Solomon P. Ortiz Elementary School
2018 America’s Best Urban Schools Award Winner
At Ortiz Elementary School, all students, including those who are learning English and those with special needs, are learning the same rigorous curricula. Administration, faculty, and staff all believe in the capacity of their students to learn at high levels.“We get things done,” explained first-year principal Patricia Garza. “We do have obstacles, but we don’t make excuses.” When the state moved to more challenging standards, the gap between second and third-grade achievement was stark. In response, Principal Patricia Garza (then as dean of instruction) began to articulate clear academic expectations in the primary grades. Today, Ortiz kindergarteners are reading and first graders are writing in paragraphs. Ms. Garza was concerned that her students with special needs were not gaining access to grade-level material. Today, special need students learn alongside their grade-level peers and resource support is pushed into the classroom. This two-time NCUST award-winning school employs heterogeneous grouping, teacher collaboration, and other structures and practices to continue to push the level of rigor and ensure that all students have access to challenging curricula.