Making the grade; Middle school rises from unacceptable to exceptional

Published Wednesday, September 12, 2018
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Bull Pride

BULL PRIDE – Bridgeport principal Travis Whisenant helped turn around Bridgeport Middle School. In 2010, the school received an academically unacceptable rating. In 2018, it received distinctions in six categories and received an overall score of 84 by the Texas Education Agency. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

It was 2010, and Travis Whisenant had just arrived as principal of Bridgeport Middle School when the results from the previous semester came in.

The findings weren’t good.

“I was gungho, I’d just got here and the first thing I found out, is hey, you have an academically unacceptable rating,” Whisenant said. “It wasn’t some nuance or something. We didn’t make it in multiple categories like math and science. Our social studies rating was the lowest in the region. It was hard to find something that we were doing well.”

It was a turbulent beginning and administrators faced a daunting task.

For Whisenant, it was the beginning of a massive turnaround for the school.

“The first thing we focused on was ourselves,” he said. “We assumed the responsibility and attitude immediately that hey this isn’t on the kids. This is something when we need to take ownership of.”

Then came the change, from administration to teachers, to turn the ship around.

“We removed all excuses,” Whisenant said.

The administration began researching schools with high academic ratings that also had a large population of economic disadvantaged students.

They found a blueprint for success and adapted it to fit its needs, Bridgeport assistant principal Karl Little said.

“We took tours of other campuses, and I made the comment that we couldn’t bring Walnut Grove to Bridgeport,” Little said. “We saw a lot of good things, but we’d have to create our own.”

Whisenant said from there the staff had their goal and pulled together. The goal wasn’t to pass, but to excel and improve.

Within eight years, the school emerged from academically unacceptable to exceptional – earning distinctions in six categories in 2018.

“There was dedicated work from our teachers, a lot of dedicated work from our students,” Little said. “It’s through that work ethic and changes in practice and lifting our expectations that we have seen this change.”

Bridgeport received distinctions by Texas Education Agency for ELA/reading, mathematics, science, comparative academic growth, postsecondary readiness, and comparative closing the gap this year,

Little said receiving the recent scores was an emotional moment. He was a teacher when those academically unacceptable ratings shook him to his core.

“There were tears,” Little said. “To see that turnaround and what’s taken place. It’s a good feeling for us and a good feeling for our students.”

Bridgeport earned an 84 rating in the Texas Education 2018 Accountability Ratings. Outperforming schools in the region in higher tax brackets.

Bridgeport Middle School received six distinctions. Decatur’s McCarroll scored an 84 and received three designations with McCarroll sixth grade earning one.

The only middle school in Wise County with a higher overall score was Northwest’s Chishom Trail, which scored an 85.

“We just want to get better,” Whisenant said. “Be better than the day before. At first we just wanted to get out of being academically unacceptable. Once we accomplished that, we started looking at the schools around us. They were still out performing us. So we raised the bar and kept progressing. That’s what we’ll keep doing. Just be better than the day before.”

One Response to “Making the grade; Middle school rises from unacceptable to exceptional”

  1. Eric Wilson says:

    Awesome job and story on a job well done! Congratulations to the entire staff and student population. Makes me proud to be in the education business.


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