If “seeking first to understand” is a habit for effectiveness, Ruby’s work is multi-purpose. While many bemoan the status quo or seem overwhelmed, her work offers viable solutions and challenges our thinking. The model provides insights about our perceptions and pushes our “buttons.” We have found that Ruby’s work—as a catalyst for open dialogue—resonates with community leaders from all sectors, including education, business, human services, and the faith community. It skillfully offers practical strategies for members of all economic classes to build social capital and human capacity—for ourselves and our communities. Ruby’s work has become an integral part of our work.

—Dr. Jan Young, Executive Director
Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Inc., Memphis, TN


What this work does in the school improvement area is bring in the support that people really need. I’ve watched schools go from 5% of their eighth-grade mathematics students passing the state assessment to 60% of their students passing. That’s what people want, and that’s what this work does.

I’ve had a lot of experience using the school improvement process both as an outside consultant and within a district in which I’ve worked. And I can say without a doubt that every school I’ve worked with has improved no less than 20% within the first year. That’s amazing to me, and in the school district where I recently worked the high school-level science exit scores have gone from 60% passing to 87% passing, which is phenomenal. What does that mean? That means kids have a choice about what they do in life. They can’t graduate from high school if that haven’t passed that exit-level assessment. So when they’re passing that assessment they have a choice about what they’ll be doing with their future.

—Shelley Rex, Director of Elementary Humanities, Ret.
Spring Independent School District, Spring, TX
aha! Process Math Consultant


The first year that we implemented the aha! process using A Framework for Understanding Poverty, we saw a 23% increase in academic achievement using the principles from the process.

This training empowered me as an administrator. I’ve been able to communicate the vision of the aha! process and the framework of understanding poverty. It fits with the person that I am so it has resonated far beyond me to my fellow administrators, to my team, as well as to school leaders who are around me. We all see the vision and the value of using the aha! process—what it can do for students, as well as for individual teachers.

—Kenneth Fleming, Principal
Glendale Elementary School District, Grades 4–8, Glendale, AZ


I would say out of the 12 tests we gave, 11 were at least 20 points up—to 60 or 70 points higher than the national norm. So yes, I think a lot of this does make an improvement. But I think it’s a team effort with the teachers, the students, the administration and hopefully our high expectations for knowing all students can do it.

I would say probably 75–80% of the student body moved up what we call a quadrant. A quadrant is starting from red up to blue and we had probably 75–85% move from red, which is below proficiency to blue, which is advanced, and there are four quadrants. So yes, I’d say about 75% of our students are moving.

—Maureen di Stasio, Middle School Principal
Widefield School District No. 3, Colorado Springs, CO


It is phenomenal the way it has improved our building, specifically, but all of the consortium schools. It makes a difference for an individual teacher, but it can also transform a building. It is a different way of thinking, which influences your planning and influences the data that you will acquire and then use for that planning.

—Margaret O’Connor-Campbell
Campus Director at Archdiocese of Indianapolis, IN


We had been into this process of implementing these processes and strategies for about three years [in Huntsville, TX]. And our 100th anniversary was a big year for us. We received 21 gold achievement awards from the Texas Education Agency that year, and those are given for either increases in student achievement or increases in students’ performance at the commended level—not just those who pass the exam but those who score in the A+ range, for example.

In third-grade math we had a 65% increase in students performing at the commended level. In fourth-grade math a 54% increase. Fifth-grade math a 153% increase. Sixth-grade math a 73% increase. Seventh-grade math a 90% increase. Eighth-grade math a 180% increase. Eighth-grade science a 33% increase. And the exit-level high school science—I’m not kidding—a 2500% increase in students scoring at the commended level. Now that was in 2007–08. That was our record-breaking year. We broke 13 records the next year, and we broke them again the next year. I’m very proud of those achievements.

—Dr. Richard Montgomery, Superintendent
Star City School District, Star City, AR, and Former Superintendent of Schools, Huntsville Independent School District, Huntsville, TX


I think true educators want to continue their learning, and when they find ways where they can work together, where they can collaborate and it benefits kids, and where they can see the payoff for it, that does nothing but inspire you and motivate you to work a little harder. And I think that that’s one of the things this work does.

What I like about Ruby’s work is she always tries to make it easier for teachers to use than not. Teachers don’t have a lot of extra time, so we’ve got to have strategies that are high impact that are going to give us a high payoff. And the strategies in the 9 processes … I always say to people that they’re not rocket science, but you get your payoff through your collaboration. You get your payoff through the consistency through which you implement them. You get your payoff over time when you keep refining those processes.

—Dr. Donna Magee, Former Vice President of  Educational Services
aha! Process, Highlands, TX


If you’re a principal and you’re looking for something to change the morale, to improve student achievement, and to improve student discipline in your school, then use the framework process because we were successful with it. I continue to use it with my faculty, and it’s worked for us.

We use the 15 behaviors of mutual respect; teachers bought into that and had an understanding and implemented that with the students. It changed students’ attitudes, and it helped them become more focused and understand their own behavior, as well as what they were trying to accomplish in the classroom.

What we did was we looked at each student’s state test scores, and then we grouped them by the ones who did not meet standards, the ones who met standards, and the ones who exceeded standards. And we really, really tried with the framework to move the students who did not meet the state standards into at least meeting standards, and we were very successful with it. By using this, our scores in math and reading were always in the 90th percentile.

—Lura Reed, Principal
Muscogee County School District, Columbus, GA


I use mental models through my teaching and everyday subjects I do in my classroom. This is a way for students to have some kind of mental picture in their head of how we use some things, and students are able to make some real-life connections.

I always tell my students that it doesn’t matter where you live or your background or what you don’t have or have, that they have what it takes, and it’s just to do what they can. And I always tell my students that they have a brain, and that’s all they need to be successful, and I always share my personal experience with them as well. And I make that connection with them, and I always ask them to tell me what they’re going to do when they grow up. I ask them to come and see me when they become a professional in whatever they choose to be because I want them to know that I believe in them—and I think that that’s where the success is for them too. And I also think that’s what has made us exemplary.

—Rosie Flores, Teacher
Pearland Elementary School, Pearland, TX


I think I’m a good teacher [after attending all the trainings]. I think my kids are more successful, and I think my teachers are more successful because I can embed all those strategies in there. And it’s become so second nature that I can look at a task now and tell you what input processes are needed to do that and what strategies I need to embed in order for the kids who don’t have those automatically to be able to do them.

One year my fourth-grade team came for a grade-level meeting, and they brought their benchmark assessments for math—and the kids had missed translations, reflections, and rotations, and they were also missing scanning in on their Scantron (they were having the right answer in the booklet but were coloring in the wrong bubbles on their Scantrons)—and I said, Well, that’s because it’s input processes—they’re missing identifying data in space. So when we started intentionally implementing those strategies to help the kids acquire that, then we started seeing huge, huge differences in mathematics and huge differences indirectly in language arts because they were able to track better.

—Karen Jensen
District Instructional Specialist, Killeen Independent School District, Killeen, TX


In Oklahoma we have an AYP score of 0–1500, and my school, which is large (60% Hispanic, 100% free and reduced lunches) “shouldn’t” be performing as well as it does. Our AYP is usually around 1100–1200. Our ELL students, which are 60% of our population, are scoring just as well as any other learners, and we take that to mean we’re being successful with all the methods that we have.

—Judy Feary, Principal
Tulsa Public Schools, Tulsa, OK


When we academic coaches come in with the 9 processes [School Improvement] into a school, the first thing that I notice is that the teachers stop and understand the data. They see that Johnny counts more than one time. They become more interested in one student or two students who are in their class because they realize that could be the one who keeps their percentages down or puts them on school improvement or keeps them from being recognized—or whatever the gauge is in that state. When we know who to work with, then it makes our job so much easier. Then we build that relationship, never give up, and the success stories happen.

Ruby Payne’s work benefits the veteran teacher in that no child is left out because we recognize every child and where every child is in the testing scheme. We now realize how many times they count, we understand which standards or which objectives they’re not strong in, and every child is now identified. It benefits the brand-new teachers in that it gives them the test background to be able to have their students be successful.

—Sally Black, Math Teacher, Advanced Placement AB and BC Calculus, Geometry
Goose Creek Memorial High School, Baytown, TX
aha! Process Math Consultant


It is transformative. I believe strongly in the work. I know personally—and with my 10 years of experience as a consultant—how it’s changed teachers and staff to include custodial all the way through to administrative. For students, it’s a case of making minor changes in some cases, to have an enormous impact on a student’s life—to go from being shut off, isolated, not participating at all to engaged, inquisitive, inquiring, participating in a class and extending that beyond the class to where that student is now part of the community.

—Connie Abernathy
Social Studies Curriculum Leader for Hampton City Schools, Ret., Hampton, VA
aha! Process Consultant


The Hurst-Bedford high schools are recognized, and in the state of Texas that’s the second highest achievement [level]. We are recognized because of the work we do with data and our relationship piece with students.

HEB is a district of 25+ schools. Of those we have 19 elementaries, five junior highs, two high schools, and an alternative high school, and then we have an alternative elementary campus as well. We are a recognized district in Texas, and both our high schools are recognized, which is a phenomenal achievement in our area. And the only way we’d ever arrive with that is by having a vertical, aligned process that works because I believe from pre-K we are preparing our children for college readiness or career readiness. And so it’s an investment by everybody. Of our elementary campuses, we had 16 exemplary campuses out of the 19. The other two are recognized, and we had only one that was what we call acceptable, and that was by two students that we missed it. All our junior highs are exemplary, and we actually have two blue-ribbon schools now that are recognized, and they were honored in Washington, DC.

—Karen Miller, Director of Continuous Improvementand Professional Development
Hurst-Bedford Independent School District
Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX


Time, patience, consistency with strategies, the structure of our school day, and our continuous working relationship with aha! Process have taken us to higher heights.

—Lenisha Broadway
Former Principal, Ridgeroad Middle Charter School
North Little Rock, AR


Many of our teachers are first-generation college graduates, and so they were some of the first ones out of that poverty area and it really hit home to them (a) what they had accomplished and (b) the power they had to help other children have that future story and to have those goals and dreams. So it was a very powerful day. It has already rippled through the district, and the best thing is that they want more information. It’s not us forcing information onto them. They are clamoring for us to tell them more.

—Linda Payne
Director of Professional Development in Testing for Cabot Public Schools, Cabot, AR