By: Sarah Snyder
ODESSA - They went from failure to an A+. It was just two years ago when Bowie Junior High in Odessa was rated ''unacceptable'' by the Texas Education Agency. But this past school year they earned a "recognized" status with the highest scores ever for a junior high in Ector County.
"We got the label of academically unacceptable," Bowie Principal Denise Shetter, said. "At the time it was pretty devastating. The teachers start doubting themselves, the kids doubt themselves, but in retrospect it was an unexpected blessing because it really made us examine what we were doing."
So Bowie school leaders changed a few things. They started by adding a free breakfast, then asked students to focus their attention on getting five more questions on the TAKS test, but the most obvious change is in the classroom. For the first time in district history, they seperated the boys and girls during core classes.
"I really do like the gender based classes because I think it helped the students succeed academically," Bowie Science Teacher, George Haynes, said.
And when the TEA scores rolled in, Bowie scored. Big time.
"We went down in history," Shetter said. "A thousand of my kids hit the standard - at least 70-75% of them and no one has ever done that in Ector County before. They made history and it's pretty exciting."
The faculty say the gender based classes helped put the focus back on learning.
"They don't have to show off for anybody else, they don't have to worry about being embarrased by anybody else, nobody is going to laugh at them," Haynes said.
And while there are a few downsides to being seperated.
"My girlfriend isn't in there," 9th Grader, Julio Mata, said. "If there were boy and girl classes, she probably would have been in there."
The benefits show up on the report card.
"It makes us focus because we're not worrying about the girls, we're just paying attention," 9th Grader, Aaron McMaryion, said.
Aaron - the school's football quarterback - is proof-positive of the change. As a seventh grader he failed the TAKS, but last year as an eighth grader he earned "commended" status in each of the subject areas.
"It helps you maintain your grades, keep your grades up, pass and be able to play sports," McMaryion said.
"It was almost like winning the lottery because you know it can happen, but you know it's rare," Shetter said.
"The biggest change I saw was that student's believe they can achieve," Haynes said.
The ECISD district police tell NewsWest 9, the Bowie students have also been better behaved. They made significantly less calls to the campus last year. As for this coming school year the principal says they've set a new goal: to reach exemplary status.