From KERA News:
The Dallas school district launched a program last year designed to turn around its most troubled schools. It’s called ACE – for “accelerated campus excellence.” And last year, six of the seven ACE schools got off the state’s dreaded IR list – meaning improvement required. Here’s an inside look.
“Who makes the most money?” asks the history teacher.
“England,” say the kids. “England makes the most money…”
We’re in Angela Fulbright-Burley’s first-period history class. This small group of 8th graders at Sarah Zumwalt Middle School is tackling early American mercantilism.
“England’s mean,” asks one student.
“Why do you say that?” Fulbrigh-Burley wants to know.
“Cause they’re selling it for higher when they sold the natural resources for lower,” reasons the student.
These kids are curious, active, engaged. Their teacher says it didn’t used to be that way.
“If you would have come into my room last year,” says Fulbright-Burley, “you wouldn’t have seen what you saw this morning. They would have been quiet. They really couldn’t articulate their ideas.”
Angela Fulbright-Burley says last year was hard. And she’s good. But that’s why she’s here. Zumwalt consistently underperformed. So this school and six others practically started over, with new, top-rated teachers and principals. This is Zumwalt’s 2nd year in the ACE program.
“I’ve always had 90+% students passing state assessments,” Fulbright-Burley says. “Last year I think I had 58%. And was so happy for it. Because the year before that it was like 18% and 22% and 21%. So this year, it’s 80%. I got to have 80% this year. And I think it can happen because the culture has changed so much.”
How much? Just ask the kids. 8th grader Josh Bullock, who’s 13, is in his last year at Zumwalt.
“Before they came it was like, really rowdy and bad. It had no structure,” Josh says.
Structure’s what appealed to 8th grader Kentavia Davis after witnessing fighting and mayhem.
“Well my first year it was hard for me to learn because of the amount of people in the classes,” Kentavia recalls. “And the disciplinary actions of the other students were making it hard for the other students that were focusing on school to learn because the teachers were addressing the students and not teaching much.”