DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A struggling Dallas school has found a way to make a big turnaround. Those involved say the success is the result of a collaborative effort.

For Paul Laurence Dunbar Learning Center teacher Aaron Jackson’s students, budgeting the balance between wants and needs is not just a math lesson — it’s a daily life lesson.

“Who can tell me what gross income is?” Jackson asks his students.

The teacher explained that many of his students are dealing with exceptional circumstances. “We can say it’s an excuse, but it’s the truth. I mean, a lot of these students come from poverty, low-income families.”
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Dunbar Learning Center sits just south of Fair Park. Just a year ago test results were poor, with fewer than 50-percent of third-graders passing state reading exams. But this year it seems everyone can feel a change.

Nazli Avila, a 5th grader at Dunbar, said, “I feel more comfortable this year.”

Concerns last year had some parents sending their children to other schools. But this year parents like Jesse Wilson are not only standing behind their kids, but the school also.

“That’s the good part about this school — the academics!” Wilson said excitedly. “I’m loving them.”

“For the most part, most of the adults teaching in Dunbar classrooms last year are still educators at the school.

So what’s the difference in making the difference for Dunbar? Principal Dionel Waters explained, “What we’re seeing is some promising data.”

Waters says while test scores are improving slowly, the learning center has made a leap in another category, critical to raising student achievement.

Teacher Jackson believes that change is in the attitude of the adults. ‘The climate,” he said. “Most of the teachers want to come to work [and are] eager about work.”
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Can attitude affect aptitude? For Dunbar, it goes back to balancing the budget. The school certainly doesn’t have everything it wants, but for the moment students are getting a lot more of what they need.

Dunbar is one of the Dallas Independent School District’s “Imagine 2020” schools. According to the ISDs website, the district is providing “a commitment of resources and support intended to accelerate student achievement and deepen student learning” at those designated campuses.

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