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Success Story
Farmington Municipal Schools

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Farmington Municipal Schools is located in the city of Farmington, New Mexico, the largest city of San Juan County. Farmington serves as the commercial hub for most of northwestern New Mexico and the Four Corners region. The district is comprised of two preschools, 10 elementary schools, five middle schools, and four high schools.

11,381 Students

  • 48.3% Free or reduced lunch
  • 11.6% English learners

Farmington's Challenge

Before bringing the High Reliability Schools (HRS) framework to Farmington, former deputy superintendent Phil Valdez was hard at work with his leadership team and teachers, designing and implementing an instructional model that showed promise in improving school performance. Then, they discovered Marzano Resources and HRS. After 120 staff members attended the HRS Summit, they returned with a deep understanding of the district’s shared commitment. This inspiration was what they needed to align their work districtwide and operationalize their vision for continuous improvement.


Farmington Schools began utilizing the HRS framework and soon discovered its value in creating common language, systems, and processes that spanned the district from boardroom to classroom. “It was no longer about an individual school doing the work on their own,” explains Valdez. “It really helped us come in line with the four commitments we established, which are the first four levels of the HRS framework.”

One thing Farmington adopted when they returned from their first summit was implementing the framework through their instructional focus team. The team worked with each school, identifying lagging indicators and ranking them within an established rubric. Then, they used that data to design a growth model. As a result, all Farmington schools are now HRS Level 1 certified, and three schools have achieved Level 2 certification.

Farmington leaders have also implemented a self-evaluation system to which all staff have committed. “First the board committed to it,” says superintendent Dr. Eugene Schmidt. “I met with the board and now it’s become my evaluation. I met with 51 of my senior leadership and it’s now their evaluation. Nobody fell out of their chair. Everyone said yes. If we’re going to align to the framework, we need to hold ourselves accountable.”

“These achievements inspire us to go for more growth,” Valdez reflects. “Why this framework? It makes the work a lot easier. We look at our data and identify where we need to target improvement. It gives us a great road map of how to achieve more for our students.”

“When we sent out the call for who might be interested in attending the High Reliability Schools Summit, a giant number of staff self-selected to do this outside of contract time. The learning was important enough to them that they were willing to trade their summer vacation for a chance to learn from the best.”

Dr. Eugene Schmidt, superintendent


Before beginning this school improvement work, not one Farmington school achieved Adequate Yearly Progress. Now, all schools earn A, B, or C grades. Farmington continues to lead the state in large school district student achievement. “We are doing the right work, and we have a continuous improvement mindset,” Valdez shares.

In addition, student growth has been equitable across demographic groups. Valdez adds, “We see not only personal growth but proficiency growth in subgroups across the district.” This growth has manifested in academic achievement, improved attendance, reduced discipline, and increased graduation rates. Farmington is now above the national average for graduation rates in three of their four high schools.

“As a long-range trend, this is promising because, importantly, teacher craft and school principal craft has improved,” says Schmidt. “When you invest in systems, results matter. That has become the motivating force in Farmington. People actually see the impact of the HRS framework. Before, we never had a National Blue Ribbon School. Now we do. We have high schools that are ranked in America’s Best Schools.”

Four-Year Graduation Rate Prior to Implementation Through First Three Years

Farmington Municipal Schools increased their graduation rate 16.9 percent in three years of work with HRS.

Why High Reliability Schools?

Dr. Marzano’s vision for K–12 education is simple: the vast majority of schools can be highly effective in promoting student learning. To show how, he created the Marzano High Reliability Schools framework. This framework, based on 40 years of educational research, defines five progressive levels of performance that a school must master to become a high reliability school—where all students learn the content and skills they need for success in college, careers, and beyond.