ABQ charter school ranked among the most challenging in the nation

Posted at: 04/16/2013 5:24 PM
Updated at: 04/16/2013 5:26 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

An Albuquerque charter school ranks among the most challenging high schools in the nation in a brand new survey from the Washington Post. But the school’s principal says there’s “nothing magic” about what they do at Albuquerque Institute for Mathematics and Science – AIMS, for short.

There’s nothing fancy at AIMS, not even a cafeteria in its unremarkable building in the UNM research park across University Boulevard from the Isotopes ball field. But the Washington Post ranks the school 42nd out of the tens of thousands of public and private high schools in its annual ranking  of schools that challenge their students. The main thing is that kids in the top schools routinely earn college credits and take college level tests while still in high school.

When Miquela Apodaca graduates from AIMS later this year, she will already be pretty much finished with the credits for her freshman year in college.

“I started taking credits at CNM and then slowly moved on to taking credit courses at UNM,” she told us during a lunchtime break this week. “There are so many different courses I can take. I’ve taken Arabic classes and writing classes and math and science. It’s been a great opportunity.”

Miquela says she will attend New Mexico Tech next fall and plans to major in electrical engineering, with a minor in aerospace.

“I love airplanes. That’s my ambition, to work in that field,” she said.

Miquela is not an unusual case at AIMS. Most students work far above grade level. One tenth-grader is a small boy named Noah. He’s ten years old.

Ten.

“We’re pretty old school,” says principal Kathy Oelsner-Sandoval. “There’s nothing magic. We have one mission, and so I’m not trying to be everything to everybody. I have just one mission – you’re going to do math and science and you’re going to go to college. Every decision in this school is made with that mission in mind.”

AIMS has about 320 students right now, and there is an annual lottery to enroll. Remember, this is a public charter school, paid for by the taxpayers. AIMS has just won permission from the state Public Education Commission to expand to a second campus. When that happens, look for AIMS to be teaching about 720 kids.