EDINBURG, RGV – The executive director of Region One Education Service Center says it is almost miraculous that schools districts and charter schools in South Texas are performing as well as any in the state.

Rio Grande Guardian editor Steve Taylor interviewed Cornelio Gonzalez for a Facebook LIVE show the day after the Texas Education Agency released its 2019 STAAR accountability rankings. Every school district in Region One achieve an “A” or “B.” 

The Texas Education Agency has released its latest Texas STAAR Accountability Ratings and Rio Grande Valley did well. Here to discuss the state of public education in the Valley is Dr. Cornelia Gonzalez, executive director of Region One Education Service Center. Posted by Rio Grande Guardian on Friday, August 16, 2019

There was not a “C” of “D” in sight and certainly no failing “F” grades.

“We are very proud of the results that our schools in Region One have obtained,” Gonzalez said.

“All our school districts, all our charter schools, every one of them was high performing, according to the state’s accountability ratings. So, these are very exciting times for us. We are very proud.”

Gonzalez said his office was drilling down into the information provided by TEA.

“We did not have a single “F.” We did not have a single “D.” And, surprisingly, we did not have a “C” district or charter school. All our schools are either an “A” of a “B,” and that is truly amazing. Everybody in Region 1 should be celebrating because this is almost sort of a miracle.”

Asked how he reacts to cynics who say the rankings must be skewed because South Texas, with a large number of socio-economically challenged and immigrant families, cannot be doing this well, Gonzalez said”

“We have experienced this throughout the years. This is the sixth year in a row that Region One schools have been the highest performing schools in the state of Texas. Very often, this information is not analyzed anywhere. We do it in Region One, we compare ourselves with the rest of the state and we know that we have the highest scores. 

“I know it is unbelievable because 30 years ago when I started in education, this area was the lowest performing area in the state. When the state started the testing program, our scores were the worst. Nowadays they are the best. It is kind of amazing, how did this happen? This is a transformation that took 30 years to happen. We are very excited to be where we are now.”

Region One serves seven counties, all the way from the Port Isabel area to Laredo. The region has 474,000 students and 26,000 teachers. There are 37 school districts and ten charter schools.

Next week, Region One has a public hearing so the general public can learn more about the TEA accountability rankings. The hearing takes place Aug. 22 at the Region One offices in Edinburg, starting at 11 a.m.

“We invite everyone to come and witness the official presentation of the scores of all the schools in the Region One area. It is a global view of the whole region,” Gonzalez said.

Asked what he put the success of Valley school districts and charter schools down to, Gonzalez said:

“It is very important to realize it is not one individual or one small group of people. We have the highest poverty rates in the whole state, we have the highest percentage of English-language learners in the whole state, and yet at the same time we have the highest performance in the whole state. That is pretty marvelous. If you think about it, the challenges are so big. 

“How is that even possible? You cannot attribute it to a small group of people. I attribute it to the whole culture of our community. We understand as a whole that unless we get our children educated, unless we make sure they graduate from high school and move on to college, we cannot improve the quality of life for them and our grandchildren and the entire community.”

Gonzalez said he tells his staff to imagine what it would be like to live in a region where every child goes to college. “The impact would be tremendous. The change in every family, if every family had children that were not only graduating from high school but were going to college, the socio-economic impact on the whole area would be tremendous.”

Asked if the region’s strong family values play a part in the region’s educational success, Gonzalez said:

“I remember when I was growing up, my father would say, I am poor, I cannot leave you a big inheritance, don’t expect it from me. But you can expect that I am going to make sure you get an education. That is what he would tell all of us and I believe that is what is happening in every family in our region. That is why things are looking this way. Every family together is committed to making sure our children get educated.”

On top of this the region has great superintendents, principals, teachers, and school board members, the Region One leader said.

“Everybody in our community is committed to making sure that our children have a better life than the one we went through. We all want the best for our kids, that is why we want them to get educated, because we want them to have a better life. And the best way to do is through education.”

Gonzalez said one only has to look at the number of social clubs and entities that provide college scholarships to see how much commitment their is to education.

“There is a concern among all the citizens in our towns and communities, it does not matter how small or big, every community wants their children to go into higher education. We know that finishing high school is no longer enough. They have to go one year, or two years to college, hopefully four years or more. We know that going to college changes the economic opportunities for them and that is what we want for the kids.”