April 2, 2019
Graham Elementary in Northeast Austin looks like many schools in the district: Its students are mostly Latino or black, more than half are learning English, and almost all of them come from low-income families. These are some of the major factors that contribute to an achievement gap. Like students in schools with similar demographics, Graham students were not doing well on those state tests before 2007. That changed after Blaine Helwig became principal. Listen to what they tried at Graham Elementary to help their students in this special report by Claire McInerny.Listen
Held Back was an in depth look at an issue all urban school districts face: the achievement gap between students of different racial backgrounds. The documentary profiles one school that seemingly solved this problem. A school with majority low income students, which typically means lower test scores, was lauded as one of the best schools in the country. But this story is not a prescription for how to close an achievement gap, it’s a study on how difficult it can be to make changes in education. While test scores at this one Austin school were stellar, many in the education community said the tactics used to get there were harmful to students. Reporter Claire McInerny digs into this controversy and talks to people who loved and hated this work.
Claire McInerny is the education reporter for KUT in Austin, Texas. Her reporting focuses on equity issues in the Austin Independent School District and surrounding school districts. She previously was an education reporter for Indiana Public Broadcasting, covering education issues out of the Indiana Statehouse.