Situated in deep South Texas, The Rio Grande Valley is 43,000 square miles bounded by the Rio Grande River to the West and South and the Gulf of Mexico to the East. The history of the Valley tells a story of cultural interaction. This cultural richness and diversity has led to a community that is strong, proud and determined – and a region that sings with opportunity and collaboration. However, from the colonization of native peoples by the Spanish, to the dominance of Anglo settlers over Mexican Americans, to the emergence of powerful multi-national manufacturing firms, our region has been engaged in an ongoing struggle for equity.
Teachers in the Rio Grande Valley are faced with a steep challenge. For every 100 students entering a public school classroom in South Texas today, only 12 will receive a college degree within six years of graduation. As early as third grade, students in South Texas are performing behind their peers across the state and this disparity persists into college for those students who are able to further their education.
Since 1991, Teach For America has brought more than 1,400 leaders to South Texas schools. Due to the partnership and sustained efforts of district teams, such as Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District and schools like IDEA, committed family, engaged community partners and supportive elected officials, student outcomes have improved significantly during this time. The high school graduation rate has risen from 78 percent to 87 percent since 2001, nearly matching the rate for the rest of the state. This is an exciting time to live and lead in the Valley, where we are part of a movement working to change the region’s educational landscape and expectations for achievement.