Administration & Leadership

Why We Chose Mesquite Elementary School

A checklist of essential qualities for schools and school districts profiled in Edutopia’s Schools That Work.

August 29, 2011

Our Schools That Work series explores what goes on at some of the most innovative, successful schools around the country. These range from schools with long-standing records of high performance to turnaround schools now on the road to substantially higher achievement. We visit each school to take a close-up look at its best practices and the specific challenges it faces, then we assemble a package of stories and hands-on tools that you can use to replicate some of the school's successes.

Even before we choose a school, we give it a hard look to make sure it delivers the kind of creative, effective, replicable practices that Edutopia can stand behind. Here's a quick look at the standards and the strengths we saw in Mesquite Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona.


  • Cohesive school culture with high expectations
  • Availability and meaningful use of technology
  • High student achievement    
  • High student engagement
  • High or improving scores on standard measures
  • Collaborative planning among teachers    
  • Personalized instruction and regular use of assessment to shape teaching and learning    
  • Culture of trust fostered between staff and students    
  • Teachers given input and leadership in shaping school improvement    
  • Relevant, ongoing professional development tailored to individual teacher's needs    
  • Meaningful involvement of parents and community members    
  • Track record of sustained success for at least two years    
  • Eagerness among staff to share best practices and help other schools replicate their success


  • Focus on 21st-century skills and themes
  • Use of project learning and integrated studies
  • Use of authentic assessment with real-world application
  • Emphasis on inquiry and student-directed, rather than only teacher-directed, learning

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