For years Eastside Memorial High School has been plagued by failing test scores and negative headlines. This story follows one semester as teachers, parents, administrators, and students fight to meet state accountability standards or watch their school be closed.


Under Threat of Closure, Eastside Memorial Staff is Confident This is Their Year

There’s a buzz throughout the building. Everyone is walking a bit faster and speaking with an edge in their voice. It’s late March and STAAR testing day is finally here.

Everyone at Eastside Memorial has been preparing for this day since the first day of the school year.

Isabel Corona teaches Pre-AP English I at Eastside Memorial High School, teaching mostly 9th graders.

As the students take their seats they see yellow sticky notes on their desks with words of encouragement from Ms. Corona.

“Take your time,” one reads.

After the students are seated she picks up each note. There can’t be anything on the desks during testing. TEA requires all posters and student work on the walls be covered. Corona’s classroom walls are now covered in pink contact paper - the cheery color contrasts with the tension in the room.

Isabel Corona teaches Pre-AP English I at Eastside Memorial. For the past few years Eastside students have struggled with the English I end of course STAAR exam. Close to 20% of them speak English as a second language. Photo by Beverly Barrett.

An Underdog Story

Eastside Memorial High School at the Johnston Campus sits on an unassuming corner just east of Airport Boulevard. The one-story building looks like a typical American high school. In fact, it’s been used as a movie set, cast for its timeless look.

But the stories within the walls fall short of most cheerful Hollywood depictions of adolescence. This is an underdog story of community members, teachers, administrators, parents, and students fighting for the survival of their school, and by default, of their neighborhood.

Eastside was given 3 years to meet state accountability standards, or be shuttered by the state for one year. This is the story of one semester on campus.

Principal Bryan Miller has led Eastside Memorial since November 2011. Although they have one more year, the staff at Eastside is focused on making accountability this school year. Photo by Beverly Barrett.

Principal Bryan Miller knows his school faces an uphill climb to overcome years of failing scores, negative perceptions, and threats of closure.

“I live it everyday, the reputation outside of the school,” Miller says. “The kids are passing more, graduating more, attending more, all of the things that kids are supposed to do, and we just continue to get stamped that label.”

But, he says, faculty and staff are determined this will be the year Eastside changes the conversation.

An Eastside Education is a production of KLRU­-TV, Austin PBS.
It is part of KLRU’s American Graduate initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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Allison Sandza


Blair Waltman-Alexin


Blair Waltman-Alexin


Allison Sandza

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“The Horses and The Flowers” by The Womb

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An Eastside Education is part of KLRU’s American Graduate initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The American Graduate initiative seeks to establish a clearer understanding about why students drop out of high school and how drop out impacts our economy and society.

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a production of KLRU-TV
Capital of Texas Public Telecommunications Council
copyright 2015