Creating and Sustaining Successful K–8 Magnet
September 2008
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Mabel Hoggard Math and Science Magnet School
Las Vegas


Selected Characteristics of Magnet School and Host Districta
Magnet School: Mabel Hoggard Host District: Clark County
Year Established as Magnet 1993 Population Typeb Large Suburb
Theme Math and Science Size 7,910 square miles
Grades K-5 MSAPc Funded Funded: FY 1993-97; 2001-06
Enrollment 412 students Enrollment 12,370 magnet students out of 291,510 total
Student Ethnicity 35% Hispanic
34% African-American
20% White
10% Asian
2% Native American
Student Ethnicity
(grades 1-5)
40% Hispanic
14% African-American
37% White
8% Asian
1% Native American
Special Education 11% Special Education 10%
Free or Reduced-price Lunch 44% Free or Reduced-price Lunch 41%
English Language Learners 23% English Language Learners 24%

a All data self-reported by school or district for school year 2006-07.
b From National Center for Education Statistics Common Core of Data for the school year 2005-06,
c Magnet Schools Assistance program

In a combined kindergarten and grade 1 science lab at Mabel Hoggard Math and Science Magnet School, students are abuzz during an activity on force, gravity, and rotation. Small teams make propellers from paper and straw, then experiment by dropping the propellers to see how they work. Some fall straight to the floor; others float and swirl. The teacher helps individual students, reminding the class that if the propeller doesn't work to "make a change and see what happens," and later leads a discussion about student observations and theories, making connections to other objects that rotate around an axis. Here and throughout the school, children learn higher-level mathematics and science concepts through hands-on, inquiry-based projects.

Hoggard's mission is to prepare its diverse student body for life in an increasingly information-based society by using a rigorous academic program that emphasizes mathematics, science, and technology. Students travel from all corners of expansive Clark County to attend the school. "We are preparing these students to go to college," a fifth-grade teacher observes, "and to take on careers and jobs that may not exist yet."

Founding and Early Challenges

Converting Hoggard into a K-5 magnet school was part of Clark County's efforts to desegregate its schools. The plan was to serve African-American neighborhoods, while also attracting affluent, white students to attend the inner-city schools. Founding principal Bill Evans had to recruit heavily the first year, convincing students in the affluent Green Valley to attend Hoggard on the promise of an advanced curriculum and additional resources via funding from the federal Magnet Schools Assistance program (MSAP). And as the local community saw buses of white, middle class students driving up to Hoggard, they became curious about just what was happening inside. Today Hoggard is one of the few schools in the district that met adequate yearly progress (AYP) in 2006 under No Child Left Behind. The achievement gap is narrowing, and its third- and fifth-graders outperformed their district counterparts on statewide assessments in 2006-07.

Implementing a Successful Program

Hoggard maintains three science labs and includes live animal habitats and a planetarium. Teachers infuse the enhanced mathematics and science program into core classroom curricula, along with reading, writing, and spelling. The goal is to have students master higher-level mathematics and science concepts through an approach to instruction that is based, as one veteran teacher explains, on "getting kids to love and understand" what they are learning.

Typical classroom talk involves finding multiple solutions, defending a belief, and asking good questions to investigate. In an advanced mathematics class for fifth-graders, for example, a student uses the classroom's overhead projector to demonstrate his method of finding the volume of a prism. Complimenting the student's answer as he returns to his seat, the teacher adds, "He showed us one way to solve the problem. Can anyone else show a different way?" Another student goes to the projector to demonstrate an alternative solution, and soon the class is engaged in rich discussion.

Cooperative learning is built into lessons, and whether students are dissecting a sheep's eyeball, testing paper airplanes, or researching the discoveries of famous scientists, they are learning to work in groups, share ideas, and apply their learning. The curriculum spirals—as students progress through the grade levels, they take on more complex tasks in the same topical areas introduced in lower grades. For example, students in third grade learn about robotics by building a basic model robot. In fifth grade, they are challenged to use computer programming languages to add controls and functions to their machines.

Hoggard's program attracts a wide range of students, including some who are particularly gifted in mathematics and science, some with underdeveloped social skills, and others who have struggled in other schools. Given the range of academic abilities, backgrounds, and social experiences of Hoggard students, staff must focus on meeting the needs of a diverse population.

Conversations with community members reveal a deep sense of family at Hoggard. The opportunity for students of all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds to interact is a selling point for parents, convincing many to make a long commute to the school. The inclusive culture appeals to teachers, too. One of them remembers walking up to the school for her interview and hearing Spanish-speaking moms next to English-speaking children: "And the whole campus looked like the world, and that felt really right to me."

The school consistently outperforms the district on state assessment proficiency rates for African-American and Hispanic subgroups. Staff members say performance is high because they use data to drive instruction. In 2005, the only year Hoggard did not make AYP, grade-level teams used school data to adjust mathematics instruction and create more support for struggling students. They received funding under state Senate Bill 404 for mathematics tutorial supplies, and, the following year, the percentage of African-American students scoring proficient in math rose from 26 percent to 53 percent.

Under current principal Celese Rayford's leadership, a culture of professionalism continues as teachers develop individual expertise and skills to share within and across grade levels. As an instructional leader, Rayford does frequent walk-throughs— slipping into classrooms quietly. Her job, she says, requires her to stay close to the day-to-day realities. All teachers at Hoggard are required to submit their lesson plans to her for review and approval and to discuss their ideas and plans with her. Rayford's involvement in her teachers' work lays the groundwork for meaningful teacher evaluations that build teacher capacity. Teachers describe feeling both empowered and challenged by the principal.

Establishing Systems for Sustainability

While Hoggard's leaders have taken pains to ensure smooth successions from one principal to the next, the district's ongoing support has been crucial. In addition to providing Hoggard's start-up funds to become a magnet school, the district pays for professional development necessary to raise performance. The district has recently broadened its vision for magnet schools to include an explicit goal of leading students to college. To support this goal, the district has combined magnet, career and technology, and other empowerment initiatives into a single system that gives schools autonomy over their budgets and curriculum. The organizational structure is intended to help magnet schools collaborate with each other and identify resources they uniquely need. A volunteer Partnership Advisory Council supports the restructured district, enlisting experts, district staff, and community members to help with school choice policy issues, themes, and implementation challenges.

Evans' successor, principal Jimmie Chapman, also drew in outside resources and partners to provide or support professional development for teachers. Specifically, he made connections with researchers and expert practitioners in two key programs to bring National Science Foundation-sponsored professional development through the MASE (Math and Science Enhancement) program and updated reading training.

Current principal Rayford also believes in reaching out to forge relationships with outside groups. In particular, she makes an effort to stay connected to local council members in order to capitalize on opportunities for recognition, partnerships, and funding. She lets one councilman use the school for events and keeps in touch so that Hoggard is on top of his mind when opportunities for schools arise. This helped connect the school to the NBA Cares program during the NBA All-Star Game held in Las Vegas in 2007, which brought in over $140,000 in funds for the school's library, computer center, and other facilities.

Other outside help comes from scientists and mathematicians who volunteer at the school. In one case, a parent volunteer even joined staff. A biologist by training, she became interested in working at the school after observing her child's experiences. She went on to earn her teaching certificate and is now teaching second grade at Hoggard. She founded the popular life sciences lab, now run by her students, which houses a variety of animals in their simulated natural environments and provides Hoggard with real-world resources to teach biology and ecology.

Hoggard's staff would like to raise even greater public awareness of the school and its students by participating in more national science and mathematics competitions. Continuing to market and promote the school for its mathematics and science rigor will help solidify the program and make it more likely to receive continued support from the community and other partners. Principal Rayford says the school's long-term goal is to continually improve the rigor of its curriculum along with aligning with the Nevada state standards, so that test scores will stay on the rise.

Sustaining Success at Mabel Hoggard Math and Science Magnet School: Milestones

Building on the efforts of founder Bill Evans, Hoggard's leaders have contributed to the sustained success of the magnet. Attention to succession planning and leadership transitions have resulted in continuous improvement and achievements throughout three principals' tenures.


Hoggard becomes Las Vegas' first magnet through federal Magnet Schools Assistance program (MSAP) funding and support from Kay Carl, the associate superintendent who recruits Bill Evans as principal.

Mathematics and science theme selected. Evans plans with advisory committee and support of local organizations like the local water district. Theme implemented primarily through specialized lab period taught by magnet coordinator.

Inner-city neighborhood remains skeptical about magnet conversion. Evans draws students from around the county to fill seats.

Jimmie Chapman is recruited as part of succession plan following Evan's retirement.


Chapman leads staff through accreditation process to strengthen professional learning community. School schedule reorganized to create collaboration time for teachers. Focus on cross-grade-level alignment and curriculum mapping. Accreditation completed in 2004.

Hoggard begins renovation construction under local bond measure. Chapman negotiates to direct funds to build science labs.

Teachers receive training through a project funded by the National Science Foundation. Mathematics and science integrated into general curriculum and special labs.

Chapman retires in March 2005 to bring on Celese Rayford. He plans for an early transition so that she can establish credibility and hire new staff if necessary.


Professional development used to develop shared practices for math and science instruction.

Staff work with the district to bring full-day kindergarten to Hoggard.

Rayford secures additional funding through grants. A Parents as Learning Supports grant helps fund math education; a Nevada legislative grant funds math tutorial, full-time math and computer support positions with passage of Senate Bill 404; and NBA Cares brings $140K for library, computer center, and outdoor sensory garden.

Hoggard receives Magnet School of Excellence Award from the Magnet Schools of America.


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Last Modified: 09/28/2009