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What We Learned From Our Series, 'The Race To Save Failing Schools'

Lara Solt
KERA News special contributor
Second-grader Sunny Gomez spins all the hula hoops at once during Field Day on May 18, 2018 at Wimbish Elementary in Arlington.

For most kids in North Texas, today's the last day of school. This day has special meaning for the struggling schools KERA's education team has explored over the last month in our series, “The Race To Save Failing Schools.”

Texas law says if a school gets the state's lowest rating for five straight years, it can be shut down or the district can be taken over.

In our Friday Conversation, reporters Stella M. Chávez and Bill Zeeble talked about the lessons they learned from the schools they visited: Edison Middle Learning Center and Pinkston High School in Dallas, John T. White Elementary and Mitchell Boulevard Elementary in Fort Worth, and Wimbish Elementary in Arlington.


Poverty was a common issue among these schools. One of the ways in which this affects test scores is kids may not be able to attend summer, after-school, or extracurricular programs because their parents can't afford it.


A school's mobility rate is when students are at a school less than 83 percent (or six weeks or more) out of the school year. Many of the schools profiled had a mobility rate between 30-40 percent, while the state average for the 2015-16 school year was around 16 percent.  

The mobility rate is high because of economic reasons. Families may move to a more affordable place outside of the school zone or move for a better paying job. That makes it difficult for students to learn and retain information, and teachers are forced to bring students up to speed.

With changes, scores are improving

Early STAAR test results show improvement, thanks to programs pouring more money and resources into these struggling schools. For example, the elementary schools converted into leadership academies in Fort Worth are seeing 30-point jumps in passing rates, though certain groups like English language learners are still struggling. 

Explore the full series here.

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.