Today only 12% of public school students in South Texas earn any type of degree within six years after high school.
But a great education is possible for all students here. Since arriving in the
Rio Grande Valleyin 1991, Teach For America has brought more than 1,000 teachers to the area who are dedicated to giving all students in South Texasaccess to a high-quality education.
About Rio Grande Valley
Situated in deep South Texas, bordered to the south by the Rio Grande River, the east by the Gulf of Mexico, the north by two hundred miles of mesquite brush, and the west by Falcon Lake, the Rio Grande Valley is a land of historical and contemporary contradictions. The history of the Valley is at the same time a history of isolation and interaction. 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 daunting challenge. For every 100 students entering a public school classroom in South Texas today, only 12 will earn any type of 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 gap persists through the grade levels and into college for those students who are able to further their education. Although the state of Texas has continued to emphasize standardized test scores as measures of student achievement and requirements for graduation, corps members quickly learn that they need to raise the bar even higher for their students to be successful beyond high school.
And yet, despite the stark reality of educational inequity in the Rio Grande Valley, Teach For America is not alone in trying to change the region’s educational landscape and expectations for achievement. Recent years have seen the birth and dramatic growth of IDEA Public Schools, a public charter system that strives to send 100% of their graduates to college, and the Rio Grande Valley Center for Teaching and Leading Excellence, a partnership between the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo School District, IDEA schools, and Teach For America. This precedent-setting partnership between our organization, a charter district, and a traditional public school district is seeking to address one of the region’s biggest challenges: a shortage of human capital.
Through infusing over 1,200 leaders into South Texas schools since 1991, we have seen that our students can achieve at levels comparable to their higher-income peers across the state. At the classroom, school, and system level, we have evidence of the power of transformational leadership, which is changing the conversation about what is possible for the students of the Rio Grande Valley.
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After three years in the classroom, Robert joined the Teach For America - Rio Grande Valley staff as manager of teacher development and strategy and then as program director, supporting 20 corps members in leading their students to academic gains. Robert became the region’s executive director in 2008 and is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis.