George Lucas Educational Foundation

Why We Chose Mesquite Elementary School

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