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Improving Proficiency and Showing Signs of Growth in Math

  • Challenge: Urgent need to improve proficiency in math
  • Initiative: Improve instructional practices and teacher content knowledge through foundational practice courses.
  • Results: Accelerated math achievement builds a foundation for future growth

District Profile

  • Established: 1993
  • Grades: Pre-K–5
  • Enrollment: (2018-2019): 450
  • Students with IEPs: 28%
  • One of 88 Elementary Schools dotted across 1,200 square miles.
  • 93% of students are Hispanic and 40% are English learners.
  • Nearly all students qualify for the federal school meals program.


Pajarito Elementary School, one of 88 elementary schools in the Albuquerque Public Schools system, was in urgent need of support for their students in mathematics. On the 2017 New Mexico Report Card, the school received a final grade of F and overall score of 28.3. Only 12% of Pajarito students scored proficient in math in 2017. The new principal, Debra Larribas believed her math teachers needed support and develop a stronger content knowledge base. Specifically, district leaders at Larribas believed the PD should focus first and foremost on building the capacity of K-5 teachers to understand and implement best practices and effective instructional strategies including Number Talks. Secondly, the PD would be designed to strengthen the content knowledge of K-5 teachers in the school.

New Mexico Report Card Letter Grade

2017: 12%, 2018: 15%
Only 12% of Pajarito students scored proficient in math in 2017.


After conversations with a number of math professional learning partners, Pajarito decided that with Math Solutions they could most effectively accelerate student achievement in math by
improving teacher knowledge and instructional practices. In 2016-2017, the school began with Number Talks professional learning and 5 days of coaching to lay the foundations for their
teaching staff. In 2017-2018, the school added more coaching days and focused on Numbers and Operations, an area the needs assessment pinpointed as needing urgent support.


“It’s not a prepackaged program. It’s ‘What do you see as your need, and how can we best support it.’ They’re very good listeners.”

Debra Larribas, Principal,
Pajarito Elementary School

Pajarito has taken the initial steps to accelerate student improvement and is beginning to see the fruits of their labors. On the 2018 New Mexico Report Card, the school received a final grade of D and overall score of 38.68, a big jump from the F grade received in 2017. The numerical score in each of the assessed categories (current standing, school improvement, improvement of higher-performing students, improvement of lowest-performing students, opportunity to learn, and bonus points) improved from 2017 to 2018, indicating that the school is on the right track. There are additional signs of growth, including 15% of students scoring proficient in math.

Pajarito students showed growth from the fall of 2017 to the spring of 2019. Here is the impact:

In the fall of 2017:

  • only 7% were in the proficient category
  • 44% were two years below grade level
  • 49% were two years below grade level


By spring of 2018:

  • 21% scored proficient
  • 45% were one year below grade level (Note: this increase was due to those who were two years below
    moving into this category)
  • 34% were two years below grade level

Proficiency in Numbers and Operations

halo chart: 6% proficient in 2017, 34% proficient in 2018


Students proficient in Numbers and Operations increased by 28%



In spring of 2019:

  • 35% are now proficient
  • 42% were one year below grade level
  • 22% were two years below grade level

2017-2019 Math Achievement

math achievement bar chart


28% more students are proficient
4% decrease in students who are 1 year below grade level
27% decrease in students who are 2 years below grade level


So by the numbers after a two-year partnership with Math Solutions, there was a 28% increase of those who are proficient and 27% decrease in those who were at greatest risk.

The improvement in math achievement was especially pronounced in Numbers and Operations, which was the school-wide focus during 2017-2018. In the fall, approximately
6% of Pajarito students were proficient in Numbers and Operations.

By the spring, approximately 34% of students were proficient in Numbers and Operations. Pajarito Elementary School and Math Solutions still have much to accomplish with their partnership, but the early results indicate that the school is on track to accelerating math achievement for their students.