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Show Up, Work Hard, Read: J. Walter Graham Elementary School

Austin Independent School District

Austin, Texas

In only five years, J. Walter Graham Elementary School, a Title I school on the east side of Austin, Texas, went from slipping toward academic unacceptability to “one of the best elementary schools in the state of Texas,” in the words of education researcher Ed Fuller of Penn State University.

Much of the credit goes to principal Blaine Anthony Helwig, who relinquished a career as a civil engineer in favor of more personally rewarding work but brought his systematic mind-set to changing Graham’s culture and practices. Four principles underlie the school’s success:

  1. Highly effective classroom management
  2. A culture of hard work
  3. “Stop-gap” measures to close academic gaps
  4. Community-wide adherence to mission 

Or, as the Graham mantra has it: Show Up, Work Hard, Read! In this video, Principal Helwig and others describe how they build trust, fill knowledge gaps, and develop successful students.

Read the transcript of Show Up, Work Hard, Read! Download J. Walter Graham’s 2012 National Blue Ribbon Schools application.

Contact Information

Principal: Mr.Blaine Helwig
11211 Tom Adams Drive
Austin, TX 78753
Telephone: 512-414-4071

Student Demographics

2012-2013 School Year

Number of Students preK-5 807
Students eligible for subsidized meals 96%
Limited English proficient students1 56%
Students receiving special education services 15%
Student mobility rate 24%
Hispanic or Latino students 79%
African American students 14%
White students 5%
Average daily student attendance 97%