But in pre-NCLB (No Child Left Behind) days, Tyler Heights students weren’t critical thinkers and creative writers: Only 17 percent passed the MSA in 2000. Many went on to fail in middle school and drop out of high school.
Principal Tina McKnight, a fanatically hard-working woman, started the turnaround in 2000. Superintendent Eric Smith brought in Saxon Math and Open Court, a phonics-first reading curriculum that tells teachers — often inexperienced — exactly what to say.
Because it has so many poor students, Tyler Heights gets extra funding to pay for very small classes and a variety of pullout programs for students who aren’t doing well. Half the third-grade class receives some kind of special help.