Institute of Urban Policy

Education Research

Elementary School Poverty Disparities in Texas
Valerie Sterne, MA
Social scientists have long examined the impact of racial and economic segregation in public schools. Decades of research suggest that students in racially segregated, high poverty schools face an opportunity gap that has a negative impact on all areas of life. Black and Hispanic students in particular are more likely to be tracked into high poverty schools and tend to be the most impacted by these adversities. If low-income students were evenly distributed among schools, all students would attend schools that had the same levels of Economically Disadvantaged students. Regrettably, this is not the case in Texas. This report focuses on differences in school poverty levels among White, Black, and Hispanic elementary students in Texas. The first section examines school poverty disparities statewide. The second section focuses on disparities within counties, and the final section focuses on disparities within school districts.

Education and the Digital Divide in Texas City Spotlight Fact Sheet Series: Austin | Dallas | El Paso | Fort Worth | Houston | San Antonio
Tracie Lowe, PhD; Ricardo Lowe, MS; Annika Olson, MA, MPP; Lynn Huynh
In a world that is highly connected via technology, digital inclusion is necessary to support the social and economic aspects of communities across the nation. However, households in major cities across the nation still lack access to broadband access or high-speed internet, which contributes to the digital divide, or differences between those with and without access. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges related to the digital divide, specifically in the K-12 educational realm. As students all over Texas engage in online learning, geographic disparities in internet access place longstanding inequities at the forefront of discussions for school administrators. The purpose of this series is to highlight the digital divide disparities in Texas and the implications for students in vulnerable populations across the state. You can find the accompanying infographics here.

The Digital Divide and Education During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Annika Olson, MA, MPP; Ricardo Lowe, MS; Lynn Huynh
School closures due to the spread of COVID-19 have exposed significant internet inequality among students in the state of Texas and across the United States. At least 124,000 public schools across the country have closed, affecting over 55 million students. Now, as students move to online learning at home, thousands are left behind due to limited access to stable internet. This issue brief explores the digital divide in Texas and throughout the U.S. and reviews ongoing solutions, as well as gives key policy recommendations for developing a plan of action.

Most Black College Students Support Affirmative Action but Not the Use of Race in Admissions
Kevin Cokley, PhD; Tracie Lowe, PhD
Issues of equity and access for students of color in higher education have long been at the forefront of conversations among college and university leadership. Although Black undergraduate enrollment in colleges increased by 73 percent between 2000 and 2010, it decreased by 17 percent from 2010 to 2016. This decrease could be related to the use of existing admissions policies and an emphasis on traditional criteria, such as standardized test scores, that place some students of color at a disadvantage. However, very little is actually known about the views of Black students regarding admissions processes. Therefore, it is important to collect data regarding Black students’ perceptions of what factors should be considered in college admissions as these decisions impact their access to higher education. This report looks at that data, giving an analysis and relevant policy recommendations in regard to college admissions.

A Never-Ending Struggle: Examining County-Level School Segregation Across Texas
Ricardo Lowe, MS; Valerie Sterne, MA
Nationwide, Black and Hispanic students are increasingly becoming more segregated from their White counterparts. This is especially alarming in the state of Texas, where Blacks and Hispanics comprise more than 50 percent of the state’s population (Census Bureau, 2017). In this report, we examined county-level school segregation across the state. Our most essential finding is that of all 254 counties, Travis County is the only county to continuously present evidence of high levels of school segregation across all demographic groups. In fact, in each of our analyses, Travis county persistently ranks as a leading culprit of high segregation. Read more about our four key findings in the report. To follow up on these findings, we plan to publish more research examining segregation at the district level.

Public School Equity Audits Issue Brief Series: Part III - Implementation Considerations
Annika Olson, MA, MPP; Lynn Huynh
This brief is the third in a series of three on the use of equity audits in public school systems. Researchers, educators, and advocates highlight that public-school equity audits must be conducted on a regular basis, using a research-informed framework for analysis. In addition, IUPRA recommends that additional factors be examined to create a more holistic framework that looks at the entire school and district ecosystem: leadership capacity, campus control, and the role of the school district.

Public School Equity Audits Issue Brief Series: Part II - Atlanta, GA Case Study
Annika Olson, MA, MPP; Lynn Huynh
This brief is the second in a series of three on the use of equity audits in public school systems. A public-school equity audit conducted in Atlanta provides an example of an institution that implemented the Skrla, et al., framework and utilized a wide array of qualitative and quantitative data in an effort to identify inequities within their school system. This brief highlights the process, methods, and objectives behind the Atlanta Public School equity audit and how it was used to achieve more equitable schools.

Public School Equity Audits Issue Brief Series: Part I
Annika Olson, MA, MPP; Lynn Huynh
This brief is the first in a series of three on the use of equity audits in public school systems. Equity audits are powerful tools that assess disparities across school systems and are crucial when developing strategies that address inequities within schools and their districts. This issue brief serves as an overview of school equity audits, why they are necessary, how they are structured, and how they are interpreted.

Examining Enrollment Trends Between AISD and Local Charter Schools: A Demographic Perspective
Ricardo Lowe, MS; Rachel Boggs, MEd
Charter schools are one of the most contentious issues in education today. Charter school enrollment in Austin is rising rapidly, despite the declining enrollment in the Austin Independent School District (AISD). Nearly 80 percent of all charter enrollees in the state are either Black or Hispanic, and 71 percent of all Texas charter schools primarily serve economically disadvantaged students. These trends in Austin raise many questions surrounding AISD's proposed closures, which will be studied in future research publications. This numbers brief gives an overview of the enrollment trends between AISD schools and charter schools in Austin, using a demographic lens.

Issue Brief: The Value of a Small School
Annika Olson, MA, MPP
There are differing definitions of what qualifies as a “small” school across AISD and the communities in Austin. The East Austin community has explained that small, neighborhood schools are those which are walkable from their homes, have a low student-to-teacher ratio, and serve as a center of stability for the community. Research has highlighted that small schools like these are particularly beneficial for minority students, those with disabilities, and families that are socioeconomically disadvantaged. With large concentrations of these populations on the east side of Austin, smaller schools are especially beneficial.

Numbers Brief: Rising Property Values of AISD Schools Slated for Closure
Ricardo Lowe, MS
Following community conversations hosted by the Austin Independent School District (AISD), parents and community members have expressed concern that their neighborhood schools would be sold to developers, furthering displacement in vulnerable areas. The lack of clarity about AISD's intended use of these facilities, coupled with the district's budget deficit, increases this anxiety. In an effort to provide transparency between AISD and the community, IUPRA has gathered appraisal values for each school slated for closure or consolidation. In the event that further community conversations are held to address how facilities will be repurposed, it is imperative that community members and the district are aware of the value of these facilities.

Issue Brief: Using Research to Shape School Consolidations
Annika Olson, MA, MPP
One of the policy recommendations in IUPRA's brief to the Austin Independent School District (AISD) was to consult more research on school closures and consolidations (see below). In this issue brief, we give an overview of research that demonstrates both the pros and cons of school closures and consolidations on a national scale. We also look at how specific applications in Austin would impact Black students. While there can be benefits to school consolidation as a money-saving strategy, the research shows its effects are mostly negative and points to disproportionate impact on Black communities.

Policy Brief: Using Data to Inform the AISD School Changes Strategy
Annika Olson, MA, MPP; Ricardo Lowe, MS
In light of AISD’s proposed School Changes strategy, IUPRA conducted policy research on both the effectiveness and impact of school closures as well as the disproportionate displacement of Black students in Austin that would occur as a result of such closures. This policy brief includes an overview of the key data and our recommendations to AISD in advance of its vote on the proposed strategy.

The State of Black Lives in Texas: Education Report
kihana miraya ross, PhD; Kevin Cokley, PhD; Ryan Carlino; Susan Phan; Miranda Badgett; Jacob Hood
This report is the first in a series that looks at various policy issues in Texas through a racial equity lens, with the goal of influencing policymakers to improve the lives of Black people in Texas. The education report takes a look at four key education issues and how current policy and realities in Texas affect Black students: discipline and punishment, charter schools, standardized testing, and the Top Ten Percent Law. The authors provide an analysis of the available data in these areas, followed by key policy recommendations and priorities.

Fall 2016 & Spring 2017 IUPRA Poll: Education Report
Richa Gupta, MPH; Kevin Cokley, PhD
This report contains the results of both the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 IUPRA Poll questions on education issues. The data is presented graphically and analyzed, and the fall and spring data are compared. There is also a discussion piece, focusing mostly on ESAs and the 10% rule for Texas colleges.

Eliminating Hate Incidence on the University of Texas at Austin Campus
Loyce Gayo; Jonathan Lin Davis; Amanda Woog, JD; Naomi Reed, PhD; Shetal Vohra-Gupta, PhD
This report puts forward the proposed hate crime policy, including specific recommendations on reporting, response, and student needs. This policy grew out of work done in two previous IUPRA reports, found below.

Designing an Effective Hate Crime/Bias Tolerance Policy: Identifying Critical Success Factors
Jonathan Lin Davis; Loyce Gayo; Shetal Vohra-Gupta, PhD
This methods report outlines critical success indicators used to evaluate existing hate crime/bias tolerance policies within several peer institutions in order to next draft a potential hate crime policy (see above). The indicators were incorporation, language, sanction, placement, dissemination and reporting, education, and update.

Critical Race Analysis of Student Policy on Race Relations
Loyce Gayo; Shetal Vohra-Gupta, PhD; Naomi Reed, PhD; Jonathan Lin Davis
After a hate crime to a Black student took place near the University of Texas at Austin campus, IUPRA conducted a policy analysis to offer insight on how racist actions are dealt with at the University. The research found that UT had limited relevant policies and was the only institution among its National Comparison Group with no official hate crime or bias tolerance policy. This report also analyzes the Student Policy on Race Relations policy that does exist.

IUPRA Poll: Texas Voters' Attitudes about Education
These are results of a statewide poll about Texans' attitudes toward education. The poll looked at registered voters' views on the quality of schools, Common Core, religious-based explanations discussed in public education, discussing race in public education, formation of charter schools, tax credits for scholarship donations to send children of low-income parents to private schools, and policies that prevent racially disproportionate school suspensions.
DOWNLOAD: Summary | Graphs | Memo

Discipline Disparities for Black Girls with Disabilities in TX Schools
Karen Moran Jackson, PhD; Leonie Jones
There is even less data about discipline rates for Black girls with disabilities than discipline rates for Black girls in general. The data in this report show that Black girls with disabilities are more likely to be served under IDEA than Section 504, and that students under IDEA are less likely to participate and more likely to be segregated. Additionally, discipline data under IDEA showed Black girls overrepresented in most discipline categories.

Black Girls Face Disproptionate Discipline in Texas Schools
Karen Moran Jackson PhD; Renée Hatcher, JD; Leonie Jones
Nationally, Black girls are suspended six times the rate of white girls. Disproportionate school discipline leads to less instructional time for Black girls, increasing the risk of dropping out of school. Texas studies of the five largest school districts showed similar disproportionalities. This brief shows this Texas data and gives some general recommendations.

Texas School Financing Continues a Regressive Trend
Karen Moran Jackson, PhD; Victor O. Obaseki, JD
This brief explains and analyzes CSHB1759, an attempt to improve equity and increase funding in schools, after the state school finance system was found unconstitutional. However, the bill eliminated the Cost of Education Index instead of updating it, and failed to increase special allotments for students with exceptional needs or otherwise increase educational fairness. This anlaysis shows that while all district types would have seen an increase in revenue, the pattern of high and low districts would remain the same, with districts in 

Post-Legislative Session Report: Primary and Secondary Education
Dongmei Li, PhD; Victor O. Obaseki, JD; Karen Moran Jackson, PhD
This report explores two bills: HB 4, which passed, and SB 4, which didn't, and how students of color will fare under HB 4 and may fare under lesislation similar to SB 4. HB 4 provides additional funding to prekindergardent programs that meet certain requirements, and SB 4 would have used tax incentives to coax private donors into funding scholarships for students trying to leave failing public schools.

Single-Sex Public Education and African American Males: A Response to Racial and Gender Inequity
Kevin Cokley, PhD; Steven Stone, MEd
Black male students are disproportionately suspended, expelled from school, tracked into less challenging courses, and more likely placed into classes for students with intellectual and learning disabilities than in classes for gifted and talented students. Single-sex schools have been proposed as one solution to improving these outcomes for Black male students. This paper examines research and arguments for and against this option, concluding that this does seem to be a viable option.

The Campus Climate for University of Texas at Austin Faculty
Germine Awad, PhD; Erin Reilly, MEd; Richard Reddick, EdD; Kevin Cokley, PhD
This project was commissioned by the Office of the President at The University of Texas at Austin to examine faculty and staff experiences and perception of campus climate. This report covers the faculty analysis only. Overall perceptions were found to be moderate to positive, though differences in perceptions were found when data disaggregated by race/ethnicity, gender, and appointment status; women and minorities reported less satisfaction on many indicators.

Mental Health Education in African American Divinity/Theology Schools
Albert Thompkins, PhD; King Davis, PhD
In times of mental health issues or crises, 75% African Americans rely on clergy rather than psychiatric help or medication; but this study finds that almost all African American divinity/theology schools, and most divinity/theology schools in general, are seriously lacking or fragmented in mental health education and consider it secondary. Read the report for policy recommendations to improve mental health education in African American divinity schools.

Post-Legislative Session Report: Primary and Secondary Education
Victor O. Obaseki, JD; Seth A. Kessler, MPA; Kathryn A. Freeman, JD
This report explores two bills: HB 5 which changed high school graduation requirements and reduced number of required state secondary school exams; and SB 2 which increased number of contracts for charter schools. These bills led to questions of how students will deal with new curriculum requirements and whether Texas charter schools are better than traditional schools.

Do Vouchers Create More Inequality? Lessons from Universal Implementation in Chile
Jaime Portales, PhD; Julian Vasquez Heilig PhD
Vouchers are gaining promience in Texas and U.S. education policy discourse. In other countries, it has exacerbated segregation, showed varied achievement results (U.S. programs failed to increase achievement), and decreased public school enrollment paired with increased negative image.

Is Texas Leading Its Peers and the Nation? A Decadal Analysis of Educational Data
Julian Vasquez Heilig, PhD; Su Jin Jez, PhD; Richard J. Reddick, EdD
The Texas education system is often touted as a miracle in regard to test-based accountability based on national measures, but evidence actually shows trends of decline or stasis relative to all states. The student achievement gap is closing, but overall performance lags.