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In This Issue:

TSP Seminar Series: September 18 - "Pathways: Understanding High School to College Course Alignment"
English Language Learners Seminar Draws Great Interest
New Computing Environment Increases Researcher Productivity
More Than 500 Million Texas Education Data Records Available
Researcher Profile - Rodney Andrews
Data Holdings Update

TSP Seminar Series: September 18

Texas Schools Project continues its 2009-2010 Seminar Series with Dr. Colby Stoever, Senior Research Specialist with the THECB, presenting, "Pathways: Understanding High School to College Course Alignment."

Friday, September 18
12:00 - 1:00 pm
The University of Texas at Dallas, Green Hall - Room 3.606

Dr. Stoever’s current project investigates the alignment between the highest course taken by students in high school and the first course taken in a higher education setting. While his presentation will focus on math, he will also discuss applications to other subjects.

Mark your calendar to attend this fascinating presentation. For future planning, these seminars occur on the third Friday of each month. Invitations are sent monthly.

Questions? Contact Kristin Klopfenstein - k.klopfenstein@utdallas.edu or 972.883.2379

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English Language Learners Seminar Draws Great Interest

Dr. Jim Van Overschelde’s presentation, “The State of English Language Learners in Texas,” attracted attendees from a variety of organizations, including school districts such as Plano ISD and Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD.

The one-hour discussion highlighted findings of the soon-to-be-released study by Van Overschelde’s Educational Research and Policy division at the Texas Education Agency.

“Our study sheds light on many important topics related to English language learners in Texas, including a more complete picture of their TAKS performance, estimates of how long these students take to reach academic English proficiency, and estimates of how likely they are to stay in school,” said Van Overschelde. “In several ways these students are doing better than previously reported and the current findings are likely to inform both state and agency policy regarding how best to address the needs of this growing segment of students in Texas.”

Dan O’Brien, TSP director, commented, "We were pleased Jim was able to present such a significant topic for our first seminar. In addition to his responsibilities for research at the Texas Education Agency, Jim has been a key manager, designer and supporter of the innovative and effective Texas Education Research Centers."

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New Computing Environment Increases Researcher Productivity

Devora Davis, a visiting researcher from CREDO at Stanford University, typically spends 8-16 hours running a procedure to create a data set for analysis. But, because Texas Schools Project, the administrator of the UT Dallas Education Research Center, recently installed a Cray supercomputing environment, Devora’s job was completed in half the time. She remarked, “I was blown away by its speed!”

Devora was processing data on nearly a million charter school students, looking for demographic matches with traditional public schools where the charter school students had attended previously. “While we’re using student data from sixteen states, the Texas data set is the largest we’ve created so far,” she shared. Processing the data set faster on the Cray allowed Devora more time to analyze results and draw conclusions.

“There was clearly a need for the Cray here at TSP,” said Leigh Hausman, computer technologist for TSP. She continued, “The number of researchers using our data is growing tremendously as is the size of their research jobs. Additionally, we’re continuing to receive incredible amounts of data from various state agencies that has to be stored on site. Finally, more of our researchers are wanting to do more complex analysis on larger data sets, which consumes more server resources. Our old server was only marginally sufficient to meet our current needs and certainly would not have been able to meet our needs as we grow. Because of all of these reasons, we moved to a cluster computing environment, which will allow us to expand as needed. By going with the Cray, we were able to immediately impact the time it takes to run a job, which allows researchers to spend less time on data processing and more time on analysis.”
(read more)pdf

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More Than 500 Million Texas Education Data Records Available

The UT Dallas Education Research Center (UTD-ERC), housed at Texas Schools Project, is home to more than 500 million Texas education data records, dating back as far as the early 1990’s. Because of its magnitude and accessibility through the UTD-ERC, this abundant data warehouse, rich with student data, higher education data, and more, is an unparalleled resource for researchers across the country interested in delving into important education issues.

To obtain access to the data, a research proposal must be submitted to the UTD-ERC. After an internal review process, the UTD-ERC then forwards the proposal on to the Joint Advisory Board, who approves or denies data access. Details of this process can be found on the Access page of the Texas Schools Project website.

The next proposal deadline is Wednesday, October 7, 2009.

Data housed at the UTD-ERC falls into 48 categories, covering PK – 12 and college data. Categories include:

  • Texas Education Agency, Student-Enrollment (1994-2009)
  • Texas Education Agency, Student-Dropout (1992-2008)
  • Texas Education Agency, Financial-Actual (1996-2008)
  • Texas Education Agency, Staff-Class (2001-2009)
  • Texas Education Agency, TAKS Testing Data (2003-2008)
  • Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Graduates/Degrees Awarded (1990-2008)
  • State Board for Educator Certification, Test (1999-2008)

For questions about data access, contact Texas Schools Project at tsp@utdallas.edu.

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Researcher Profile - Rodney Andrews

Rodney Andrews, a Harvard University Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar, recently joined Texas Schools Project as a Senior Researcher. In addition, he has also joined the UT Dallas School of Economic, Political & Policy Sciences faculty as an assistant professor of economics.

Andrews’ areas of expertise include economics of education, labor economics, public finance, and applied microeconometrics. While he has investigated a range of topics including health policy, his recent research, “The Effects of the Kalamazoo Promise on College Choice” and “Estimating the Responsiveness of College Applications to the Likelihood of Acceptance and Financial Assistance: Evidence from Texas,” focuses on the college application process and how it is impacted by financial assistance.

“The Effects of the Kalamazoo Promise on College Choice” is a study examining the effectiveness of a unique scholarship program – The Kalamazoo Promise – in influencing college choice. The Kalamazoo Promise offers to pay both the tuition and mandatory fees of graduates of Kalamazoo public high schools at any public college or university located in Michigan. In this study, Andrews’ work adds to the general knowledge of how prospective college students respond to price subsidies and provides more specific knowledge about the effects of The Kalamazoo Promise on college access.

In “Estimating the Responsiveness of College Applications to the Likelihood of Acceptance and Financial Assistance: Evidence from Texas” Andrews looks at the effect of targeted recruitment and financial aid programs implemented at selective Texas universities. These programs were implemented after the Hopwood v. Texas decision ended Affirmative Action in Texas and The Top Ten Percent Rule, a law intended to reverse the decline in minority enrollment at Texas' elite institutions, was signed into law. The programs seek to encourage minority enrollment, especially from low-income students attending high schools under-represented at the selective universities. His results show that a combination of factors, such as outreach, mentoring and financial aid, can attract qualified students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

As part of his decision to move to Texas, Andrews cited the state’s ability to put longitudinal data in the hands of researchers who have the necessary skill sets to answer important education questions. “Texas, Florida and North Carolina are leading the way when it comes to providing longitudinal data to education researchers. This is critical if we are to inform policy makers and influence constructive change.”

Andrews’ primary responsibility at Texas Schools Project is to conduct research relevant to Texas education. “Texas is a leading indicator of what will happen across the country,” Andrews commented. “Issues that the rest of the U.S. are just confronting are issues that Texas has been tackling for more than a decade.” Through this research, he will focus on the effectiveness of various educational initiatives and interventions.

Andrews commented, “To avail all Texas students with a quality education, it’s important that we maximize the effectiveness of our resources. This has been the mission of Texas Schools Project for over a decade. I look forward to continuing to move this ball forward.”

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Data Holdings Update - September 1, 2009

The University of Texas at Dallas Education Research Center (UTD-ERC), part of Texas Schools Project, houses a wealth of data provided by the Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and State Board for Educator Certification.

A complete listing of current data available can be found on our website under Data Holdings.

Information on accessing this data can be found on our website under Access.

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Texas Schools Project - 800 W. Campbell Rd. WT21 - Richardson, TX 75080 - 972.883.2555
A research center within the School of Economic, Political & Policy Sciences