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Books and Ballet: A Turnaround Success Becomes A Fine Arts Academy

Blackshear Elementary Fine Arts Academy
Austin Independent School District
Austin, TX

In 2011, Blackshear Elementary School (Austin, TX) was labeled in need of improvement. Today, under the inspired leadership of Principal Betty Jenkins, who arrived in 2012, Blackshear is a jewel of the Austin Independent School District, the state’s first elementary level fine arts academy and a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School.

Jenkins was hired to turn around Blackshear after her success in raising student achievement at another struggling Austin school. At Blackshear she wanted to go farther, to create an “amazing” school that children would want to attend. Reaching out to the community, she engaged artists such as Toni Bravo of Ballet Austin  and Patrick Slevin of Austin Soundwaves  Another resource was Austin’s Creative Learning Initiative.

But first Jenkins had to address low student engagement and achievement. Key to her previous turnaround was a set of “stop-gap” academic tools created by Blaine Helwig, principal of Austin’s Graham Elementary School (NBRS 2011). Helwig, a former civil engineer, developed easy-to-use basic math and ELA programs to bring all students up to grade level (and above).  Jenkins used Helwig’s programs successfully at Blackshear and within two years began enacting her dream.

Listen to a podcast by Helwig on how the tools work or download the transcript of Academic Stop-Gap Measures.

Download the ELA tools Helwig developed: 1st Grade Word Program2nd-6th Grade 800 Word Program, and Kindergarten-6th Grade English Fluency Program.

Download a set of 22 arts-related Creative Learning Strategy Cards from the Creative Learning Initiative.

Download Blackshear’s 2014 application

Download the transcript of Books and Ballet.

Contact Information

Principal: Betty Jenkins
1712 East 11th Street
Austin, TX 78702-2796
512 414 2760
Website: www.blackshearyellowjackets.org
Email: betty.jenkins@austinisd.org

Student Demographics 2014

Number of students Pre-K – 5 271
Students eligible for subsidized meals 95%
Limited English Proficient students 31%
Students receiving special ed services 10%
Student mobility rate 31%
Hispanic or Latino students 65%
White students   4%
African American students 29%
Native American students   1%
Students of 2 or more races   1%
Average student daily attendance 97%