Great piece on South Texas' Hidalgo ISD.
By Joel Vargas | Ed Week Editorial
January 7, 2011
Hidalgo, Texas, has one of the most successful school systems in the United States. The dropout rate is nearly zero, and the high school regularly lands on a top-school list published by U.S. News & World Report. Last June, when members of the high school graduating class crossed the stage to receive their diplomas, 95 percent of them could proudly point to their college credits as well. Two-thirds of the graduating seniors had earned at least a full semester of credits toward a college degree.
It’s time for the nation to pay attention when any community boasts results like these. These are especially remarkable in one of the most economically depressed areas of the United States, just across the Rio Grande River from Mexico, with one of the lowest number of college-educated adults. Nine out of 10 students in the high school are considered economically disadvantaged, 99.5 percent are Hispanic, and 53 percent entered with limited proficiency in English.
The story of Hidalgo is not only one of success, but of turning around an entire school district. In the late 1980s, student achievement in Hidalgo ranked in the bottom 10 percent in Texas. But local leaders took giant steps to improve student performance, and they gained support from every segment of the surrounding community. Over the next two decades, everyone—from bus drivers to principals, from teachers to school board members—began to focus on doing what it takes to raise the achievement levels of all 3,500 young people in the Hidalgo schools.