Two schools, two success stories
Learning is second nature to Aimee Linebarger.
A junior at the Albuquerque Institute of Mathematics and Science, or AIMS, Linebarger was one of the school’s few students to earn perfect marks on her Advanced Placement calculus and language arts tests. For her, school is like something she never tires of.
“I like to learn, and so I don’t see it as ‘things to do’,” the 17-year-old said. “I always try to do my best on everything.”
Testing data released by the state Department of Public Education in early September was undoubtedly stark — after all, the data represented the first relatively comprehensive set of scores from the COVID-19 pandemic.
But there were still schools in New Mexico — and students, like Linebarger — that performed strongly as they emerged from the pandemic. AIMS, a charter school affiliated with the University of New Mexico, is one such school.
According to test results provided by the school for students in grades 6-8 and 11, just over 90% of AIMS students were proficient in math and over 91% were proficient in language arts.
Statewide, on average just over 23% of students in these grade levels were proficient in math and about 33% were proficient in language arts.
AIMS principal Kathy Sandoval-Snider said the school’s test scores have a lot to do with how dynamic its students are.
“It takes work – hard work and determination – to keep growing and improving,” she said. “These kids are ambitious.”
AIMS, which has about 350 total students in grades six through 12, offers a rigorous education, which includes requiring students to take AP tests.
But that doesn’t mean some students aren’t struggling. For them, school requires after-school tutoring supervised by teachers but provided by older students.
Daniel Cruz, senior at AIMS, is one such tutor. As a peer, he said he was in a unique position to help young students with their homework.
“I feel like I can bring a fresh perspective just by having worked on the homework,” he said. “I had different strategies and explored different ideas than someone who had taught the material, but not necessarily worked on the material.”
Overall, AIMS has an environment that fosters student collaboration in their studies, said Isaac Yang, a 16-year-old senior who also scored perfect on his AP tests and is a National Merit Scholar semi-finalist. .
“There’s a kind of environment here where you don’t feel like you have to do well, you just do well naturally,” he said. “Because it’s a small school…you feel comfortable going to other people for help or helping other people. And it just helps you learn.
Another school that excelled in the assessments this spring is Hubert Humphrey Elementary School.
According to Albuquerque Public Schools results data, more than 70% of Humphrey’s students in grades three through five were proficient in language arts and nearly 67% were proficient in math. Across New Mexico, just over 34% were proficient in language arts and 26% proficient in math.
Helping students do their best is about both understanding where they’re coming from and assessing where they’re at, said Humphrey principal Paula Miller.
“All students do better – you just have to understand what your community is,” she said. “Every child is different. And you have to be able to understand the nature of each child, you have to know how to read them, you have to understand where their strengths are. »
For third-grader Blake Ferguson, it’s about finding something that makes otherwise dull subjects more fun.
His teacher, Lori Armijo, seemed to have found a sweet spot in worksheets that asked students to solve math problems to reveal clues to an unidentified suspect stealing the dreams of the people of “Mathhattan” – in other words. , “Mystery Math”.
“(We’re) ‘math detectives,’ according to the worksheet,” Ferguson said.
Humphrey is also able to determine which students need help, Miller said. Teachers collaborate weekly and closely monitor the data they have on their students.
In addition to the interim assessments that all schools participate in, Miller said Humphrey conducts short-cycle classroom testing to better understand the curriculum that struggling students need.
It can also include intervention strategies such as “Foundations,” she said, which help students learn the basics of reading — how a letter works, often-used words and other strategies. of understanding.
This type of work, Armijo said, helps students at all levels.
Yet another part of Humphrey’s success, Miller said, is having had a technology teacher before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Being more versed in things like Google apps and typing “tremendously” has helped the transition to online learning during the pandemic for students and educators, said technology professor Carol Garcia.
“It was pretty amazing to see that happen,” she said.
His work to improve students’ technological literacy continued even after the pandemic. One Friday afternoon, for example, she taught a group of eager kindergarten students several essential skills for using a computer, including how to properly use mouse pads and keyboards.
The keys to success
AIMS and Humphrey students also seem to have advantages at home. According to PED data from the start of last school year, only about 7% of AIMS students were considered “economically disadvantaged”. At Humphrey, it was about 10% college students.
But Miller said that’s not always the deciding factor in a student’s success.
“I’ve always seen parents come through for their children, regardless of how poor they are in one way or another,” she said.
Everyone agrees on one thing: teachers are the cornerstone of student success.
“They’re the crucial part,” Miller said. “If (students) believe that their teacher wants them to do their best, knows they can do their best, and helps them do their best, every child will succeed.”
Armijo shifted the credit a bit. She said that although she has high expectations for her students, they often help each other, with students who are a little better at certain subjects offering help to those who may be struggling a little.
“I let them know that they are all capable, each one of them, of succeeding at their level, whatever their level,” she said. “When they need individual help, it doesn’t just come from me, it comes from their peers.”