WASHINGTON - Today, Congressmen Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez announced an award of over $2 million in federal funding to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. This funding will create a professional development project to improve the teaching and learning of current and historical understandings of American history, civics, government and geography in Hidalgo County. The U.S. Department of Education awarded this funding through the American History and Civics Academies Program, which is expected to support the project for a three-year period beginning in October, 2018.
UTRGV serves the residents of one of the most economically distressed regions in the country. Congressman Cuellar believes that access to education is a fundamental necessity to achieve improved economic performance in South Texas. In partnership with various school districts, UTRGV will utilize these funds to help support professional development and increase community knowledge of American history in the area. By establishing workshops for both veteran and new teachers of American history and civics in the community, the program will improve the quality of classes for students, grades K-12, so that they may develop a broader and deeper understanding of these subjects.
Improving the Quality of Teaching and Learning
The educational initiative will improve the quality of current and historical American history, civics, government and geography curriculums and teaching strategies in the Valley. Specifically, the project will:
- Train approximately 75 K-12 teachers to utilize instruction approaches which will effectively educate South Texas students on a variety of critical subjects;
- Build an open access digital archive, through the Historias Americanas Digital Platform, containing teaching materials, curricula and digital tools which will promote student engagement and align their curriculum with college and career readiness standards; and
- Improve student academic achievement, particularly among English Language Learners (ELLs), by targeting the Texas Essential Knowledge Skills (TEKS) social studies process standards which will improve critical thinking, writing, and communication skills through place-based teaching and learning.
Yielding Results for Teachers and Students
This program is expected to yield lasting results for both teachers and students in Hidalgo County. The project is expected to improve the quality of teaching and learning by:
- Improving teacher understanding and mastery of the relationship between the local, national, and global historical narratives;
- Improving student engagement and comprehension through culturally and linguistically relevant materials; and
- Improving teacher leadership skills; teachers will, in turn, share these development strategies with their colleagues.
“An investment in our educators and students is an investment in our future,” said Congressman Cuellar. “That is why we should seize every opportunity to improve teacher leadership skills as well as student engagement and comprehension. This funding will ensure that UTRGV will have the resources it needs to increase teacher content knowledge of American history and civics, which will help increase professional development, higher education access, and community knowledge in Hidalgo County.”
Congressman Cuellar added, “I would like to thank UTRGV President Guy Bailey, along with faculty and staff, for their dedication in advancing American history and civics in our classrooms.”
"Every student in the 15th District of Texas deserves equal access to quality education," Congressman Gonzalez said. "With an improved knowledge of our history, students and teachers alike will be better equipped to tackle the issues of today, and create a better outlook for the Americans of tomorrow."
To read more about the Academies for American History and Civics Program, please click here.