Geography and family income can create obstacles to student learning, but ultimately they do not determine success. This belief drives our culture of high expectations at San Cayetano Elementary School, where we refuse to allow our location on a map to determine what our students are capable of achieving.

As an “A” grade public school serving rural families 15 minutes north of the U.S.-Mexico border, the majority of our students rely on free meals provided at school to ensure they have full bellies when they start their day of learning. Conventional wisdom says we should not be a high-performing school, but we know what our students are capable of, and are committed to helping them realize success in school that translates to opportunity in life.

With this vision in mind for all our students, we are seeing tremendous achievement and this year moved from a “B” to an “A” grade designation from the state.

We credit this move in part to Results-Based Funding – a state program that provides additional dollars to schools achieving great student gains and looking to sustain and expand their efforts. Extra money goes to high-performing schools serving low-income populations like San Cayetano. 

Having additional per-pupil dollars available allowed our school to invest in our teachers and further empower them to make the greatest impact on student achievement. We did this in a few ways, looking first and foremost at improving teacher pay. We also made sure our teachers had the classroom supplies they need and did not have to purchase out of their own pockets. Finally, we were able to invest in district-wide professional development.

All of these are efforts we would not have been able to undertake without Results-Based Funding. They all have a direct impact on student learning.

This year the state is considering an expansion of the Results-Based Funding program and I strongly support this move. When students are achieving in schools that many might assume should not be high-achieving schools, we should look for ways to keep that work going and expand it where possible.

We owe every child in Arizona the opportunity to have a great education. For rural students this is an especially important lifeline and a chance for a brighter future.

I’m proud of our students and our teachers at San Cayetano. We are making great gains. We are making a difference in our students’ lives.

(Renteria is principal of San Cayetano Elementary School in Rio Rico.)

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