George Lucas Educational Foundation

Mesquite Elementary School

Grades 3-5 | Tucson, AZ

5 Strategies to Ensure Student Learning

After Arizona's Mesquite Elementary School developed Reteach and Enrich, a program to provide additional instruction time for students struggling with math, test scores shot to the top and have stayed there ever since. 
Mariko Nobori
Former Managing Editor and Producer, Edutopia
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Students in class
Teachers have specific weekly curricular objectives; students who need more time for mastery receive an additional half-hour of differentiated instruction every day.

Mesquite Elementary School, in Tucson, Arizona, attributes much of its turnaround in student performance -- and their ongoing success -- to their Reteach and Enrich program. Within the first year of implementation, even before teachers had worked out all the kinks, Mesquite went from a "performing" school (as labeled by the state of Arizona) in 2002 to an "excelling" school, the highest ranking, in 2003. The school has maintained an "excelling" status ever since.

The goal of the program is to give students the opportunity to master essential skills and knowledge before they move on to the next level. Here's the approach:

  1. Each week has defined curricular objectives.
  2. Teachers assess students on those objectives at the end of the week.
  3. Based on assessment results, teachers assign students to either reteach or enrich sessions for the following week.
  4. Beginning the following Monday, students attend either a 30-minute reteach or enrich session every day.
    • Reteach: Teachers reteach objectives using different lessons for students who need additional time for mastery. The teacher whose students performed best on the previous week's assessment teaches that week's reteach students. Students stay with that teacher for the daily half-hour sessions the whole week to minimize transition.
    • Enrich: Teachers expand on objectives for students who have mastered the basics. Students in the enrich class rotate to a different teacher each day so they can experience varying teaching styles as well as learn with different peers.

Reteach and Enrich (R&E) is highly replicable; every school in the Vail School District has implemented the program, and it continues to lead to improved student performance. However, there are some essential elements that are key to making it work.

1. A Common Curriculum Calendar

R&E depends on a shared set of clearly defined curricular objectives that are scheduled out for the entire year. This means that for any given week within each grade, all the teachers are teaching the same objectives. However, they are not necessarily teaching the same way; the instructional approach is left up to each individual teacher. The calendar keeps them on track by setting the pace so that teachers know that by year's end they will have taught -- and students will have learned -- all the essential standards. Says Vail superintendent Calvin Baker, "When we hold students accountable for very specific standards, and we expect all of them to know that standard, then we hold ourselves accountable for getting that job done."

2. Dedicated Time

Everyday at Mesquite, from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m., the whole school is involved in R&E. In addition to this daily half hour, R&E requires time for teachers to review and assess student data as well as plan instruction to meet each child's needs, both generally and within the program. At Mesquite, each grade has dedicated common planning time for teachers while their students are in "specials" (e.g., P.E., computer lab, library time, and so on).

To fit all that in, time management is also of the essence, right down to classroom transition time. For R&E, all the students transfer from their regular classroom to their assigned reteach or enrich room in under a minute, thanks in part to the convenient setup of their classrooms around a common area (see video below).

3. Collaboration

Collaboration is a key part of Mesquite's culture and is essential to R&E. Students rotate to different teachers during R&E, so every teacher must know every student in his or her grade level. Teachers share information about their students' progress so that all the teachers in a grade level share ownership of every child's education. They plan together and share resources and lesson plans that have been successful, and they seek insight from one another on lesson plans that were less effective.

4. Formative Assessments and Data Analysis

Early on, the teachers at Mesquite created their own weekly assessments; now there is a team of teachers at the district level that writes them. The assessments are short -- usually just five questions on one objective -- but they provide consistent insight into students' progress so that teachers can address any needs promptly. Diane Samorano, Mesquite's student achievement teacher, tracks the assessment data and the data from schoolwide screenings and quarterly benchmarks. She meets with the teachers every two weeks to review the latest results, to identify students who are struggling, and to help teachers plan instruction accordingly.

5. Involved and Informed Leadership

In order to address a variety of student needs, teachers must have access to resources, and principals must know what's going on in the classroom. Katie Dabney, principal at Mesquite, routinely visits classes, converses with students, and attends every data meeting for all grades. "As instructional leader, I have to stay on top of the data and be actively involved in searching for students who are at risk or need an extra challenge."

Comments (24) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Gabi Villavicencio Gordón's picture

Thanks for sharing your experience with your students and give us ideas of how assist our students and provide them time and activities that can really make them grow.

I liked your idea of working together, as a team. You students and you as teachers benefit while working this way. It is easier to plan for one reteach class, than for struggling students within from every classroom. Sometimes, students only need another person that can explain different. It is not personal; it is just because they can lose interest while sharing the class with the same teacher. Additionally, recognizing the effort of the teacher who had the better results is a good motivation for all the members of the level group.

Maria's picture

I like the reteach and the enrich programs that you have implemented at your school. I think that the success is collaboration and teachers' commitment to meet students' needs and get them success. I can notice that the teachers are very responsive. I think it is a great idea to share with other teachers how students are going on and share the strategies they are applying in their classes. I believe that I can a gather with my English teacher colleagues in order to set objectives for the week and plan together. Then we can share our results. I also think that we can be trained or share information about new research about methodologies or strategies that have worked in other schools in order to apply to our classes. I would like to know what strategies you have been using in reteach classes.

Diana Gonzalez's picture

After reading this article, I think that Reteach and Enrich programs are great ideas to support students who have not mastered the different skills or knowledge so that students can move on to the next level. Reteach and Enrich programs will help teachers avoid the Matthew effect in the classrooms and therefore the achievement gap between students. What I most like from this is teachers collaboration and the support of the school principal. As teachers we must be responsible to ensure that our students master the concepts or skills so that they become effective learners. I also like these programs because the teachers focus on the students' leaning process and their needs.

Andrés Peralta Sari's picture

What Mesquite Elementary has demonstrated throughout these years is that effective and efficacious instruction is possible. I believe that the success of this model lies on the collaborative work among teachers. It does not matter if a model possesses all the characteristics that help the academic and cognitive development of students if not all the actors that play a role in the learning process participate, despite how well designed it may be. Additionally, fostering in the students awareness and autonomy of learning is key to obtain the desired outcomes. This aspect is met by teachers at the moment they inform the students about the curricular goals for each week, so that learners know well which skills they need to master and if the requirements are not achieved, they will have the opportunity to meet that week's expected performance indicators.

Paolo Fabre's picture

I strongly believe that this type of instruction and programming really supports all students to achieve and to master the content and skills required to move on the next grade. Although, the application of R&E programming may faced some difficulties in my teaching reality (Im a EFL teacher in a public institution in Ecuador) such as: poor teachers' collaboration and the lack of time because the amount of students and paperwork that the school and district demand, I think that this research will be a strong support to pursue my colleagues about the effectiveness of R&E programming. It also supports the idea that if we work together we are able to achieve better outcomes on students' academic development.

Tania Cajamarca's picture

Great strategies! I think that practicing differentiation in this way will provide students lots of support to make them pass to a higher level. I think that taking 30 minutes for enrich and reteach classes is good, but I consider it would have to be a little longer. Foramtive Assessment is the key point to start with this program teachers should consider applying the correct assessment tools to gather accurate data. Regarding the evaluation this program I consider is excellent because it is weekly and information will be regularly updated. I also like the students were aware of the process. I think they will become responsible for their learning process. Also, United that teachers involved in this program need to work harder and take more time to plan their activities for differentiation. Finally, I believe that as time passes by, there would be new strategies that could be added to the actual ones to improve the program.

Laura A's picture

I love this strategy! We actually implemented this at my old school, but sadly it was only in place for one year. We had difficulty with transitioning the students, and teachers felt that it was "one more thing added to their plate." In the teachers' defense, we were not really trained on the best way to implement these types of groups.
I could see this working in my new school because we have a lot more common planning time than we did at my old school. I do think it would take a lot of time to go over the data twice a week, but it's important that teachers are collaborating with each other in the best interest of the students.

AshantiLJ's picture
Next Generation Teacher

Thank you for posting this! I'm a big fan of collboration across the classroom.

livewire27's picture

I agree, teamwork is always a great basis for production educational strategy.

Beth's picture

I am an assistant principal in an elementary school. We are considering this type of instructional set up for our fifth grade math team. Our only problem is,the math series enrichment materials are not that challenging. We would have to develop these materials which will take some time. I am excited however to just get the wheels rolling. If you have any suggestions on math curriculum enrichment activities I would be glad to hear it. We are currently using Envision's Math.

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