EDITORIAL: Good grades

Valley school districts rank high on state, national lists

Sometimes it’s hard to shake a bad reputation, even when the evidence belies it. Rio Grande Valley schools have long faced poor public perceptions that allege poor performance, high truancy and high dropout rates. In the past several years, however, those perceptions generally have been wrong, as shown by positive evaluations at the state and federal level.

Just how positive has been highlighted in recent weeks by recognition that several Valley schools and school districts have earned.

The Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees was named the Outstanding School Board at the September convention of the Texas Association of School Administrators and Texas Association of School Boards. The statewide award was chosen from a list of school boards that had received similar regional distinction.

The TASA selection committee stated that it was impressed by the Harlingen board’s “heart for people, service mentality, and passion for results.” The committee determined that the board saw conflicts as a challenge rather than a problem.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Education recently gave Blue Ribbon honors to 10 Valley public schools — more than onethird of the 26 schools recognized statewide. Four exemplary highperforming schools, representing overall academic excellence, are in the Brownsville, McAllen, Roma and Valley View school districts; six exemplary achievement gapclosing schools, which are closing achievement gaps among demographic subgroups, are in the Brownsville, Hidalgo, La Joya, Mission and Valley View districts, plus the Weslaco-based IDEA charter schools.

These and other local schools and districts have worked hard to address negative perceptions, steadily reducing dropout rates and increasing university enrollment. Many Valley campuses outperform state and even national averages on standardized test scores and other measurements of academic achievement.

Perhaps more important, local school boards have done more than simply prepare students for college; in an area where a significant percentage of our population has low incomes, they are addressing one of the most imposing obstacles to getting a university degree: cost. Local schools are continuously expanding dual-enrollment courses through which students can take college-level courses and earning credit while still in high school, saving them the cost of paying college tuition for those courses and helping them to earn degrees sooner. Some high schools also have career programs that enable students to earn professional certification in some subjects, making it easier for them to start their careers upon high school graduation.

We join Valley school districts in celebrating the well-deserved recognition they are receiving from state and federal evaluators. We look forward to the day when local schools’ public reputation acknowledges their excellence, and is regarded as proof that you don’t have to be a rich school district to be an excellent one.