Texas 2036 Report
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State of Texas Data

Texas 2036 is committed to helping build the strongest future for Texas through research grounded in transparent and accessible data. This Strategic Framework refers to 57 primary indicators and 110 additional indicators that were used to determine where we are today and measure progress in the future. To find these data sets and many others, visit Texas 2036's Data Lab on our website. As you review these indicators, it is important to recognize the following limitations regarding these data sets.

Data is not always collected regularly. In some cases, the best data we want to use does not exist. In others, it is not reported regularly — which makes it challenging to measure progress consistently. Additionally, some data is inaccessible or not in a format that can be easily analyzed.

Additional data and indicators will be necessary as Texas progresses through the 21st century. As Texas approaches 2036, external influences impacting the state will necessitate additional datasets and indicator adjustments to ensure we are appropriately measuring progress.

Benchmarking against Peer States is sometimes difficult due to a lack of comparable data methods. Understanding Texas' performance relative to our Peer States is important. But comparable data is not available for some indicators, either because no standardized methodology exists or because the data isn’t separated out by state.

The indicators we decided to use represent the best data currently available. As better data is developed, we will update our indicators. Six goals in the Strategic Framework currently lack certain key indicators; those will be developed over time as better data becomes available.

  • Workforce Needs:** Texans meet the state's current and future workforce needs.
  • Availability of Health Care: Texans have access to basic health care.
  • Wisely Managed State Spending: Texas strategically manages state expenditures to deliver the best value to taxpayers.
  • Proven Modern Methods: Texas government uses data-driven and proven modern methods to drive toward shared goals.
  • Customer Service: Texas people and businesses can access public services they want and need through user-friendly methods and devices.
  • Aligned Accountability: Texas officials at all levels collaborate well.

Education and Workforce data

Standards set by the state may be overestimating progress. When comparing student outcomes on state assessments versus national assessments, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) shows much higher student performance than its national counterparts. The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) assessment estimates 45% of third-graders are reading on grade level,
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Percentage at Meets Grade Level or Above, Grade 3 Reading. Texas Education Agency, Texas Academic Performance Report, 2018-19 State STAAR Performance. https://tea.texas.gov/student-testing-and-accountability/accountability/state-accountability/performance-reporting/texas-0.

versus 30% of fourth-graders in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
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Percentage At or Above Proficient, Grade 4 Reading. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Grade 4 Reading Assessment, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019. https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/.

Similarly, the TEA’s College Ready indicator suggests 50% of high school graduates are ready for postsecondary education.
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Percentage of annual graduates of Class of 2018 that met at least one of the College Ready indicators. Texas Education Agency, Texas Academic Performance Report, 2018-19 State College, Career, and Military Readiness (CCMR): College Ready Graduates. https://tea.texas.gov/student-testing-and.accountability/accountability/state-accountability/performance-reporting/texas-0

That figure is much lower on national assessments such as the ACT, SAT, AP™, and IB™ exams.
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For example, only 28% of 2018 annual graduates met the criterion scores on the ACT or SAT, and only 20% met the criterion scores on an AP or IB exam in any subject

,
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Percentage of annual graduates of Class of 2018 at or above criterion on SAT/ACT (scored at or above the criterion score of 480 on the SAT evidence-based reading and writing or 19 on ACT English section and 23 composite and 530 on SAT mathematics or 19 on ACT Mathematics section and 23 on the ACT composite). Texas Education Agency, Texas Academic Performance Report, 2018-19 State CCMR-Related Indicators: SAT/ACT Results (Annual Graduates). https://tea.texas.gov/student-testing-and-accountability/accountability/state-accountability/performance-reporting/texas-0

,
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Percentage of annual graduates of Class of 2018 that met the College Ready indicator AP/IB Met Criteria in Any Subject

We have included a discussion on both sets of indicators to address these issues.

Comparable data is not collected across Peer States. On some measures, methodologies differ by state. For example, many states have an indicator to measure postsecondary readiness but differ on how they define it. On other measures, data is not being collected. For example, while postsecondary completion may be tracked for all students at an institution, few states distinguish between residents and non-residents. Given such limitations, we are using Texas-specific indicators in the near term but believe there would be value in aligning measures across states.

The data we want is not always available — at least not today. Seamless longitudinal data is needed to understand the educational performance of all participants — students, teachers, and institutions — but isn’t widely available. And although organizations such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Texas Workforce Commission publish projections, data is available only at the occupation level, not the skill level. Available data also may not reflect the complexities of the changing labor market. Similarly, data collected by the TEA on postsecondary credentials covers only certificates, two-year degrees, and four-year degrees, even though employers are increasingly issuing their own credentials. Texas 2036 can help highlight the need to make these important datasets more comprehensive and readily available.

Data on Texas teachers is limited. Teachers are the single largest in-school factor contributing to student achievement.
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RAND Corporation, Teachers Matter: Understanding Teachers Impact on Student Achievement, 2019. https://www.rand.org/education-and-labor/projects/measuring-teacher-effectiveness/teachers-matter.html

However, limited publicly available data exists on important topics such as the quality of teacher preparation programs and teacher pay practices. Better data would help Texas to attract, develop, and retain high-quality teachers — which is critical to improving student achievement.

EXPLORE CHAPTER

Health data

Because of privacy concerns, it is difficult to evaluate health system value. Data exchange is an important source of value creation in the health system.
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Xtelligent Healthcare Media, Health IT Security: Benefits, Challenges of Secure Healthcare Data Sharing, October 2017. https://healthitsecurity.com/features/benefits-challenges-of-secure-healthcare-data-sharing.

The past decade has seen a consistent push for nationwide interoperability — the ability to exchange, access, and edit data — as a way of promoting value in the health system. At the same time, concerns about health data privacy are increasing. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations allow for electronic data sharing but also add needed barriers that protect patient privacy.
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Additionally, the HITECH Act, enacted by Congress in 2009, widened the scope of HIPAAs data protection requirements to facilitate the adoption of electronic health records. It increased the legal liability for non-compliance and strengthened the enforcement rights of the Office of Civil Rights.

However, these regulations also make it harder for health care organizations to use data efficiently. And these kinds of rules appear likely to get stricter in the future.
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Datavant, Executive Summary: Evolution of Health Data Regulation, April 2019. https://medium.com/datavant/executive-summary-evolution-of-health.data-regulation-faa5fbb4dc3c.

There is currently little public access to data on health care costs at a state level, a critical piece of the value equation. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which publishes its state health care spending estimates every five years, is forced to rely on a combination of survey data and billing rates to make projections. We have based our estimates of future health care cost growth on this CMS dataset. Hopefully, in the future, better data sharing and increased price transparency will make it possible for CMS and other market participants to measure these costs more directly.

Publicly available data has not kept pace with innovations in health care delivery. Telemedicine and other means of health care are improving access to care for Texans across the state. With the spread of COVID-19 and subsequent mass quarantines, innovative forms of delivery have become widely adopted by providers and patients. Yet Texas does not adequately track access to and participation in such innovative forms of care, meaning we know little about the state’s changing health care landscape.

EXPLORE CHAPTER

Infrastructure data

Digital connectivity indicators could be improved with a more nuanced methodology. The current Federal Communications Commission data likely overestimates the population with broadband coverage, according to a 2018 Microsoft report.
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Microsoft Airband: An update on connecting rural America. Microsoft Power BI visualization, United States broadband availability and usage analysis for Texas. https://news.microsoft.com/rural-broadband/.

The data uses census blocks as the unit of measurement, which assumes the entire census block has access to broadband service if at least one customer does. Additionally, the broadband subscription data from the American Community Survey does not capture speeds received by respondents.
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As a result, we cannot currently determine how many users are subscribed to broadband at the federal minimum threshold of 25/3 Mbps. Filling the data gap is critical to tracking progress, and external organizations are working to improve these existing measures.

Data on the economic dimensions of crisis readiness is not currently readily available. While the current National Health Security Preparedness Index rigorously measures preparedness and response regarding human protection, data addressing the economic dimensions of resiliency is not currently available.

EXPLORE CHAPTER

Natural Resources data

Data on water quality may be incomplete or underreported. The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that the existing data may not reflect all monitoring done at the state level.
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Environmental Protection Agency, Enforcement and Compliance History Online. Analyze Trends: Drinking Water Dashboard, About the Data. https://echo.epa.gov/trends/comparative-maps-dashboards/drinking-water-dashboard?state=Texas&view=activity&criteria=basic&yearview=FY.

Furthermore, not all water systems reported data or received site visits. Some water systems in Texas fail to conduct monitoring or submit required samples to laboratories.
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Texas Legislative Budget Board Staff, Improve Viability of Small Public Water Systems, 2019. http://www.lbb.state.tx.us/Documents/Publications/Staff_Report/2019/5464_Water_Systems.pdf.

Even so, the Environmental Protection Agency's Enforcement and Compliance History Online database represents the most complete and detailed dataset publicly available.

EXPLORE CHAPTER

Justice & Safety data

There are many organizations supporting vulnerable and at-risk Texans across the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Better data sharing practices would allow organizations to better serve the needs of Texans in crisis. Due to technological limitations, data privacy restrictions, and the lack of integrated and interoperable data systems among these service providers, this data is not readily accessible.

Across the country, data on the criminal justice process and outcomes is full of gaps. This is partly due to the sheer numbers, with thousands of counties — each often with multiple agencies — storing data in their own siloed databases. To make matters worse, standard definitions of key concepts do not exist in Texas or across the nation, which makes data classification and access extremely challenging. As a result, it is difficult to evaluate justice system performance in any kind of comprehensive manner.
To address some of these data gaps, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition has begun posting data on court dispositions in Dallas and Harris counties to an online dashboard. This tool, which highlights racial and gender disparities as well as the tendencies of specific judges, allows public stakeholders and policy makers to explore bail and sentencing trends in detail.
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Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Criminal Court Data Dashboard. https://tcjcdashboard.org/.

But this is just a first step. We need the same level of rigor in tracking and analyzing data throughout the criminal justice system.
Texas 2036 has relied on imperfect recidivism measures to compare justice system performance across Peer States.
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Texas 2036 Data Lab, Texas Recidivism Rates (Re-Arrests and Re-incarceration) For Adults. https://datalab.texas2036.org/LBBAI2019/texas.recidivism-rates-re-arrests-and-re-incarceration-for-adults

Hopefully, more robust data tracking will enable a more comprehensive evaluation of justice system performance in the future.

EXPLORE CHAPTER

Government Performance data

There are data problems across government functions. Some datasets are not linked longitudinally or across service populations. Moreover, datasets often include self-reported agency data without quality checks. These drawbacks limit the ability of policy makers and public stakeholders to assess public services.

In many cases, significant data gaps emerge because legacy technology systems cannot interact smoothly with new business and data formats.
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Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. Fiscal Notes. State Agencies and Legacy Systems. 2017. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1hmNGW5wuTEG1KsvUiVk7oxyF--SDUhshPcnFNN5mXaY/edit .

In this report, we have proposed introducing proprietary assessments to evaluate the performance of government functions in the absence of reliable data. We will encourage the state to update outdated technology and build robust data collection systems so Texans in the future can rely on more current and useful information.
Weak analytic capabilities further limit Texas' ability to make good decisions based on the most current facts. In a 2018 survey of 78 state agencies, only 13 of them (under 17%) reported employing staff whose primary duty was data management, a number that is unchanged from 2016.
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Department of Information Resources, Biennial Performance Report, 2018. https://pubext.dir.texas.gov/2018-Biennial-Performance-Report.pdf

A mature data management and governance program depends on dedicated and highly-invested staff, which is something few state agencies report having.
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2016 DIR 2016 Biennial Performance Report

The point of better data analysis in government is to be sure our public spending is addressing the highest service priorities in a cost-effective way. Many operational goals are focused more on spending totals, numbers of cases, and personnel rather than value measured in the quality and timeliness of service to Texans. To collect and analyze the right data, we need to agree on what the most important shared goals are. Texas 2036 has proposed several “value of service” measures that will rely on clearer priorities and better data and planning.

EXPLORE CHAPTER

COVID-19 Pandemic and Data Collection

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted, among many other things, Texas' ability to collect valid and reliable data. For example, the annual STAAR exams that are administered to Texas public school students were suspended for the 2019-20 school year.
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Texas Education Agency, Cancellation of STAAR Testing for the Remainder of the School Year, March 2020. https://tea.texas.gov/about-tea/news-and-multimedia/correspondence/taa-letters/cancellation-of-staar.testing-for-the-remainder-of-the-school-year

Without this critical data, we cannot determine student learning, best practices, achievement gaps, and other critical points of understanding that drive instruction and policymaking.
The 2020 U.S. Census is another source of vital data at risk of being affected. While the Census will be completed (largely through online and mail submissions), some communities could be at greater risk of miscounts. With billions of dollars in federal funding at stake from Census findings, accuracy matters. In Texas, an undercount of 1% could result in a loss of $300 million in federal funding.
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Texas Demographic Center, Census 2020: Making Texas Count. https://demographics.texas.gov/Data/Decennial/2020/Pillar 01 - Prosperity & Well-Being