Each year, approximately 300,000 students begin eighth grade in a Texas public school. National employment and earnings statistics suggest that these students will have materially better prospects as adults if they finish high school and enroll in and complete a postsecondary certificate or degree program.
With support from the Greater Texas Foundation and the Houston Endowment, two institutional philanthropies, The Texas Tribune used data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Education Agency to document the education outcomes of every student who started eighth grade in a Texas public school during eight academic years (1997 through 2005). Each student was anonymously tracked over 11 years to determine the percentage of Texas eighth-graders who achieved a postsecondary certificate or degree from a Texas college or university within six years of their expected high school graduation date.
We built a data app that empowers Texans to review and compare student outcomes by region, county and at the statewide level. The data is also broken down by socioeconomic status, gender and ethnicity.
In addition to providing our readers with important data and holding Texas public schools accountable, we hope that this tool will contribute to future reporting investigating the success of Texas students throughout their educational career.
What makes this project innovative?
The Texas Higher Ed Explorer is built in conjunction with our Texas Public Schools explorer which offers data on the over 1,200 school districts and 7,000 public and charter schools across the state. By combining these two projects, we provide a powerful tool that allows Texans across the state to learn more about their public education system.
The data from the Higher Ed Outcomes Explorer provides an in-depth look at the performance of Texas students by breaking it down by county and region as well as socioeconomic status, gender and ethnicity.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
Within our own newsroom, our reporters rely on Tribune data apps to get access to public information that is otherwise difficult to retrieve, sort through, visualize or obtain. Outside our newsroom, the same is true.
As an example, using data from the Higher Ed Outcomes Explorer, one Texan — an economic opportunity director with a statewide public policy think tank — wrote a TribTalk column in September about “The Texas-sized hole in our workforce.”
While just over 70,000 of the Texans in the eighth grade in 2006 have earned degrees from Texas colleges, nearly 100,000 people move or immigrate to Texas each year with college credentials. We are importing talent when we should be doing a better job of cultivating it here at home.