A Farmington elementary school recognized as best in NM for closing the achievement gap

Three New Mexico schools named National Blue Ribbon Schools

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
  • The students learned about the recognition during an assembly.
  • Ladera Del Norte is the only NM school recognized for its work closing the achievement gap.

FARMINGTON — Ladera Del Norte Elementary School students sat in the dark in the cafeteria watching a screen and waiting to see if their school had been named a National Blue Ribbon School.

They waited as a video displayed the names of schools and pictures of each National Blue Ribbon Schools in alphabetical order, growing more excited as the video got closer and closer to the New Mexico schools.

When the name Ladera Del Norte Elementary School appeared on the screen, the children leaped to their feet and began cheering. They shot confetti in the air and waved blue pompoms.

Students celebrate winning the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program award.

Many of them were wearing the school's color — green — and at least one of the students had dyed his hair green.

“I am super elated and extremely proud of the teaching staff,” said Principal Phyllis Maestas after the students had left the cafeteria.

She said the staff truly works as a team and cited the school’s motto: “Together Everyone Achieves More.”

Maestas has been working in education for 29 years and said the recognition “is the icing on the cake” for her career.

A screen displays a message from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, at Ladera Del Norte Elementary School.

Ladera chosen based on its success closing achievement gaps

There were 362 schools across the United States recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools. 

Ladera was one of three New Mexico schools recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools, however it was the only New Mexico school that received the recognition because of its work to close achievement gaps. Both Logan Elementary School and Career Enrichment Center & Early College Academy Magnet High School were recognized as exemplary high performing schools.

Ladera Del Norte Elementary School celebrated being named a National Blue Ribbon School.

Of the 362 National Blue Ribbon Schools, only 41 were chosen based on closing the achievement gap. The achievement gap is a difference in academic performance between students of different groups, such as the difference in achievement between white students and minority students. More than 50 percent of the students at Ladera Del Norte Elementary School are minority students, according to the application the school submitted.

The achievement gap can also exist between students from high-income households and students from low-income households. It can also describe the difference in academic performance between students with disabilities and students without disabilities. About 15 percent of the Ladera students receive special education services, according to the application.

The Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools are considered the state’s highest performing schools in closing the achievement gap.

School district superintendent praises staff's efforts 

Farmington Municipal School District Superintendent Gene Schmidt interacts with Ladera Del Norte Elementary School students.

Farmington Municipal School District Superintendent Gene Schmidt said he was “absolutely excited for the work of the students and staff.”

“They are truly rising to excellence,” Schmidt said.

Special Education Teacher David Travis said it is a big deal for Ladera to receive the recognition. 

“I’ve always wanted to have a positive impact on a school,” Travis said, adding that it was a team effort that won the school the recognition.

Ladera Del Norte students celebrate, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, after the school was named a National Blue Ribbon School.

He said he has seen an improvement in his fourth and fifth grade students during his five years at the elementary school. He said this improvement is especially noticeable in their reading fluency and comprehension.

“I tell them every day ‘is it important to learn how to read’ and they tell me, ‘yes’,” Travis said, adding that the students cite examples of why reading is important.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e