“We don’t look to place blame in this building. Instead, we look for solutions.”

—Agnes Terri Tomlinson, principal

  • Mobile, Alabama
  • Mobile County School District
  • Grades PK-5
  • Urban
  • DTM awarded in 2009

School Overview

First recognized as a Dispelling the Myth school in 2009, George Hall Elementary School continues to be a leader in Alabama.

George Hall Elementary School, located in Mobile, was one of the lowest performing schools in the city when the school district reorganized it in 2004. The new principal, Agnes Tomlinson — who had spent her career as a teacher and principal in Mobile — was allowed to replace the staff. With deep roots in the city, she was able to recruit teachers and staff from around Mobile with proven track records who were eager to work for her.

Even though very few students — all of whom are African American students from low-income families — were meeting state standards when she arrived, Tomlinson said she was confident that could be changed once the right structures and routines were in place. “I knew achievement wouldn’t be a problem,” she said years later.

Within a few years, George Hall became one of the highest performing elementary schools in all of Alabama, with 95 percent or more of its students meeting state standards in reading and mathematics. When measured by the nationally normed SAT-10 assessment (last given in 2011), George Hall’s students performed toward the top of the country, particularly in math. It continues to outperform the state year after year.

One of the highlights of the year at George Hall is the “literacy fair,” a main focus of instruction in the spring. Students write essays, draw murals, and enact plays, inviting family and community members to enjoy student work. Some years the focus is American history, and topics vary from Paul Revere’s ride to the Holocaust; some years the focus is science, and topics range from weather systems to lymphatic systems.

The literacy fair reflects the work that teachers do to build vocabulary and background knowledge for their students through carefully developed academic work and field trips. As one teacher said of her students, “They live 10 minutes from the bayou and many of them have never seen a boat. We take them on a boat.”

Updated 2013