changes of graduation plans from 1997-1998 to 2007-2008. In all of the cases, the data analysis is the same as that in the previous report except for moving the data point one year forward. Finally, It should be pointed out that we have expanded the data analysis requirement on retention rates (i.e., item 2) from 6th-8th grades to 6th-12th grades, and added the trend analysis on high school graduation plans from 1998 to 2008 (i.e., item 7).

On TAKS performances in 2009, the regional council was statistically lower than the state at the .001 level on all of the tests except for that on Grade 6 Mathematics, but with trivial or very small practical significances. In other words, the regional council and the state had similar TAKS scale scores in 2009 as in 2008. Nevertheless, if we are really interested in the differences between the council and the state or the changes from 2008 to 2009 in the state or the council, the findings showed that both the state and the regional council had made some progress in all of the tests except for that on Grade 6 Reading from 2008 to 2009. In addition, the gap between the council and the state had become wider in Grade 6 Reading, but narrower in Grade 7 Writing. Furthermore, the state was not only higher than the council on the means of the TAKS tests except for that on Grade 6 Mathematics, but it also outperformed the regional council on the percentile ranks for the scores of 2100 and 2400 in all of the cases except for that for the score of 2400 in Grade 6 Mathematics, the same as in the previous year.  Interestingly, the regional council and the state appeared to have similar change patterns across the grades and subject areas from 2008 to 2009.

The retention rate was typically less than 2% in the middle school grades (6th-8th grades) in the state, Regions 10 and 11, and most of the 14 member school districts in the school year of 2007-2008. Then it suddenly climbed to the pike around 15-20% in grade 9. Afterward, it dropped to about 7-8% in 10th-12th grades. The change pattern across the grades in 2008 was much the same as that in the school year of 2006-07. On group differences, the African American, Hispanic, low SES, and male groups were higher than the White and female groups as in the previous school year. On the change trend over time, the retention rate had typically declined in the three-year period from 2005-06 to 2007-08 in the 17 educational entities in all grades but grades 8 and 12.

On first-time 9th grader taking 10th grade level courses, the order from high to low for the demographic groups was Asian/Pacific Islanders, White, Hispanic, low SES, and African American in 2009, the same as in 2008. However, the Hispanic, low SES, and African American groups had increased about 2% from 2008 to 2009, larger than the Asian/Pacific Islanders and White groups. Thus, the gaps appeared to be gradually closed although these three low performance groups were still much lower than the other two groups. The state, the regional council, and majority of the 14 school districts had slightly grown on the percentage of first-time 9th graders taking 10th grade level courses in most of the demographic groups from 2008 to 2009. The council overall was about 2% higher than the state in 2009, 1% more than that in 2008.

On the indicator of first-time 9th graders advanced to 10th grade on time, the regional council had a ratio of at least 80% in every group in the school year of 2007-08. But it was still about 1-2% lower than the state. The White and Asian/Pacific Islanders students were about 10% higher than the African American, Hispanic, and low SES peers.  The regional council had grown slightly faster than the state from 2007 to 2008. Thus, the gap between the council and state seemed to be closing.

The ratio of 12th grade students taking advanced coursework in 2009 was at least 30% in the five demographic groups in the regional council. The Asian/Pacific Islanders and White groups were much higher than the African American, Hispanic, and low SES groups. The regional council was at least 6% higher than the state for each of the individual groups. The state, the regional council, and the 14 school districts all had remarkable increases on this indicator from 2008 to 2009. Part of the reason for such large increases may be related to the missing or incomplete data in the 2008 data file.

On the outcomes of the 9th grade cohort of the class 2004-05, like the previous cohort of the class 2003-04, the current cohort had the highest ratio of students graduating on RHSP in the school year of 2007-08 in all of the five demographic groups in the state, the regional council, and the 14 ISDs. In addition, both the state and the regional council had demonstrated increases on RHSP, decreases on MHP, and few changes on DAP from 2007 to 2008. As in the earlier cohort study, the African American, Hispanic, and low SES groups in the present 9th grade cohort were higher on the categories of MHP, continuers, and dropout than the White and Asian/Pacific Islanders groups. In addition, these groups were lower on DAP than the White and Asian/Pacific Islanders counterparts. On Completion Rate I, it ranged from 76% in the African American group to almost 98% in the Asian/Pacific Islander group. The regional council was about 1% lower than the state in the African American, Hispanic, and low SES groups in the current cohort. But it was 1-2% higher than the state in the White and Asian/Pacific Islanders groups. The Hispanic group seemed to have the largest improvement on MHP, RHSP, dropout, and Completion Rate I from the previous cohort to the present cohort.

The trend analysis on high school graduates plan has found that the state, the regional council, and the 14 member school districts all displayed positive growth on RHSP, negative decline on MHP, and little change on DAP in the 11-year period from the school years of 1997-98 to 2007-08. Whereas the changes on RHSP and MHP are desirable, the static change on DAP over the years is disturbing. We should focus more on promoting the growth of DAP while keeping the current change trends on RHSP and MHP in the future.

The final part of this report focuses on postsecondary education. Ten indicators are examined. Most of them were in the last gap report as well. These indicators are in three broad categories: (a) college readiness (6 indicators), (b) higher education enrollment (2 indicators), and (c) graduation from higher education (2 indicators). For the six indicators on college readiness, the first one, stipulated by the THECB P-16 Initiatives Division, is on the percentage of college-ready graduates in both English language arts and mathematics in the school year of 2007-2008 at the district level, but not by demographic groups. The next three further expand the previous indicator to include the percentages of college-ready graduates in English language arts, mathematics, and both in the school years of 2006, 2007, and 2008 in the collective and individual demographic groups. The last two indicators are on TSI - Higher Education Readiness Component in English language arts and mathematics from 2004 to 2009 in the demographic or collective groups. For the two indicators on higher education enrollment, the first one, required by the THECB P-16 Initiatives, is on percentage of high school students that enrolled directly into higher education in the fall following graduation in the class of 2008. However, this indicator does not differentiate the 2-year and 4-year enrollments. The second indicator, on the other hand, addresses both the total higher education enrollment and the separate 2-year and 4-year enrollment. Furthermore, as the data for the 2008-09 graduates are also available from the THECB website, this report analyzes the higher education enrollments in the 2008-09 graduates in the state, the regional council, and the ISDs as well, one year ahead of the schedule stipulated by the THECB P-16 Initiatives Division. The last two indicators on graduation from higher education are similar to those in the previous report: the percentages of high school graduates that earned higher education degree or certificate in six years or less in the classes of 2000, 2001, and 2002, and the percentages of different universities which conferred the baccalaureate degrees to the graduates originally graduated from the high schools in the regional council in the school years of 1999-2000, 2000-2001, and 2001-2002.

On the first indicator of college readiness, the ratios of college-ready in both English language arts and mathematics in 2008 in the regional council and the state were 43% and 44%, an increase of 6% and 7% from last year, respectively. On other indicators of college-ready graduates, Regions 10 and 11 appeared to be higher than the state in English language arts and mathematics in the school years of 2006, 2007, and 2008. The state, Regions 10 and 11, and most of the ISDs in the north Texas regional council had positively grown in either English language arts, mathematics, or both English language arts and mathematics in the three-year period from 2006 to 2008. On English language arts, the growth from 2007 to 2008 was much larger than that from 2006 to 2007. On mathematics, the increases in the two 2-year intervals were very similar to each other. The growth in English language arts was higher than that in mathematics in the three-year period, especially from 2007 to 2008. The low performance groups or districts generally had higher growth rates than the highly performed ones from 2006 to 2008. But some high performance districts also demonstrated high growth rates. On group differences, the White and Asian/Pacific Islanders groups were generally at least 20% higher than the African American, Hispanic, and low SES groups across the school years and subject areas in the state, the ESC regions, and the school districts. The female group was lower than the male counterpart in mathematics, but it was higher than the male group in English language arts. But the gender gap on either subject area had been gradually closed from 2006 to 2008.

The trend analysis of the six-year data on TSI - Higher Education Readiness Component from 2004 to 2009 demonstrates that both the state and Regions 10 and 11 had positively grown on college readiness in either English language arts or mathematics. The average annual growth rate on English language arts was about 3-4% higher than that on mathematics in the state and the two local ESC regions. For the group differences, although the African American, Hispanic, and low SES groups had grown faster than the White and Asian/Asian Pacific groups on college readiness over the years, they were still much lower than the latter two groups.

On the first indicator of higher education enrollment, the overall enrollment rate was 51% and 54%, respectively, in the regional council and the state for the 2007-2008 graduates. The council had increased 7% from 2007 to 2008, and the state had grown 3% in the same period. Thus the gap between the council and state had reduced to 3% from 7% in the previous year. The number of graduates enrolled in Texas higher education was still more than that of college-ready in both the state and the council in the class of 2007-2008 as in the 2006-07 graduates. The readiness-enrollment gap is 8% in the regional council in 2008, much similar to 7% in the class of 2006-2007. Meanwhile, the state had narrowed the gap down to 10% from 14% in the graduates of 2006-2007.

On the second indicator of higher education enrollment, the enrollment rates into Texas higher education in the four north Texas counties were within the range of 44.5% - 57.4% in the graduates of 2007, 2008, and 2009. Although most of the counties in the three years had rates around 50%, there were some subtle differences on the enrollment ratio in the four north Texas counties. Collin County appeared to have had the largest overall enrollment ratios. Denton County had been the highest on the 4-year enrollment. Tarrant County had been very close to the statewide average. And Dallas County had had the lowest overall ratios. When taking together, the average rates in the four north Texas counties were about 2% lower than the state in each of the three school years. Within the three years, the enrollment into Texas higher education had large increases from 2007 to 2008 in both the state and the four north Texas counties, but there were only small changes from 2008 to 2009. When breaking down, it was found that the enrollment into 2-year institutions appeared to be almost always increasing in both the state and the four local counties in the three-year period. However, the enrollment into 4-year universities had little change in the state and the local counties in the three years. In the school year 2008-09, both the state and the regional council had over 50% of graduates enrolled into postsecondary education. The regional council seemed to grow faster than the state as it reduced the overall gap between the council and the state from 6.3% in 2007 to 3.4% in 2009. However, it should be noted that the gap between the council and the state in 4-year enrollment is much larger than that in 2-year enrollment.

On graduation from higher education, there were 22.2% graduates received either higher education degrees or certificates within six years in the classes of 2000, 2001, and 2002 in the regional council, 0.5% higher than that in the class 1999-2001. For the three types of starters, about 2.5% of students who did not start higher education immediately after high school graduation in the regional council eventually received a degree or certificate from Texas higher education institutions within six years. Of those started with 2-year, about one fifth students finally finished the higher education successfully with a degree or certificate in six year or less.  Of those started with 4-year, almost 65% completed the Texas higher education within six years, and over 62% of them ended up with baccalaureate degree as initially planned. Most of the north Texas graduates who finished the Texas higher education received bachelor's degrees, followed by associate degrees. Certificates appeared to be least attractive to the graduates of 2000, 2001, and 2002 in the North Texas Regional P-16 Council. Six of the 40 universities (i.e., UT Austin, UNT, Texas A&M, UT Arlington, UT Dallas, and Texas Tech) conferred about 80% of the baccalaureate degree to the 2000-2002 high school graduates in the regional council. Among them, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of North Texas, and Texas A&M accounted for almost half of the total baccalaureate degrees. The distribution of higher education institutions that conferred the baccalaureate degrees to the local high school graduates in the classes of 2000-2002 was much similar to that in the previous cohort of the classes 1999-2001.

 

Recommendations of the 2010 Gap Analysis Report

As usual, the recommendations constitute a vital part of the gap analysis report for the North Texas Regional P-16 Council. The recommendations below are primarily derived from the findings in the current report. As the report shows, the regional council is often fairly similar to the state on the dynamic changes on the academic and non-academic indicators. Thus, many issues in the regional council may be concerns of the state as well. Some of the recommendation below could be addressed by the North Texas Regional P-16 Council alone, whereas many others require joint adventures between the regional council and other key stakeholders in the local region or in the state.

1. On public PK enrollment, we observed large variations on the growth rate in the districts. On one hand, we need to keep providing high quality early childhood education to the enrolled children in the highly growing districts. On the other hand, we suggest finding effective ways to have more 4-year-old children enrolled into the public kindergarten in the slowly growing ISDs. The administrators in the school districts and elementary schools, the early childhood education teachers, and the parents of the qualified children are the key stakeholders on this endeavor.

2. For first grader on grade level by the end of the first grade, both the regional council and the state had made notable progress in both reading and mathematics from 2007 to 2008. Nevertheless, there were still huge differences in the districts. Why did some districts improve vastly, whereas others dramatically deteriorated? It is recommended to identify the key success factors in the highly improved ISDs and share the best practices. The school districts may also need to conduct further analysis at the school level.

3. On elementary TAKS performances, the African American group usually ranked the lowest in the ethnic groups on meeting both the minimum and the commended standards. The school districts need to find effective strategies and measures to improve the TAKS performances in the African American students. One possible way is to compare the Hispanic group with the African American group. Why did the Hispanic students improve faster than the American peers? What can we learn from the highly improved groups or districts? It is also found that the increases on meeting the commended standards were larger than the growth on meeting the minimum standards. Why so? Is this because of the ceiling effect of the tests (i.e., higher scores have less room to improve than lower scores) or can we do something to help these low academic achievers? The school districts should take the primary responsibility to help the low achievers.

4. On the TAKS performances in middle school grades, it was found that the scores of mathematics and science were usually lower than those in English language arts in 2008 and 2009. In addition, some tests with high average scores also had demonstrated high increase from 2008 and 2009 (e.g., Grade 7 Writing and Grade 8 Reading). Are these differences related to the tests themselves or related to efforts of students, teachers, and school administers? It is unclear at this point if the scores of these tests are comparable across the grades, subject matters, or school years. An inquiry email on this issue had been sent to the Student Assessment Division at the Texas Education Agency, but no responses have been received yet. We may need to follow up on this issue with TEA.

5. On retention rate, it was generally not a serious issue in the middle-school grades. But it was a challenge in the high-school grades, especially in grades 9 and 12. Why so? Is this phenomenon related to the standards or policies implemented in the schools for advancing to the next grade or something else? We also found that the African American, Hispanic, low SES, and male students had much larger retention rates than the Asian/Pacific islander, White, and female students. The school districts should identify the effective measures to reduce the retention rate in the African American, Hispanic, low SES, and male students. Finally, it was observed that the retention rate had typically declined from 2006 to 2008 in all of the grades except for grades 8 and 12. Again, the school districts need to study the causes and take extra measures to reduce the retention rates in these two grades.

6. The finding on first-time 9th graders taking advanced courses indicates there was a demanding need to improve the ratio in all of the groups, especially in the African American group. We also observed that some districts had grown much faster than others from 2008 to 2009. The North Texas Regional P-16 Council could work with these highly improved ISDs to identify the key success factors and share the best practices with other school districts with the proper staff and funding in place.

7. Similarly, we need to continue to increase the ratio of the first-time 12th graders taking advanced courses in all of the groups, especially in the African American group. Again, it is critical to identify and share the best practices in the highly improved ISDs, especially in those with large percentages of African American, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged students.

8. The first-time 9th graders in the Hispanic and low SES groups appeared to have the lowest ratios on advancing to 10th grade on time in 2007 and 2008. Where did these students who did not advance to 10th grade go, retained in the 9th grade or dropout? What can we do to promote the advancement ratios in the Hispanic and low SES groups? Again, we may benefit from the best practices in the highly improved ISDs, especially in those with high density of Hispanic and low SES students.

9. The results on the outcomes of the 9th grade cohort of the class 2004-05 and the trend analysis of high school graduation plans from 1998 to 2008 revealed the low ratios and small changes on DAP in all of the groups.  Thus, it is highly recommended to take measures to increase the percentages of students graduating on DAP as these students are very likely to be admitted to the 4-year higher education institutions in the near future. The findings also indicate that African American group had the lowest Completion Rate I in the state and the regional council. Hence, the school districts also need to increase Completion Rate I in the African American students.

10. On college readiness, it was found that the growth in mathematics was much slower than that in English language arts. Why so? How can we increase the growth rate in mathematics? These two critical questions need to be solved if we want to improve the percentages of college readiness. In addition, large variations on college readiness were observed in the districts for the collective and individual groups. Once more, we need to identify and share the best practices in the highly performed or improved ISDs.

11. On higher education enrollment, we recommend to further separate the 2-year enrollment into two types:  unconditionally admitted and admitted with probation. Such a distinction may provide us a deep understanding about the successful graduation from higher education with a degree or certificate. The key stakeholders on this effort are the 2-year higher education institutions and the THECB. In addition, the analysis has found that the overall higher education enrollment had positively grown in the graduates of 2006-07, 2007-08, and 2008-09. However, the percentages of 4-year enrollment had little changes in the three years. Thus, it is necessary to separate the higher education enrollment into 2-year and 4-year enrollment, and tackle them separately. We also need to take extra measures to increase the enrollment rates into the 4-year higher education institutions.

12. The high school graduates in north Texas had been much less interested in certificates than the state population. Why so? Is this a concern? If it is, how can we encourage students to work on the certificates?

13. In the process of data collection and data analysis, it is found that the data provided by the TEA and/or THECB were not always complete or in synchronization in a timely manner. The relevant state agencies need to improve the data quality and solve the inconsistency issues. Some examples of the data quality issues identified in this report are: (a) The public PK enrollment from the TEA's LoneStar - Texas Education Reports website has the total but no numbers for the individual groups for each of the ISDs, whereas the ad hoc data file from the THECB P-16 Initiatives Division has the numbers for each demographic groups but no total for each ISD; (b) some data elements are based on school year of 2007-08, whereas others use the data in  the school year of 2008-09; (c) missing data on 6th-8th grades retention rates for certain groups in some districts, and the provided data are not completely congruent with the data from the TEA website; (d) On higher education enrollment, the THECB website does not provide the summarized enrollment data by high school county anymore for high school graduates after 2006. But it continues to provide data by school districts in each county (http://www.txhighereddata.org/Interactive/HSCollLinkFilters/HSGradEnrolB...). And the data in these two sources for graduates of 2005-2006 or earlier are not always congruent. On the other hand, the provided data from the THECB ad hoc data files do not have information as detailed as that in Texas Higher Education Data. Further, they are one year behind the Texas Higher Education data; and (e) the graduation data from the THECB ad hoc data files this year do not have the numbers for the state as last year.

14. The THECB P-16 Initiatives Division may need to provide data at a sufficient detail level for directly addressing the key issues on ‘Closing the Gaps by 2015’ in the future. For instance, it is extremely imperative for us to have the higher education enrollment or graduation data in three tiers - by ethnicity, by gender, and by district for the deep gap analysis. Another data issue is that the data on graduation from higher education seem to be on the public higher education institutions only, whereas the data on higher education enrollment include both the public and independent institutions.

15. Last, but not the least, we should keep in mind that all of the analyzed data are cross-sectional in nature. They are not true longitudinal data. Even though several data elements in the provided data files by the THECB P-16 Initiatives involve cohorts, they are actually for different groups of students in different school years. To obtain the real longitudinal data, the North Texas Regional P-16 Council has communicated with the Dallas ISD and the Texas Education Research Center at the University of Texas at Dallas. Unfortunately, without the supporting research fund, these data sources are unavailable to us. In the future, the THECB may need to either provide us true longitudinal data or offer more funds to utilize the longitudinal education data in the proper database management systems. Otherwise, rigorous education research including the gap analysis cannot be precisely conducted.