Success Story

Mabel Hoggard Math and Science Elementary 
Clark County School District, Las Vegas, NV

2013 DKH Consulting Services, Elementary School of Merit Awardee

Mabel Hoggard Math and Science Elementary has the distinction of being the first elementary magnet school in Las Vegas, Nevada. With the support of a Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant it was converted into a magnet school in 1993 as part of the Clark County School District's desegregation efforts. The school's mission is to prepare students for an increasingly information based society by using a rigorous academic program that focuses on mathematics, science and technology. It was named the top elementary magnet school in the nation by Magnet Schools of America last summer.

Mabel Hoggard Elementary is located in an urban neighborhood of Las Vegas and draws students from a wide variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds living throughout the valley area. The school has a very diverse student body, a major selling point for families who decide to send their children to the school. Free bus transportation is provided to students that live outside Hoggard's two mile radius, attracting students from surrounding suburban areas. The school does extensive outreach in the community by sending out postcards to prospective students, hosting magnet fairs, creating announcements for local news stations, and organizing special school events. There is a high demand to attend Mabel Hoggard and admission is based on a computerized lottery. This year, the school had 900 applications for 100 of its available seats.

Mabel Hoggard has seen dramatic improvement since converting into a magnet school. African American and Hispanic students consistently outperform other schools in the district on yearly state assessments and it has achieved Adequately Yearly Progress (AYP) in all areas since the 2005-2006 school year. It is also classified as a high achieving school and earned a "Five Star" ranking based on the district's School Performance Framework. School leaders and staff attribute this success to its data driven instruction. It uses the Discovery Education Universal Screener to assess student proficiency throughout the year. This helps the school's teachers determine if they need to provide students with additional instruction or enrichment based on their evaluated skill level.

The school's curriculum is fully aligned with the Common Core Standards and the state's science standards. Mabel Hoggard’s philosophy is that students learn best through hands on, inquiry based instruction. Students receive a minimum of 80 minutes of weekly science instruction and spend an additional 60-120 minutes in science lab. Last year, students volunteering in the school's Zookeeper's Club were asked to conduct a food-cost analysis for the 50 animals in its Life Science Lab. Through data collection and analysis they concluded that they could reduce food costs for the animals by growing some of the food in the school's vegetable garden.

Another example of this type of project-based learning can be found in the school's on-site museum. It was created by the school's fourth and fifth graders and uses real artifacts to tell the rich history of Nevada. This required the students to conduct extensive internet research about local artifacts and allowed them to work with real experts who helped them plan and design the museum. This year, students are creating learning activities for others visiting the museum. The school lives by the saying, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” and anything given to the school is recycled for use in their academic program, from snakes for their “real” zoo to animal hides for their museum.

Mabel Hoggard’s curriculum and learning is enriched further through weekly “Explorations” classes that allow students to delve into different topics based on their academic interests such as engineering/robotics, animation, music, drama, or cooking. Students can also learn how to play guitar or keyboard in one of the music labs, which increases their cognitive development. To augment the school’s math and science theme, teachers organize specialized field trips to places like Red Rock Canyon to study geology or Sea World to learn about marine life.

Another key element to the school's success is its strategic use of technology. All classrooms are outfitted with SMART boards that teachers use to create interactive lessons that capture students' attention and accommodate their different learning styles. Teachers also use tools like ActiVote and ActivExpression to periodically poll their students and gauge their comprehension and understanding of different topics. This allows them to adjust their instruction as needed. 

Adapting to the Common Core Standards

Over the last three years, Mabel Hoggard has worked to roll out its Common Core Standards aligned curriculum. This process started with reviewing the resources that could be used to supplement the school’s existing programs and text books. The school’s principal, Dr. Celese Rayford said that much of Hoggard’s K-2 curriculum was already aligned to the standards and just needed minor tweaking. The school’s third-fifth grade curriculum on the other hand needed more adjustment. This required the school to supplement their English/Language Arts and Mathematics programs quite a bit with new learning materials. The school’s writing rubric also need revamping.

Part of the adaption process also required the school’s teachers to work as grade level teams to integrate the standards into their instruction and identify areas that needed “beefing up” to match the required rigor of the standards. They also created shared lesson plans using resources provided on the district’s online “curriculum engine.” Dr. Rayford said that adapting to the new standards is a continuous process rather than one gigantic lunge.  She added that one of her personal goals as an administrator is to continue to research the best Common Core Standards resources that are available and bring them back to the school. She is currently reviewing a new online tool provided by the New York City Department of Education called EngageNY.

It Takes a Village

Mabel Hoggard has an extensive family engagement program and parents are required to volunteer at least four hours a year either assisting teachers in the classroom, attending one of the school's field trips, helping maintain one of the school's gardens or science labs, or presenting during career week. The school hosts an annual Family Math and Science Night where parents have the opportunity to participate in math and science projects alongside their children. Mabel Hoggard also features a Parent Center where families can find educational tools and resources, or participate in training opportunities throughout the school year. 

The school has established strong relationships with different organizations in the community. It has partnered with the Las Vegas Valley Water Authority District to allow students to work with biologists in the field taking water samples and studying natural habitats. This experience is reinforced in the school's licensed nursery where students grow trees to reduce erosion in the city's watershed. It is particularly proud of the work it does with the Foster Grandparents program, which brings senior citizen volunteers into the school to help students with their studies and create cross generational bonds at the same time.

Through a partnership with CB Richard Ellis, Inc. students are assigned to company employees who serve as e-mentors on school projects and in the classroom.  At the beginning of every school year the company also helps solicit school supplies from other businesses in the community and sponsors low-income students in the school during the Christmas holidays.

Posted October 2013