Moriarty Elementary School

Moriarty Elementary School is located in a rural area 45 miles east of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Overall student proficiency in reading increased from 35% to 57% in the 2014–15 school year.

“Focusing on assessments allows us to dive down and figure out what students really need and what we need to do to close the gaps. As a result, Moriarty has seen overall student proficiency in reading increase from 35% to 57% in one school year.”

—District Director and Former Principal Natalie Romero


  • 465 Students
  • 100% Free and reduced lunch
  • 8% Limited English proficient
  • 20% Special education
  • .017% African American
  • 53.1% Hispanic
  • .004% Asian/Pacific Islander
  • 1% Native American/Alaska Native
  • 5% Multiracial


Using the adopted curriculum assessment materials only, student achievement at Moriarty was stagnant. Former Principal Natalie Romero says, “Not only were teachers using only curriculum assessment materials, they were using curriculum materials to teach. This process did not aid in student achievement, as seen in the last five years of school data.” Teams faced the challenge of increasing student achievement with poorly created, non-Common Core–aligned assessments. As a result, even though staff members were functioning as a productive professional learning community, the effectiveness of their instruction could never advance students.

Another challenge was the absence of student-centered rubrics and grading. Students had no involvement in planning their learning and no opportunities for reflection.


With the help of assessment expert Cassandra Erkens, teams began unpacking assessments to ensure they were asking meaningful questions of students. They identified essential standards in order to create quality assessments. Through the backward planning process, teams used the assessments they created as common summative assessments to determine proficiency based on the standards, not the curriculum. Teachers also began placing the students in charge of their learning, developing student-friendly rubrics with aligned learning targets. This created a clear picture for students and outlined exactly what was expected of them.

Finally, teachers began scoring assessments together in order to streamline common expectations and rubrics.

“Our PLC time moved from only looking at assessment scores to having meaningful conversations about creating assessments and teaching strategies to assist all students in obtaining proficiency,” Romero says. “While teams are at different places on the journey of assessment, each team in the building has begun to create common assessments and to collaboratively score assessments in at least one academic area.”


Through their work on assessments with Cassandra, teams were able to pinpoint areas of need specific to each student by each standard. Teachers have developed the knowledge and understanding to assess test quality and create assessments that are aligned with the Common Core Standards. “The process we learned gave me the understanding of what a good assessment actually looks like and what it can measure,” says Romero.

Students have also been given the opportunity to reflect on their achievement through data tracking and learning targets. Over the spring semester, learning increased drastically based on short cycle assessment results and classroom summative assessments. Teachers know exactly where students are regarding their proficiency on the standards now. In the past, student proficiency was based solely on curriculum standards. The focus on assessment inspired teams to become more efficient in their collaboration, creating strong and healthy teams.