Loma Heights Elementary school is a newly renovated, K-5 elementary school with 470 students. The recent renovation includes a complete technology upgrade that wired every classroom and the library with a Promethean board, I-Pads, and computers. The dual language strand has been in existence for 4 years and serves 130 of the 470 students. The model is the Gomez & Gomez Dual Language Enrichment model with the goal of bilingualism and biliteracy for all students in the strand. Being placed in the strand is optional and Spanish dominant parents can opt-out of it if they choose. But all students at Loma Heights get exposed to Spanish/English instruction.
Before coming to Loma Hts Elementary, Ms. Foster was at University Hills Elementary school. There she guided the school from an “F” to a “B” in a few years. “They weren’t really using data there, just posting beautiful wall charts.”
In 2013 when she came to Loma Hts, it had a grade of “D”. “There were strong teachers teaching in isolation behind closed doors. There were no classroom observations, no instructional coaching, no teaming, and few data discussions.” The dual language 50/50 bilingual program started in 2013 but each grade “did their own thing.” The teachers in the 4th grade were from Spain and there was no English instruction. There was no PD for bilingual teachers. Now the school grade went from a “D” to a “B” with ELs showing the biggest growth.
Ms. Foster started to focus on SIOP PD for all teachers led by her assistant principal. “The biggest impact (on student learning) were the components of accessing background knowledge and teaching through higher order questioning.”
Teachers meet in PLCs for grade-level planning during a 50 minute block 3 days a week. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, teachers meet for “embedded PD” while students attend two 25 minute “specials” such as art or social skills, ballet folklorico, music, PE, library, or technology. This year, every Tuesday PLC is led by an instructional coach and concentrates on Writer’s Workshop and Close Reading strategies. The focus on Writer’s Workshops and the writing process is new this year and is part of the literacy block in every classroom. The Thursday PLCs are teacher-led and focus on analyzing grade level and schoolwide student data and sharing strategies for student intervention. “There’s no magic program (to improve schools),” said Ms. Foster, “You just have to look at data and then decide what’s best for the kids.”
A parent sums up the strength of Loma Heights in the following way: “This school is a very diverse school, and the teachers know how to celebrate that diversity in children in a way that also teaches discipline and respect. Because of the teachers and staff, our children have excelled and been given opportunities they would not have received at other schools in Las Cruces. Both my kids love going to school.”