A Tale of Two Schools
Narrated by Morgan Freeman
Tavares: Shhhh. I’m the teacher.
THIS IS TAVARES. HE’S STARTING FIRST GRADE IN FORT WORTH, TEXAS. HE NEEDS TO LEARN HOW TO READ. BUT HE’S ALREADY WAY BEHIND.
Ms. Morgan: He will probably struggle for the rest of his life if we don’t work on it now.
MEANWHILE, IN SUMNER, MISSISSIPPI, ROOKIE TEACHER JILL TODD FACES HER OWN CHALLENGE: TRYING TO TEACH READING IN A SETTING WHERE ALMOST EVERY CHILD NEEDS A LOT OF HELP.
Ms. Todd: I am worn out, just extremely tired.
AND THE SUPERINTENDENT IS AT THE END OF HIS ROPE.
Mr. Barnes: So, hell, if they won’t give us decent books, how are we supposed to improve our test scores?
ACROSS THE COUNTRY, SCHOOLS ARE STRUGGLING WITH THEIR MOST BASIC JOB: TEACHING KIDS TO READ. WE SPENT AN ENTIRE YEAR INSIDE TWO SCHOOLS THAT HAVE KNOWN A LOT OF FAILURE — AND ARE NOW TRYING VALIANTLY TO IMPROVE.
Ms. Morgan: There are a lot of times I want to quit.
Ms. Hamill: I think we alternated between chaos and limbo.
Ms. Kemp: All kids can learn. All kids can be successful.
WHAT DOES IT REALLY TAKE TO TURN OUR SCHOOLS AROUND?
AND WHAT HAPPENS IF WE FAIL?
Mr. Barnes: These kids deserve better, and if these kids don’t get an adequate education, they will not do better.
FUNDING FOR A TALE OF TWO SCHOOLS WAS PROVIDED BY THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, OFFICE OF SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS.
Fort Worth, Texas
Ms. Jackson: Richard and Tavares, stop at the door. Let me get the rest of the students. Stop at the door.
Ms. Jackson: You wanna laugh with him you wanna play with him. Sometimes I just wanna pick Tavares up, because he’s so small, you know, he’s like a little baby, and and, but on the other hand … you are not in kindergarten anymore, you’re a big boy. He hasn’t gotten it in his head yet. You’re in school, you’re in school now.
Tavares: I don’t know how to make a “u”.
Ms. Kemp: Here, let me show you.
TAVARES GROSS TREATS WALTON ELEMENTARY LIKE A PLAYGROUND, BUT HE’S ABOUT TO BEGIN THE TOUGHEST JOB OF HIS LIFE: HE HAS TO LEARN HOW TO READ.
Ms. Kemp: Now, what word are you writing?
Ms. Kemp: Sprout.
Ms. Kemp: Right. Sprout.
A CAR ACCIDENT OVER THE SUMMER LEFT A SCAR ON HIS FACE, BUT TAVARES IS WRESTLING WITH A MUCH BIGGER PROBLEM.
Tavares: Sha-bang-bang-boo, she-walla-walla-boo…
Ms. Kemp: We get children here at Walton coming in sometimes in first grade. They don't know their letter sounds, they can't write their name, they don't know what a title of a book is. They don't even know what the book is for.
Ms. Morgan: And the pumpkin seed grew a pumpkin sprout.