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Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline: It’s real and we know where it starts.


As parents, we tell our kids that they can be anything they want, as long as they work hard.  As a kid, I believed it literally and was fortunate enough to enjoy an atmosphere in which I could live into that vision.

But is this motivational speech true for all Texas school children?  Can every child become anything they want just by working hard?

Stand for Children recently conducted research that suggests that not all kids enjoy an equal shot at this apple.  Based on our research, we’re convinced that the cradle-to-prison pipeline is real, and worse yet, we know where it starts.

We took a look at the zip codes of incarcerated people in Texas prisons.  It became immediately obvious that a small number of zip codes send a lot more inmates to prison than neighboring zip codes, including ones of similar demographic makeup.  Just ten Dallas zip codes have sent more than 3,100 prisoners into Texas prisons, at an annual cost to the state of $137 million.

Then we examined data from the Texas Education Agency, and saw that these same zip codes were the site of some of the lowest college-ready graduation rates in Texas.  In these zip codes, of 3,000 freshmen who began high school together in 2007, only 26 graduated college ready in 2011.

Not 2,600.


That’s less than 1% of entering freshmen who graduated college-ready after their four years.

Because these zip codes are also some of the most economically depressed, no single factor will reverse these trends.  No educator, administrator, or trustee can stand alone to interrupt the cycle of poverty and illiteracy.  Solving this issue requires a collective effort on all fronts, including the urgent need to direct additional resources to these schools and neighborhoods, while concurrently rebuilding the leadership and teaching capacity within these ten high schools and the elementary and middle schools that feed them.

And while a few legislators are pleading scarcity as the reason to under-fund Texas schools, it is important to remember that it costs less than $10,000 per year to educate a kid.  But it costs $44,000 per year to incarcerate an inmate.  There is the return on investment for a dollar spent on education!

But the primary importance of this is not a budget debate.  More important is the tragic systematic wasting of so many children’s lives.  A kid doesn’t decide what zip code to be born into.  And yet the zip code is making a lot of decisions for the kid.

 For updates regarding the Cradle to Prison pipeline, please email


Your data need to be shared for critical review. I know that more than two 2011 graduates of Adamson High School were college ready. My knowledge comes from my service on the Board of Directors of Adamson high School Scholarship Foundation. I also seriously question your assertion that 132 Adamson students who entered in 2007 are now "inmates". I am sympathetic to your mission, but to accomplish it you should use reliable data.
Startling data!! What is the criteria used by TEA to determine if a student is college-ready? I would prefer to see the actual numbers of students enrolled in a 4 year college, community college, or career training institute based on those zip codes school graduates who leave the pipeline with a degree, certification or license. Thank you for this excellent article.
I am the CEO at Texans Can Academies and we have been trying to punch a hole in the pipe. Last year our Dallas Can campuses graduated over 600 students who were in the pipeline previously. 94% of them were accepted to college our some post secondary institution. I would invite you to come and see how we help them regain their self esteem .
Michael! Wow! This is a sobering report and shows the challenge we all have in front of us as we try to educated our kids for the future. Like Richard above, I am the CEO/Superintendent two charter schools located inside the 75217 zip code (A+ Academy and Inspired Vision Academy) but only A+ currently has graduates. I am proud of the work our teachers, students, and parents do at A+. Our kids graduate in four years (94% completion rate), take higher level courses (92.9% graduated on the RHSP or DAP), and are taking college entrance tests (94%). We are still working extremely hard to continue to raise the bar so our kids will exceed the college entrance test standards, perform well on AP tests, and complete the numerous dual credit college courses available at our school. In short, we exist exactly for the reasons stated in your blog and the DMN article. We want to provide our students a quality, college ready education so they will not become one of the statistics listed in the article. This article led me to the STAND UP website. Before today I was unaware of the work you and your organization are doing in Dallas. Thanks!
where is the report?
I will be in charge of the ISS classroom for the 2013-14 school year. I wish to make an impact on students before they head down this pipeline. I have noticed that alot of behaviorial issues relate to lack of knowledge and/or understanding either because students cannot read or spell properly. It saddens me that alot of students place blame on "their" stupidity, when if fact they cannot be taught properly. Most of the school days are spent on getting test ready, either kids get it or they don't. It is a proven fact that most "normal" people must practice to get better at something, getting test ready is just the opposite of that. Failure is what we are teaching our kids!!! I hope our Government sheds light to this FAILURE, before it is too late, or we could start building prisons now to get ready for the onslaught of fails.

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