On October 26th, the Center for the Study of Democracy hosted a viewing of A Tale of Two Schools. This film is just one in a series of documentaries presented in Cole Cinema.
The documentary features two schools: Walton Elementary, a school in Fort Worth, Texas, and Beardner Elementary in Sumner, Mississippi. These schools both experience funding issues that lead to poor literacy rates among their students. The documentary specifically follows Tavares Gross, a student at Walton Elementary. Tavares has difficulty reading on grade level like the other students. The teachers struggle in a similar way to teach students how to read. The teachers at Walton Elementary do not have the training to teach reading effectively or the funding for books to use.
Many teachers in the school feel strongly that there has to be a way to get the children to read. A few months into the school year, a grant is passed to start a program at Walton Elementary called “Reading Mastery”. This program is a script for the teachers that works with the students to pronounce sounds and read words. The initial reception of the program was unpopular. Teachers complained that the scripted structure of the program crushes creativity among students.
Through the rest of the documentary, Walton Elementary School is saved by this worthwhile program. Reading Mastery also stretches to Beardner Elementary where their students were also struggling in the same ways.
The documentary recognizes that something as fundamental as reading in schools can even fall to the wayside if it is not properly executed.