Oak Cliff school pushes through challenges to earn academic distinctions

Dallas ISD schools find secret to success

DALLAS – Some campuses across the Dallas Independent School District are seeing some positive gains.

In under a year’s time, some once low-performing schools are improving and now getting major recognition from the state of Texas.

One of those campuses is Umphrey Lee Elementary School.

Principal Roshonda Clayton-Brown is eager to talk about the good things happening on the campus. She says positive change in the building is becoming the new normal.

“Our students are so motivated,” Brown explained. "They come here every day wanting a new experience.”

Teachers are transforming a once low performing school into a campus that is now seeing significant academic gains and successes.

”We always knew that our students could do it,” Brown said. “This just solidified it.”

In a year’s time, the educators at the school have helped Umphrey Lee shift from the State’s Improvement Required list to a school that's now receiving four academic distinctions due to excellence on standardized tests.

Math teacher Stacy Ray says it's due, in part, to the relationships the staff is building with the children.

"Every Monday morning, we have Monday meetings where our kids really talk about problems that they might have, or just anything that they want to get off their minds," Ray said.

That's not all. Fifth-grade students say their teachers are transforming classrooms into spaces that make learning relevant and fun.

”We talk as groups a lot,” one student explained, “so we have good  team work.”

About half of Umphrey Lee Elementary School’s staff are considered distinguished teachers among some of the best in the district. They were brought to the campus, last year, to help boost student performance.

"You always hear the phrase 'it takes a village,'" Brown said. "Here it truly is.”

Staff says community partners are also part of the success puzzle.

Members from local churches, including Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, are dedicating at least one hour a week to mentor and tutor students.

”Just one hour a week during the year makes an impact with that child’s grades and their behavior,” church member and School Outreach Coordinator Ashley Randolph explained

In addition to adding longer school days, finding unique ways to motivate students has been a game changer at Umphrey Lee’s campus.

Teachers call the students young scholars. The staff expects each child to believe college is a possibility.

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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