Ramirez Thomas Elementary School

  1. PLC Story
  2. PLC Practices
  3. Achievement Data
  4. Awards
  5. Resources

In 2009, Ramirez Thomas Elementary (RTE) was identified as the 9th lowest performing school in the state of New Mexico. As a result of a 6-year trend of little or no growth, RTE qualified for federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) money and implemented the Turnaround model of reform in the 2010-11 school year. Working with teachers and educators from the school community, we established strategies for school improvement and wrote the initial SIG grant which resulted in over 3 million in additional funding over three years.  The school community worked together to establish a common vision and mission, as well as set goals for student achievement. Together we made strategic decisions on curriculum adoption, professional development, common pedagogy, data analysis, common formative assessments, and, foremost, a strong commitment to the tenants of Professional Learning Communities (PLC).  Solidifying the PLC model, and providing the support and training needed to do this effectively were a priority in our professional development budget.  It is our belief that our focus on sustainable PLC practices is a primary reason for the successes we have incurred thus far. 

Our PLC Journey:


  • Received School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding
  • Established 2 weeks of PD before the school year began for school staff, created an extended school day for all children, and created an extended hour of collaboration and planning time for teachers after the school day for 3 years
  • Established Master Schedule to ensure grade level teachers had a common planning period during the school day and at the end of the day. At least three of those periods weekly were to be used to meet with grade level team members for lesson planning, data review, professional development (PD) and reflection on teaching practices and effectiveness.
  • Hired an additional Data/Instructional Coach, Assistant Principal and Parent Liaison
  • Scheduled an off-site staff retreat before the school year began to develop a set of values to adhere to as we worked together toward our set goals.
  • Implemented new math and writing curriculum 
  • Established school-wide assessment schedule and determined assessment tools to be utilized
  • Established student data folders K – 5 that students monitored and reflected on with teacher
  • School-wide intervention time between 2:30 and 3:30 each school day
  • February 2011, Principal and Assistant Principal attended All Things PLC Summit in Phoenix, AZ
  • June 22-24, 8 members of School Leadership team including the Principal and Asst. Principal attended Professional Learning Communities at Work Institute in San Antonio, TX


  • Worked with Solution Tree consultant throughout the year to establish solid protocols for effective PLC meetings: personality inventory, how to work collaboratively and resolve conflicts, the four questions, norms, roles in meetings, time-bound agendas, note-taking templates, and common formative assessment development
  • Developed grade level and individual goals for achievement on a quarterly basis
  • Leadership Team worked with Solution Tree consultants on leadership skills within a PLC culture and how to manage critical conversations.
  • Intervention block driven by expanding set of pre-post assessments
  • Established flexible groupings and shared responsibility of students between teachers for intervention time
  • Enrichment groupings began in 3rd,  4th and 5th grade intervention block 
  • April 16-18, 6 members of the Leadership Team, Principal and Dean attend Common Core Standards and Assessment Conference in Las Vegas, NV


  • Worked throughout the year with Solution Tree consultant to secure a strong understanding of the Common Core State Standards and common fromative assessment development
  • Utilizing the CCSS for English Language Arts, staff met together vertically and horizontally to develop a continuum of Essential Power Standards K-5 to ensure a guaranteed curriculum for all students throughout grade levels
  • December 3 -4, Principal and Instructional Coaches attended a Simplifying RTI Workshop in Seattle, WA
  • Developed a school-wide Pyramid Response to Intervention
  • Held Staff Retreat to identify fears and responses to the end of SIG funding after this school year. Re-establish our firm commitment to our PLC culture and a firm belief that all students can learn at high levels.


  • After funding for extended day is lost, created a new master schedule to secure school day common planning for grade level teams and a continued 40 minute Intervention block 
  • Continued to build upon, secure and review established protocols for effective PLCs with the purpose of ensuring all students learn at high levels, teachers work collaboratively and collectively toward this end, a strong focus on results is maintained


  • Continue commitment to build upon, secure and review established protocols for effective PLCs 
  • Review and revise: Essential Power Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics, CFAs, and goal setting formats

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

Student learning is monitored in a variety of ways at RTE.  At the classroom level, teachers monitor their individual students through running records, guided reading data, RSAs for Everyday Math, and Reader's and Writer's workshop rubrics. When students need extra help, the teacher provides time in small strategy groups during the scheduled learning block to provide extra supports for learning.

In addition, grade level teams meet bi-weekly to review data from all grade level CFAs to determine if learning is taking place.  During this time, if a majority of students are found to be struggling with the learning objectives presented, classroom teachers reflect on the curriculum and teaching strategies being utilized. If there are only a few students showing difficulties, further analysis is done and students are placed in focused skill groups  during the day and in our intervention time at the end of the day.   Every two weeks students are  re-evaluated and next steps are determined again based on results. 

2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.

We have established a school-wide Pyramid of Intervention plan that allows us to evaluate students several times a year and apply specific intervention strategies based on assessment results of teacher CFAs. We also utilize school and district formative assessments such as the DRA, STAR Renaissance, DIBELS/IDEL, ACCESS, and Discovery Educational Assessments.

We have created a 40 minute intervention block at the end of the school day that allows extended time for students in focused skill area groupings. During this time we utilize all classroom teachers, SPED teachers, Educational Assistants, the school counselor and Instructional Coaches to create small intervention groups  that match students with a teacher who has demonstrated success in the need or enrichment area identified.

3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.

 The staff at Ramirez Thomas started our reform efforts  in 2010. At this time we set out to build a collaborative school community around the unwavering belief that all students can achieve at high levels, and that it was our responsibility to ensure they did. This continues to be the underpinnings of our PLC work at RTE and why we are committed to the PLC protocols we have established. 

 An important part of our commitment to PLCs is prioritizing common planning times between grade level and subject area teams in our master schedule. We also realize that to utilize this time to increase student learning we must stay focused on the 4 questions of the PLC:

  • What is it that we want our students to learn?
  • How will we know if they have learned it?
  • What will be our response if they do not learn it?
  • What will be our response if they do learn it?

To do this effectively each team: establishes group norms that they read before each meeting; creates a specific time-based meeting agenda focused on some aspect of the four questions of the PLC; identifies a facilitator, note taker and timekeeper for each meeting to document learning and decision making; and honors time by working within the time frames of the agenda. With these protocols, the grade-level teams meet collaboratively at least 3 times a week during scheduled meeting times to plan instruction, develop CFAs, reflect on practice, participate in professional development, and/or develop common curriculum expectations.  Every other Friday teams gather for data meetings to look at results data, set achievement goals, and create their enrichment/intervention groups for the next two weeks. 

Working to close the achievement gap in a school with high poverty and English language learners requires hard work and dedication.  We attribute our success to an on-going collective commitment to a collaborative culture based on relational trust. We engage in honest conversations about our data, our struggles and how we will work together to overcome obstacles. We celebrate our successes and adhere to our chosen values of respect, collaboration, honesty & integrity, dedication, open mindedness, a positive attitude and high expectations

Ramirez Thomas Elementary School

 Ramirez Thomas Elementary (RTE) is a school serving kindergarten through fifth grade students on the south side of the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The south side elementary schools in Santa Fe serve 80% of the English Language Learners in the city’s elementary schools and are full Title I schools.  Ramirez Thomas Elementary is one of three of the south side elementary schools that are the primary feeder schools for this area’s middle and high school. Ramirez Thomas currently serves 500 students, predominantly Mexican Immigrant families who live in high poverty conditions.  Due to 6 years of little or no growth in state test proficiency scores and in 2009 being ranked the 9th lowest performing school in the state, RTE was awarded federal School Improvement Grant money in the spring of 2010 to implement Turnaround reform strategies for three years.  A large portion of the professional development allocation of this funding was utilized to work with Solution Tree associates to effectively implement the Professional Learning Community Model in the school.  The charts below reflect starting data and the subsequent years’ growth.

New Mexico Standards Based Assessment (NMSBA)

Percent of Students Passing:     RTE/District/State

All Students 3rd – 5th

                           Reading                         Math   

2008-09                22%/51%/57%               17%/40%/46% 

2009-10                32%/50%/56%               27%/41%/49%

2010-11*               26%/45%/50%               27%/37%/46%    

2011-12                41%/52%/52%               35%/41%/47%    

2012-13                36%/49%/51%               40%/%42/46%    

2013-14                42%/51%/50%               41%/43%/45%    

*State adjusts proficiency scale scores for 2010-11 NMSBA –-First year of PLC implementation

 3rd Grade

                           Reading                         Math   

2009-10               47%/54%/57%               50%/52%/58%

2010-11*              18%/50%/53%               30%/42%/51%    

2011-12                43%/54%/52%               46%/51%/53%    

2012-13                35%/52%/55%               35%/47%/51%    

2013-14                51%/54%/52%              52%/49%/49%    

4th Grade**

                           Reading                         Math   

2009-10               28%/45%/51%               17%/35%/45%

2010-11*              20%/41%/46%               30%/34%/44%    

2011-12                33%/50%/50%               21%/39%/44%    

 2012-13                31%/46%/46%               48%/43%/45% 

 2013-14                26%/43%/44%               40%/39%/43%  


5th  Grade

                           Reading                         Math  

2009-10               30%/52%/59%               17%/36%/45%

2010-11*              35%/45%/52%               22%/35%/42%    

2011-12                46%/52%/55%               35%/34%/43%    

2012-13                38%/49%/51%               36%/37%/43%    

2013-14                43%/54%/53%               33%/41%/44%    

**We realize our 4th grade trend data for reading is not depicting the upward growth we need to see. One factor we looked at was that the NMSBA assessment increases in rigor starting in the 4th grad. However, we still needed to look closer at why it was impacting our school. When we looked at individual classrooms and students, we realized that our bilingual classrooms were demonstrating significantly lower proficiency rates than the English only classrooms. When reviewing other Title I schools with similar bilingual programs and high ELL populations in our district, we noticed the same trends. We have come to realize the bilingual model and CAP we were implementing was not advancing in rigor sufficiently enough to prepare our ELL students for the academic tasks required in the upper elementary grades. We have restructured our bilingual program to address these concerns and are hopeful to see this impact our data in the near future.


The following data compares RTE’s state test proficiency rates with two other Santa Fe south side (SS) elementary schools with similar demographics.  

Percent of Students Passing:     RTE/SS#1/SS#2

All Students 3rd – 5th

                           Reading                         Math   

2008-09                22%/33%/40%               17%/30%/34%

2009-10               35%/37%/33%               27%/29%/31%

2010-11*              26%/26%/27%               27%/27%/19%    

2011-12                41%/39%/36%               35%/26%/21%    

2012-13                36%/35%/30%               40%/24%/20%    

2013-14                42%/36%/34%               41%/28%/19%    

End of Year DIBELS/IDEL K – 2

Benchmark Proficiency Rate Comparison: Ramirez Thomas/District


                          Kinder                  First                  Second

2011-12                62%/60 %                76%/55 %                43%/52 %                   

2012-13                77%/71 %                68%/61 %                46%/55 %

2013-14                64%/53 %                70%/54 %                60%/59 %

(Second grade final quarter benchmarks shift from phonics based to fluency based proficiencies)


                          Kinder                  First                  Second

2011-12                44%/64 %                50%/48 %                65%/49 %               

2012-13                53%/59 %                70%/51 %                73%/54 %

2013-14                60%/62%                 68%/58%                 73%/67%

 We recognize that our work to meet proficiency goals is on going. Our state test scores have not realized the proficiency rate goals we have set for our students.  However, we do recognize the impact that working together as a Professional Learning Community has had on the development of our students, teachers and school community.  We continue to be committed to the PLC process of evaluating our test results together and adapting program and instruction practices based on collaborative review of the evidence from our assessments and interventions.  We are committed to celebrating our successes along the way.

Received New Mexico School Boards Association Student Achievement Award-2010 

Recognized as a New Mexico Top Growth School-2012

Featured in Santa Fe New Mexican article "Ramirez Thomas Rising",  May 14, 2013

Recieved award from New Mexico Public Education Department for recognition of "Effective Bilingual Multicultural Education Program"  January 30, 2015