EDINBURG, RGV – Education in the Rio Grande Valley continues to improve in certain respects, as reports show the region outperforms the nation when it comes to socio-economically challenged students.

At last week’s Annual College and Career Readiness Summit, hosted by South Texas College, RGV Focus Executive Director Luzelma Canales reported on “Collective Action to Increase Student Success and Completion,” and announced the upcoming release of her group’s annual report.

Luzelma Canales

RGV Focus is a collaboration with Educate Texas. It members include numerous school districts in the Valley, as well as higher education institutions and colonia community groups.

In an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian after her presentation, Canales explained that low-income students in the Valley are at the top of the table for preparing children that are on free or reduced lunch.

“That got us really excited because our elementary and middle schools are outperforming, for low income kids, the entire country,” Canales said.

Among the top 300 cities are Edinburg, Pharr, McAllen, Mission and Brownsville, which, according to educational research organization Education Cities, holds the number one slot in the country for elementary schools teaching children from low-income families.

Education Cities’ findings show that low-income students outperform those in other parts of Texas and the nation. It conducted research for its Education Equality Index (EEI), Canales explained.

Education Cities focuses on city-level outcomes and develops methodology to identify which cities in the nation better serve low-income students.

“We didn’t know this research was ongoing, so it further supports that we’re doing something well,” Canales said.

Canales said the organization contacted RGV Focus to ask what strategies were being implemented in the Valley’s school system to help low-income kids.

“They said ‘your cities are doing really well for low-income kids.’ That’s really exciting because it means that when you look at not just at the schools but at entire cities, they are backing up their low-income kids.”

Canales said the success of education in the Valley can further help change a stereotypical view of education in the Valley.

“We need to continue to look at the data because we need to begin to change the narrative and we need to tell our stories of success,” Canales said. “We have a lot of work to do, but let’s also talk about the great work that our institutions and cities are doing to ensure our kids don’t stay poor and under- educated.”

RGV Focus Annual Report

To report on more education success in the Valley, RGV Focus will reveal its annual report on Tuesday, April 11. The unveiling takes place at South Texas High School for Health Professions in Mercedes, starting at 11 a.m.

The annual report presents various sets of data from third grade reading and eighth grade math, to high school graduation, FAFSA completions, college readiness, AP dual-credit, to higher ed graduation rates and job occupancy by RGV college graduates.

Canales said of her group’s report:

“It is the way to keep a commitment to share publicly those measures we agreed on in the Valley, and we hold ourselves accountable for the metrics that the Valley chose through collective impact work. This is the way our partners hold themselves accountable to the community and this is what encourages us to do the work.”

Canales told the Rio Grande Guardian that out of the 11 outcome measures, eight demonstrate that the Valley is at the same level or higher than the State of Texas average.

“We are also comparing ourselves to where we were when we started the work in the base year to where we are now and we have seen increases in some and decreases in other areas.”

RGV Focus will additionally provide information on the work that is to come in future years.

The report also includes, Canales said, “stories about what our partners are doing through collective work, like teaching excellence, and emerging work – the focus of the upcoming years.”

In concluding the interview, Canales said it is important for the community to observe the results of both low-income students and non-low-income students since 89 percent of Valley students from K-12 are low-income.

“I think it’s important for folks to look at that, and it’s important to say how schools do in preparing low-income kids compared to the rest of the state. And, we do a pretty phenomenal job with our low-income kids.”

About RGV Focus

RGV Focus is a collaboration with Educate Texas. This is what the group is about:

RGV FOCUS, a collective impact initiative in collaboration with Educate Texas and Communities Foundation of Texas, was launched in 2012 to transform college readiness, access and success across the Rio Grande Valley’s four-county region. RGV FOCUS brings together a group called the Leadership Team consisting of school district superintendents, higher education presidents, philanthropic partners, and business and community leaders. The Leadership Team is supported by action networks and advisory bodies, such as the Data Support Council, which lead the implementation of the vision and strategy.

The goal of convening the group is to transform the lives of the region’s more than 415,000 students by aligning systems across the cradle-to-career pipeline to make sure each student is college ready, has access to and achieves postsecondary success, and pursues a meaningful career in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond. Furthermore, RGV FOCUS’s work positions the Rio Grande Valley to support the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s (THECB) goal to have 60 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds in the state earn a certificate or degree by 2030, a plan known widely as the THECB 60×30 Strategic Plan.