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Mesquite Schools Win Another Honor

Starla Richter's 3rd grade class, McKenzie Elementary
Starla Richter's 3rd grade class, McKenzie Elementary

By Bill Zeeble, KERA News

Dallas, TX – This week, the Mesquite School District won another top honor for student achievement. KERA's Bill Zeeble has more on Mesquite's winning formula.

In classroom - Starla Richter: Does a poem always have to rhyme? Students: No.

Third grade teacher Starla Richter is teaching language arts using poetry examples flashed on a screen. Learning here is fun, the quizzing is like a game. Children speak the answers, but can also click them on a handheld device.

Richter: Free verse!

Effective technology helped Mesquite win the award from the National School Boards Association. Mesquite's Superintendent Linda Henrie says technology helps teachers track student progress.

Henrie: We have been able to give the next teacher the data from the previous year. So that teacher can get to know their students quickly and can identify any area that needs additional support.

Henrie also credits standardized curriculum for Mesquite's success. The same lessons are taught in the same grades at the same time, across all schools. McKenzie Elementary's Principal Aimee Lewis says the approach has paid off.

Lewis: So when kids move in from Mesquite they're going to be about where we are. But I've noticed from kids from private schools or suburban or urban school districts around, they're not where we are. They're not used to the same pace that we teach here.

Superintendent Henrie says teachers resisted standardization but results won out. Over 8 years scores rose in math, science, reading, and social studies. But to get there, Henrie needed more resources.

Henrie: We looked at all of our electrical usage, we looked at our number of people per square foot What can we do to become more efficient so that we can put more money into our classrooms?

Henrie hopes Mesquite's blueprint for success will keep it winning despite state funding cuts and tougher Texas tests.

Email Bill Zeeble