SchoolSparrow considers Azuela Elementary a hidden gem because it only has a 6/10 rating on GreatSchools, but an A (equivalent to a 10/10) on our ranking system.
Members of the SchoolSparrow team were able to sit down and interview Principal Carmen Navarro, the Principal at Azuela Elementary. She has been the principal since 2010, and is doing a wonderful job leading the school alongside her assistant principals Ms. Perez and Dr. Matari.
The goal of this interview was to uncover what exactly makes Azuela Elementary so great. We have seen the data, and we know that Azuela is a great school, but this interview takes us behind the scenes, making it evident why Azuela Elementary is a high quality school in Chicago.
Here is the full profile on Azuela Elementary using information gathered directly from Principal Navarro.
Mariano Azuela Elementary – Chicago, IL
Neighborhood and Demographic Information:
Address: 4707 W. Marquette Rd., Chicago, IL 60629
Azuela Elementary is located near Midway airport, about a 22 minute drive from the Willis Tower. We asked Principal Navarro about the neighborhood and the community the school serves:
“The community is fabulous. The community is family oriented. Some people are first generation, some are second generation. The majority of students are hispanic, but we have some white and African American families as well.”
“The alderman is the greatest alderman in the world. He is responsive to our needs and he understands the vision of excellence in my school.”
Unique Features of the School:
We asked Principal Navarro about what exactly makes the school unique:
“I’ve been here since the beginning. I was fortunate enough to open the new school 10 years ago. I endorse excellence and have high expectations for everyone. Administration, teachers, students, and people at the school all care. You treat the school as your own home. I can call the alderman if I need things. We care about the school.”
There is something to be said about a school that has been under the same leadership since it has opened. That sense of consistency truly makes Azuela Elementary unique. To go along with that though, Principal Navarro was sure to stress how much everyone at the school and in the community cares about the school and the kids who attend. With a staff like that, it is clear to see why Azuela is successful.
About the Staff:
Of course, no school can be great without a great staff. We asked Principal Navarro what Azuela teachers do well, and she was very complimentary. When speaking about these teachers:
“Our teachers care. They are smart, they’re responsible, they collaborate, and they really want to help students and families.”
This is complemented by great administration as well. When speaking about the administration, Principal Navarro said:
“We care. We take it very personal. It is a job and reflection of who we are. I have 2 people on my team and they advocate for teachers and students. We advocate for students and teachers and everything we do is done as if it was for our own kids. If this was a place where people didn’t feel comfortable bringing their own family here, that would mean that we were not there yet as a school.”
The administration also helps coach and develops teachers at the school. We asked Principal Navarro how this is done, and she said:
“I have veteran teachers collaborating with younger teachers and they make their own format. When it comes to administration, they meet with teachers and see what they need and look for specific support. Sometimes the teacher needs more time to practice, then I will determine if they need to see more modeling. Listening and providing resources during remote learning is important.”
Families love the school, and it’s because of that excellence that administration and teachers alike strive for. When the entire staff cares about the students so much, they treat them as if they were their own children. The entire staff also supports each other which is very important and admirable. This contributes to the success of Azuela, because when you have people who care and take it personally, it really puts the school in a good spot.
Community and Parent Engagement:
For many CPS schools, community partners are crucial, and Azuela Elementary is no exception. These partners include the local alderman, Depaul University, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Mexican Museum of Art, and Subway. These partners all put forward resources to work with Azuela. These are just some of the great partners that Azuela Elementary works with. When talking about these partnerships, Principal Navarro stated:
“That is one of biggest things in my school, having partnerships that help our school.”
In addition to that, Azuela Elementary also has very engaged parents. Principal Navarro spoke very highly of them:
“They have the same interest that we have in communication. Both parents and teachers care about the welfare of the kids.”
When speaking about how the school works with parents, Principal Navarro had a lot to say:
“We have different parent committees such as PAC and parent book club where we read bestseller books or books teachers are using in the classroom. We have MTH night, literacy night, and history fairs, and we continuously communicate with the community. I pride myself in being responsive to emails from community members and parents in a short amount of time. We try to ensure that people know we are there as part of the community. I am very big with communicating with the community because parents own homes there.”
When the community, the staff, and the community are all involved, that is a recipe for success. This is just another reason why Azuela is seeing success.
Curriculum is an important part of any school, so we asked Principal Navarro what Azuela Elementary uses for curriculum:
“The curriculum for math is GoMath. Teachers follow with fidelity but can supplement with resources that would benefit the students. For science we use Amplify on laptops and teachers are not rushed to become an expert right away. They become proficient in using the curriculum. As teachers go into their practice they know what is in the curriculum, then they either delete or extend things from it. With language arts, we started a new framework this year. They have autonomy on what to extrapolate and use in their lesson plans. If they need support with materials, we help them with that.”
Pacing of curriculum is also important, and they monitor this pacing at Azuela Elementary to an extent.
“Perhaps we do this the most in math because in math, the kids have to start the following grade with the skills they learned at the previous grade. I don’t monitor formal implementation. My teachers are wonderful and so responsible. The curriculum and resources are good and solid.”
It is important to note how much Principal Navarro trusts the teachers at the school. This is very clear when you look at her policy for monitoring the pacing of curriculum. She has full faith in the teachers, and this allows them to do the job to the best of their ability.
One of the main reasons that Azuela Elementary is a hidden gem is because of its test scores. At SchoolSparrow, we set test score expectations based on the largest contributing factor, which is the family income profile of the school. When adjusted for this parent income factor, the expected standardized test score from Azuela Elementary students is 26.4. This means, on average, schools with a similar income profile to Azuela score 26.4 on average. Azuela students achieve an average score of 48, which is an outstanding 82% better than those expectations.
We asked Principal Navarro what she attributes the high test scores to:
“Our school is big on data, and that is something I check constantly. I have data sessions with teachers and parents. Parents have gone to meetings where they learn about data and they pass information to other parents. We have data folders. The kids know the data and they have a plan on how to improve the skills in the areas that the data shows they need support in. Talking about data and making sure everyone understands data is important. We look at the formal data that we have and we have other data we look into as well.”
Much like SchoolSparrow, Azuela Elementary pays close attention to data as a form of evaluation. This leads to success, because it illuminates strengths and deficiencies that allows educators to tailor lesson plans accordingly. To go along with the data, Principal Navarro also stays on top of what is happening with the students at the school. When Azuela Elementary was forced to go remote due to COVID-19, she commented:
“I visited approximately 60 families because some kids were not engaged or they were not submitting work. So I was constantly following and monitoring and being responsible with following up with kids. That is how I learn about families”
In Principal Navarro’s opinion, these are the things that contribute to the great test scores that come from Azuela Elementary. It is easy to see why they are having so much success.
The median price of homes that recently sold in 60641 is an average of $192,700. The price per square foot is $175, which is lower than the Chicago average of $243. Since Azuela Elementary scores only a 6 out of 10 on GreatSchools, it’d be all too easy to overlook this school, but don’t. It is clear to see that Azuela is one of the best schools in all of Chicago. Azuela Elementary scores a definitive A on SchoolSparrow.
If you are looking for a home in the Azuela attendance boundaries, you can search here on SchoolSparrow.
Please Help Us
More schools like to Azuela need to be recognized as great urban schools with socio-economic and racial diversity that creates a vibrant school community. SchoolSparrow has identified 65 schools in Chicago that should be rated a 9 or better, but every single one is rated 6 and below by the popular ranking sites.
Our mission is to bring more equitable school rankings to all the major real estate search platforms. This way parents can make a home purchase decision with a balanced view of school quality. Please help us by retweeting/sharing our social media campaign when it is launched. When we have enough sign-ups we will try to create some change for more equity in school rankings.