Rio Grande Valley students involved with RGV Focus, are now matching or outperforming their Texas peers in nine out of 11 key indicators like high school graduation rates, FAFSA financial aid and AP/Dual Credit completion.

The unveiling of the 2017 Annual Report from RGV Focus spotlights successes along with area needing improvement. It also reflects a growing shift in educational attainment for area students.

“This is a very important event because it shows we're making progress with our students in the area of third grade reading, eighth grade math, post-secondary education and the AP and Dual Enrollment,” Executive Director Luzelma G. Canales said. “Success in these areas means our kids will be better prepared to go to college and succeed in college.”

Educate Texas, the educational arm of Dallas-based Communities Foundation of Texas partnered with leaders from the RGV to establish RGV Focus. The goal was to transform college readiness, access and success throughout the Rio Grande Valley by cross-sector collaboration of key stakeholders representing education, business, workforce, community-based organizations and philanthropies.

To accomplish their goals RGV Focus works to improve educational outcomes across the region by aligning resources that create cradle-to-career educational pathways enabling all learners to achieve a degree or credential that lends to a career.

The 2017 annual report details how high school students and college students in the region are performing compared to their peers at a baseline with metrics established by RGV Focus leadership in 2012. It also compares the performance of Valley students with their Texas peers. Also showcased is the group's commitment to strengthen each step and align resources across the cradle-to-career educational pathway. The report also underscores four “Bright Spots” which include third grade reading, eighth grade math, AP/Dual Credit and Postsecondary readiness.

 

The Findings

On four of the indicators, Rio Grande Valley students top their Texas peers – in the four-year high school graduation rate (91% RGV students compared to 89% Texas students), FAFSA financial aid completion (74% RGV compared to 62% statewide), AP/Dual-Credit completion (43% RGV compared to 36% statewide) and higher education immediate enrollment rate (56% RGV compared to 52% statewide).

When compared to the RGV FOCUS 2012 baseline, Rio Grande Valley youth showed positive progress on nine out of 11 key indicators:

•    STAAR 3rd grade reading (2% increase from 2012 baseline)

        •    STAAR 8th grade mathematics (5% increase from 2012 baseline)

        •    4-year high school graduation rate (4% increase from 2012 baseline)

        •    FAFSA completion rate (15% increase from 2012 baseline)

        •    College-Ready Graduates increased from 18% to 32% (between 2016 and 2017)

        •    AP/dual-credit completion (11% increase from 2012 baseline)

        •    Public 2-year higher education graduation rate (6% increase from 2012 baseline)

        •    Public 4-year higher education graduation rate (2% increase from 2012 baseline)

        •    Higher 4-year education graduates employed or enrolled (2% increase from baseline

Featured “Bright Spots’ in the findings were:

•    3rd Grade Reading “approaches” increased from 70% to 72% (between 2012 and 2017)

•   8th Grade Math “approaches” increased from 69% to 74% (between 2012 and 2017)

•   Pharr-San Juan-Alamo North High School graduates up to 25% of their students with an

Associate Degree

•   College-Ready Graduates Increased from 18% to 32% (between 2016 and 2017)

“The findings motivates us to keep doing the work we're doing because we're seeing improvement and while in some areas the improvements might not be as great as we would like them to be,” Canales said. “We know we're trending in the right direction.”

The report also shows what challenges the region faces like in postsecondary education. While there were incremental increases in higher education enrollment and higher education graduation rates, RGV leaders recognized the need to substantially increase both over the next five years.

To accomplish the goal a three-year plan has been developed which includes five areas of focus: early childhood through elementary school, middle school, secondary through postsecondary, workforce and teaching excellence.

“It's important that we continue to work together as a community,” Canales said. “I think that should be our true picture of success, making sure they're successful in their careers, school or whatever they decide to do.”