A Tale of Two Schools Bearden Elementary Walton Elementary
The Documentary The Challenge Get Involved
Meet the PeopleWhere Are They Now?

Bearden Elementary has seen change since the filming of A Tale of Two Schools in 2000-2001, but change has been slow. As the entire state of Mississippi embraces reading reform, new tests have been implemented to hold low performing schools like Bearden accountable. The tests take a hard look at student proficiency in math, language, and reading and then calculate a school's expected growth score, based on a baseline rating. Schools strive to meet or exceed their expected growth.

Bearden started out as a low-performing school, and in 2002 students surpassed their expected growth to achieve a "successful" rating. Bottom line? Teachers are moving Bearden students forward. The Barksdale Reading Institute, passionate teachers and administrators, and better facilities, like the new Parent/Family Literacy Center have all played a part in improving student achievement. But Bearden still has a long way to go before every child is reading at grade level.

Jim Barksdale Jim Barksdale, Former CEO of Netscape

A Tale of Two Schools was filmed in 2000-2001 — a year that also marked the first year of The Barksdale Reading Institute (BRI), established by Jim and Sally Barksdale. Today, it helps 72 different elementary schools around Mississippi afford reading materials and student tutors and helps schools build parent centers to encourage more family involvement. Most importantly, BRI places a reading professional in its schools each week to observe and train faculty. Since BRIs inception, student scores have gone up across the board. The Institute has also begun to focus on literacy in early childhood.

Reggie Barnes Reggie Barnes, Superintendent

Today, Reggie Barnes is the superintendent of the Cleveland school system in Cleveland, Mississippi — home of Delta State University.

Howard Hollins Howard Hollins, Superintendent

Now in his fourth year as superintendent of the West Tallahatchie School System, Howard Hollins has helped Bearden concentrate on Project Read, and worked with The Barksdale Reading Institute to get better literacy materials in his schools. As Hollins and other administrators wait for scores to come in for the 2003 school year, they're optimistic that scores will show a great increase in student performance.

Jill Todd Jill Todd, Third Grade Teacher

Today, Jill Todd is a third grade teacher in a school about 30 miles from Bearden and just five minutes from her house.

Rosemary Wolfe Rosemary Wolfe, Lead Teacher

Rosemary Wolfe is still the head of reading at Bearden Elementary and has helped to make many changes. Since Wolfe took over Bearden's reading program, student scores have climbed to take Bearden from a "low performing" school to a "successful" school. Because of the Barksdale Grant, Rosemary was also able to lead the way for the area's all new Parent Center — a place where parents can develop their own reading skills and get the materials they need to help their children at home.

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

Produced by WETA Reading Rockets