News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

In Fort Worth, A Once Failing Campus Begins A Promising New School Year

Stella M. Chávez
Varsity cheerleaders from Fort Worth ISD's Polytechnic High School welcomed students on the first day of school Monday at the Leadership Academy at Mitchell Boulevard Elementary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Staff and students at the Leadership Academy at Mitchell Boulevard Elementary celebrated not only the first day back but also the fact that the Fort Worth campus is no longer on the state’s list of failing schools.

This time last year, teachers and staff at Mitchell Boulevard were worried. The Texas Education Agency had rated the school “Improvement Required” for three consecutive years.

The district turned it and several other failing schools into “leadership academies." They extended the school day; they added intervention specialists; they served three – instead of two – meals a day; they required students to wear uniforms; and they paid teachers more.

“When we started the school year, there were challenges,” said Willanette Williams, the school counselor. “And the students worked hard, the teachers worked hard, and we all prevailed together.”

The school prevailed by earning an academic rating of “Met Standard" when the state released the results of its accountability system last week.

“It’s just a great feeling because we knew that our girls and boys could do it,” Williams said.

So, on Monday, staff decided to celebrate. They rolled out a red carpet for students and parents, and cheerleaders from Fort Worth’s Poytechnic High School greeted them.

“Woo hoo! Good morning! Good morning!” they yelled out as the kids and their parents walked into the school building.

Things were a little chaotic. It was, after all, the first day. A new online registration system meant some parents had questions.

For some students, excitement was painted all over their faces.

Seven-year-old London Campbell is new to Mitchell Boulevard this year. He and his sister and mom were waiting to register outside the main office. London said he couldn’t wait to get to class.

He was happy about “going to second grade and making new friends and making new teachers.”

Principal Aileen Martina-Quiñones — now in her second year at the school — said a number of factors helped turn the school around. One of them was analyzing student data to see where kids needed the most help. The other factor, she said, was additional training for teachers and having grant money to hire more staff.

“That was a huge impact,” she said. “Having additional resources: the instructional coaches, the intervention specialists, the extended day. We have that additional hour for interventions, so that helped, too.”

Mitchell Boulevard may be off the state’s “Improvement Required" list, but the school still has work to do, in particular, the state’s student achievement category. That measures how much students know by the end of the school year. Martina-Quiñones said the school plans to do more teacher training this year to help the school make more progress.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.