Ramirez Thomas Elementary School
- Number of Students: 500
- Percent Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch: 98%
- Percent of Limited English Proficient: 62%
- Percent of Special Education: 15%
- White: 6%
- Black: 0%
- Hispanic: 92%
- Asian: 1%
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0%
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 1%
- Multiracial: 0%
- Other: 0%
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 priorities 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
- Continued commitment to build upon, secure and review established protocols for effective PLCs
- Reviewed and revised: Essential Power Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics, CFAs, and goal setting formats
- Began to use RTI time to provide additional focused instruction in Guided Reading.
- Shifted the way we created lesson plans and delivered instruction to focus more on teaching to specific student needs that are based on student work.
- Increased effectiveness of our leadership team and our grade-level PLCs by implementing a Professional Development series for all staff that revolved around identifying personality traits of each individual and each grade-level PLC and, based on these traits, designing strategies to maximize the strengths of each individual and grade-level PLC.
- There was significant turnover in our school leadership, with a new principal and several new members on our leadership team. We have found that the PLC structures we've been practicing and refining since the beginning of our turnaround have served us well, and have helped to maintain our forward progress. Nevertheless, we are planning new Professional Development in PLC basics to ensure that our new leadership is effectively trained in the PLC best-practices.
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, Recognizing Student Achievement (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 common formative assessments (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.
In terms of core curriculum, we are using a workshop model, wherein students receive a whole-class mini-lesson of approximately 10 minutes. During this time, each student is exposed to grade-level content and standards. After this, students move into purposeful practice, during which they work at their independent level while teachers conference with students individually or teach guided reading or targeted strategy groups, coaching and guiding students into their next learning steps. Further intervention is built into our curriculum daily in reading and weekly in math, as detailed below:
We have created novel systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning by integrating weekly small group planning for Tier 1 differentiation into our grade-level PLCs. With our instructional coach, each team has been designing a plan to address specific areas of need in their weekly small group lessons with students. We have also refined our processes for identifying and grouping students in reading and math. We currently have a system wherein teachers get together every 4-6 weeks and, using current student reading data, we create new RTI groups to address specific reading or English Langauage Development groups. These RTI groups meet for the last 45 minutes of every school day. In math, grade-level PLCs meet weekly to sort studnets by current RSA data and then regroup students into targeted skill groups, which meet once a week to address areas of student need. Finally, students in every grade are using individual data binders to track their progress on foundational skills such as phonics skills, sight words, basic math fluencies and attendance. Each student meets with his/her teacher bi-weekly to discuss their goals and plan for next steps in their learning.
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 requires hard work and dedication. We attribute our progress 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 Pre-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 approximately 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.
In the intervening years, we have worked hard to continue ensuring that our school is keeping pace with other schools in the district and the state. The charts below reflect the past three years of test data:
Percent of Students Achieving Proficiency on PARCC: RTE/District/State
2016-2017 Reading Math
3rd Grade 25/30/27 40/28/30
4th Grade 21/28/26 16/21/23
5th Grade 13/29/30 13/20/24
2015-2016 Reading Math
3rd Grade 13/27/25 19/26/30
4th Grade 12/26/25 16/21/23
5th Grade 15/25/25 28/22/26
2014-2015 Reading Math
3rd Grade 19/27/26 23/22/26
4th Grade 21/24/24 16/17/19
5th Grade 9/28/24 20/20/21
From this data, we noticed that in 2014-2015, RTE was below average in Reading and about average in math, as compared with other schools in the distract and state. In 2015-2016, RTE was below average in both reading and math, with the exception that the 5th grade was well above district and state averages in math. In 2016-2017, RTE was below average in both reading in math, with the 3rd grade an above-average outlier in math. After a relative dip in achievement in the 2015-2016 year in reading, we have achieved at slightly higher overall rates in reading over this three-year span, and have performed similarly over that time in math. While this three-year data trend was not particularly encouraging, a look at neighboring schools with similar demographics told quite a different tale. It is in this second comparison where we see more clearly the ways that our PLC model has created an oasis of high achievement in a district and state that have long struggled with reading and math proficiency.
Comparison of neighboring schools with similar demographics:
Percent of Students Achieving Proficiency: RTE/School 1/School 2
2016-2017 Reading Math
3rd Grade 25/26/5 40/19/18
4th Grade 21/10/11 16/10/10
5th Grade 13/9/15 13/8/11
2015-2016 Reading Math
3rd Grade 13/0/6 19/10/9
4th Grade 12/13/17 16/7/13
5th Grade 15/10/10 28/7/11
2014-2015 Reading Math
3rd Grade 19/15/11 23/14/14
4th Grade 21/10/8 16/9/1
5th Grade 9/14/14 20/10/9
From this comparison, we noticed that in 2014-2015, RTE outperformed our comparison schools accross the board in reading and in math, with the only exception being that the 5th grade underperformed in reading. Additionally, our achievement in math that year was significantly above that of our comparison schools. In 2015-2016, our 3rd and 5th grades outpeformed our comparison schools in reading, while our 4th grade achieved at a slightly lower rate. Again, in math that year, we outperformed our comparison schools across the board, with the 5th grade hitting proficiency rates 17-21% higher than our comparison schools. In 2016-2017, our 3rd and 4th grade readers outperformed our comparison schools, while our 5th grade ranked 2nd in reading achievement. In math, we once again significantly outperformed our comparison schools, with the 3rd grade achieving at more than 20% points higher than either of the comparison schools.
Featured in Santa Fe New Mexican article "Bringing science to life", November 27, 2017
Featured in Santa Fe New Mexican Article "‘Principal for a day’ encourages more engagement", June 11, 2017
Featured in Santa Fe New Mexican article
"My View: Professional Learning Community central to turnaround at Ramirez Thomas school", January 15, 2017
Featured in Santa Fe New Mexican article "Anaya, Abeyta, late Esquivel honored as Teachers Who Inspire", May 17, 2016
Received award from New Mexico Public Education Department for recognition of "Effective Bilingual Multicultural Education Program" January 30, 2015
Received award from New Mexico Public Education Department for recognition as a "School of SIG-nificance", June 2013
Featured in Santa Fe New Mexican article "Ramirez Thomas Rising", May 14, 2013
Recognized as a New Mexico Top Growth School-2012
Received New Mexico School Boards Association Student Achievement Award-2010