Farmington Municipal Schools (FMS) serve 11,000 students across a sprawling 807-square mile service area around Farmington, NM, a midsize city with a population of about 45,000 that is ringed by Native American reservations. During the 2017–18 school year, the district logged more than one million bus miles. Farmington’s students are roughly one-third white, one-third Hispanic, and one-third Native American. About half are eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch. Fifteen languages are spoken by students, a characteristic that district leaders consider a strength. Through the Cognia Accreditation process, FMS leaders discovered that they needed to recommit themselves to a common sense of purpose.
By incorporating practices modeled after the Cognia Accreditation Engagement Review process, and with feedback from Cognia Assessment Services, the district updated its model, the “Farmington Way,” to define clear instructional and leadership expectations for staff. Farmington made a deliberate shift to using a common language to foster understanding and build instructional leadership through coaching and leadership development. Farmington principals are expected to oversee data-driven instruction and inquiry, lead observations, and make intentional efforts to improve their schools’ culture. Using insights from their Cognia Accreditation Engagement Review and a strengthened local assessment program, FMS is refining and reinvigorating its improvement priorities.
Farmington has seen both improved student achievement and national recognition for its efforts. Graduation rates have continued to rise. In 2019, FMS graduation rates reached a 10-year district high of 79.8%, more than 13 points higher than in 2017. Districtwide, Farmington has seen considerable growth in proficiency levels on its annual state assessments: Over the past four years, the percentage of students proficient in English language arts increased from 26 to 43 percent, while the percentage of those proficient in math rose from 17 to 23 percent. By partnering with Cognia, Farmington is moving more quickly and with more focus on its continuous improvement journey. The district now has clarity and a sense of purpose, and all staff are vested in student engagement.