From its earliest days, education for Mexican Americans in Texas has varied from none at all to apparent equality. The Republic of Texas in 1839 and 1840 established laws governing a system of schools. As these institutions took shape, Mexican American students often were segregated, encountering racial, social and economic discrimination, ideological differences and political tensions.
Private and parochial schools, in addition to the public schools attended by Anglos, served Mexican Americans in Abilene until the turn of the 20th century. By 1910 a public school was established specifically for Mexican American children in grades one through six. An "Americanization" school opened in 1920; it was relocated to 541 North 8th Street in 1936 and remained in operation until 1948.
Facilities for Mexican American children in Texas cities like Abilene often were inferior to those maintained for Anglos; equipment and materials were substandard. Some Mexican American students in Abilene attended the Anglo schools closest to their homes. Sam Houston School opened in 1949 and served Mexican American students until 1979. Mexican American students from this neighborhood attended integrated elementary schools. Attitudes and philosophy began to change in the late 20th century as Abilenians of Mexican American descent achieved higher levels of education and became active participants in community life, and other Abilenians became aware of the vital importance of Texas' diverse heritage. Sam Houston School became a district-wide student achievement center in 1979.