“We refuse to lower the standards.  You just have to figure out a way to keep

the standards high,”says Sharon Morgan, a veteran teacher with thirty-four

years in teaching andtwenty-four of those at J L Long Middle School.  While

other teachers give up, give in or give out, she has keptthe Mathematics

students held to a higher standard and given them something toaim for.


Built in 1933, J L Long had a diverse population, evenbefore desegregation.

The currentstudent body is 60% Hispanic, 20% Anglo, 14% African-American and

6% Asian andNative American.  Coming from fiveelementary schools in the inner

city, the students and their parents could beviewed as an obstacle but Wade

finds the atmosphere to be empowering toeveryone.  “Every time I call a

parent,they are real receptive.  We findtranslators when we have to and all

of the teachers are willing to talk toparents about anything,” Wade says.


Eighteen Saturdays a year, the students of Sharon Morgan andArmelia King

compete against other seventh and eighth graders around Texas inmath and

science.  Four different typesof tests are given ranging from time tests with

eighty questions in ten minutesto the more complex tests when calculators can

be used.  Trophies and recognition go to the forty tofifty students in the

Math and Science team. At the early April statewide competition, J L Long

comes in at the toptwo or three positions every year.  Deanof Instruction,

Dr. Wade admits that they have an advantage.  “We have an outstanding faculty

who arecommitted to doing something different. Armelia King was asking higher

order thinking questions before highorder thinking was in vogue.  And

SharonMorgan won’t tolerate mediocrity.”


“We insist on not plodding along,” says Morgan.  “The kids know that we are

willing to giveup our time for them.  They know wedon’t get paid for those

Saturdays we spend at competitions but we are doing itfor them.”  J L Long

also has theadvantage that Principal Yolanda Gonzalez allows student to an

extra math andscience elective.  And ScienceDepartment Head Paul Daniel has

led them to a more hands-on approach.  “They have a more inquiry mode,

doingscience rather than reading about it,” says Wade. In fact, they opted

not tohave a textbook but to use the computer system and measurement

instruments inScience 2000.  Since most science textsare out of date by the

time they have been approved for student use, thisallows a more ‘process

oriented’ approach.


Twenty-four of Armelia King’s thirty years of teaching havebeen at J L Long

but it wasn’t until the mid-nineties that she was introducedto the Texas Math

and Science Coaches Association.  “One of the science teachers from Franklin

asked why he hadn’tseen me at the competitions and I told him it was because

I had never heard ofthem.  He sent me the information and Igot Sharon Morgan

in on it.  When weshowed up, Miss Scott from Franklin said we couldn’t

qualify because her kidspractice all year.  We had three studentsqualify for

state and one of those boys won second place in state that year!”King

asserts.  Although every DISDschool can participate, Franklin and Spence

Academy are the only ones joining JL Long.  “It is extra work but we do

itbecause we love it.  We have a busloadof kids at six am on a Saturday

morning. There is nothing like it.  Peopleexpect us to win.  They know

aboutus!  We are talking about an inner cityschool and we are competing with

suburban schools.  And we win,” she says.


Given her background as a volleyball, basketball andsoftball coach it isn’t

too surprising that King enjoys the competition.  She was coaching from the

second day ofschool in the fall to the last week of the spring semester when

she began herteaching career.  “I was so excited tofind the Texas Math and

Science Coaches Association after I had given up theathletic coaching,” King

admits.  Shehas put her experiences into a recently published book, “Teacher

of the Year” thatis remarkably enough about a science teacher who is also a

coach.  “You can request it at Barnes and Noble butif you call me at Long,

I’ll get it for you wholesale,” she says with awink.  Even though she is

planning herretirement, she won’t be leaving J L Long. “I will retire from

the classroom but I will continue to coach the Mathand Science,” King says

with determination.


With nearly four million children in the Texas publicschools, the system

comes under a lot of scrutiny.  The institution of academic testing has led

to an improvement ofprovable scores and yet, no one feels that the schools

are doing a good enoughjob.  “Our communities sell the publicschools short,”

says Wade. But he agrees with Morgan, “All our kids are gifted.  We just have

to bring out the natural giftin them.”


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