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In recent years, IEEE 802.11 wireless networks have become the most popular wireless technology. IEEE 802.11 supports multiple transmission rates. How to determine the appropriate transmission rate is challenging. In this paper, we propose a novel rate adaptation algorithm to tackle this problem. We utilize the maximum likelihood estimator to robustly predict the transmission statistics for each transmission rate. Then we exploit the cross-layer correlation between PHY and MAC to determine the transmission cost for each transmission rate. The goal of our design is to achieve the maximum spectral efficiency. Based on extensive simulation experiments, the proposed algorithm outperforms existing well-known algorithms.