Over the years, whenever the issue of education reform and achievement is raised, foaming-at-the-mouth NM reform advocates, such as the Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board, breathlessly (maybe because of all the foam in their mouth) spew the example of AIMS (Albuquerque Institute of Math & Science).
Here’s just one example, from 2014, of the Journal Board in full foamy laudatory expectoration:
It’s No. 48 on The Washington Post’s 2014 list of most challenging high schools – public and private.
It’s in the top 25 percent of Newsweek’s 2014 top 2,000 schools in the country.
It’s a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School designated by the U.S. Department of Education.
It received an “A” from the New Mexico Department of Education in 2012 and 2013.
More than 94 percent of its students are proficient in reading and math, with no achievement gap.
That recognition and achievements – and more importantly, that level of education – are what New Mexico students, parents, employers, taxpayers and leaders have been seeking for years.
Oh, and it’s all absolutely free to any 6-12 public school student in New Mexico who applies and wins admission through a lottery.
We’re talking about the Albuquerque Institute for Mathematics and Science charter school.
Wow! Some place! And all of the above is true. But let us again look at this year’s Legislative Education Study Committee Report to the Legislature to go a bit deeper into discovering why AIMS is so very great and (boo! hiss!) schools in APS are so very bad.
First, let’s confirm the great and the bad via the utterly unquestionable Public Education Department “School Grades” for AIMS versus, to pick a school, Albuquerque High School. AHS is picked because your humble blogger knows it fairly well, and, more importantly, it shows up on the same page of the table:
Actually, AHS hangs in there pretty well, keeping at least a “C” over the years, while AIMS is pristine in its “A-ness” (yes, that “A” could be used to form other words, but this isn’t that kind of blog).
So why is AIMS so great and AHS relatively mediocre, or worse? Here are two other tables available in the LESC report. The first is the number and percentage of Gifted and Special Education students in AIMS v. APS overall. The second is the number/percentage of English Language Learners:
Yes, you are correct in discerning that AIMS has one Special Education student and 158 Gifted students. That’s .3% SpEd and 44% Gifted of their 357 student population. And yes, AIMS has one English Language Learner (ELL), accounting for .3%, again, of the school’s student population.
One of each.
Noting the APS figures, numbers obviously more in line with those in the overall student population, you have to wonder how the Journal Editorial Board’s gush that a AIMS student “wins admission through a lottery” is completely accurate. How do they rig a lottery in a way that only one SpEd and one ELL kid is at the school? And how do they wind up with almost half of the school identified as “*Gifted”?
And while Special Education and English Language Learners are, thankfully, provided with the best possible education in all schools, and are, again thankfully, included in the discussion for student growth and achievement, it’s simply the case that a school’s teaching capacity and resource allocation is vastly different when you have .3% SpEd and ELL students versus averages of 15.7% and 16.3%. AIMS gets by not having to provide services and resources fundamental to almost every other school in the city, state and nation.
So, to conclude, you might be a bit puzzled, as am I, when you look at the 2015-2016 “school grade” report for AIMS from PED. Take a gander and see if you’re as confused as me:
Huh? What? So AIMS comparatively ranks 2nd or 3rd in both ELL and “Student with Disabilities,” i.e., Special Education student(s) when it only has one student in each category?
Having written about AIMS gaming the system before, Better Burque brings this up again now because: A. This LESC report is so very good and so very damning; B. We’re in a legislative session, one where funding dollars are being fought over like rice grains in a Mumbai slum. “Evidence” such as that spewed about AIMS is used by reformers to keep per-student charter school funding in New Mexico relatively, and unfairly, high.
Something to think about both as we wind down this funding knife-fight of a session, and look ahead toward correcting these funding disparities in future years.
*It’s important to remember that Gifted students are, uniquely, considered Special Education kids, in terms of funding, in New Mexico. Thus, schools like AIMS with 44% gifted population receive significant Special Education dollars; by my napkin calculation about $440,000 per school year.