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A Tale of Two Schools Bearden Elementary Walton Elementary
The Documentary The Challenge Get Involved
The Documentary
Narrator Morgan Freeman
Producer Q and A
Transcript
Show Credits
Partners and Advisors
Transcript

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.

Act 1
Teaching Tavares

Walton Elementary Fort Worth, Texas August

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?

Tavares: P…sss…p…

Ms. Kemp: Sprout.

Tavares: 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.

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Photo Credit for Bearden Elementary: Maude Schuyler Clay
Photo Credit for Walton Elementary: Chris Hamilton

Produced by WETA Reading Rockets