Arizona elementary school near border selected as finalist for national award, cash prize

Feb 11, 2024, 7:15 AM

An elementary school in San Luis near the U.S./Mexico border was selected as a finalist for a natio...

An elementary school in San Luis near the U.S./Mexico border was selected as a finalist for a national award and cash prize. (NIET photo)

(NIET photo)

PHOENIX — Desert View Elementary School was a finalist for the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) Founder’s Award, the NIET announced this week.

The school, which is located in San Luis near Arizona’s border with Mexico, won a cash prize of $10,000 for being selected as a finalist. It is one of five schools under consideration for the $50,000 grand prize, which will be announced at the end of February.

Finalists for the award were selected based on “efforts to make instructional excellence the cornerstone of school improvement,” among other factors, according to the NIET.

“For over a decade, we have focused our efforts on following NIET best practices as the foundation for how we grow as educators to ensure that every student entrusted to our care has the opportunity for academic success,” Desert View Principal Meredith Nelson said. “The consistent fidelity has ensured that Desert View Elementary attracts, retains, develops and motivates effective teachers for every classroom.”

Desert View employs NIET tools such as the “Teaching and Learning Standards Rubric, cluster meetings and a shared leadership model through an instructional leadership team,” according to a press release.

Using these tools, the school has improved student success on the Arizona state assessment by 14 points in English language arts testing and 30 points in math over a three-year span while the rest of the state only saw incremental improvements.

“NIET’s systematic approach, including comprehensive support, can empower and elevate educators to new heights in their professional journeys,” Nelson said. “The teachers we have grown showcase the tangible and positive outcomes that result from the thoughtful implementation of NIET’s principles and support mechanisms.”

The elementary school has also maintained an “A” rating since 2013.

“Desert View Elementary’s long investment in educator effectiveness has yielded large dividends in the forms of consistently high student achievement, strong staff retention and a vibrant pipeline of teacher leaders,” NIET founder Lowell Milken said. “The steady guidance of Principal Meredith Nelson and Superintendent Lizette Esparza has propelled Desert View to rank among the very best in Arizona.”

The other schools in contention for the grand prize reside in Tennessee, South Carolina, Louisiana and Texas.

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Arizona elementary school near border selected as finalist for national award, cash prize