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June 2013: Three New Options for Students

Read the superintendent's column that appeared in the Albuquerque Journal June 11.

June 12, 2013

We asked our graduates last month what they will do. They have pretty significant choices to make about the direction their lives will take. Now, we’re asking students just entering high school, “What path do you want to take?”

The more fitting question has grown louder from their families: Where can APS take them?

The answer is, three more places than we could last year. We’re thrilled to be able to offer a dual-credit school, a full-time online school and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme for high school juniors this fall.

  • APS and CNM joined to develop a unique 50-50 dual-credit program that takes place in a 10-classroom building on the CNM campus. APS students—or those from private, charter or home-schools, for that matter—will fill half their schedules with high school classes and the other with college classes. The result is that by high school graduation, students also will have a two-year college degree or certificate.

What’s more, students and families don’t have to pay tuition or book costs. Think of it, two years of college education—free. That’s huge for families prevented from sending children to college by economic barriers.

The state Public Education Department offered the opportunity for APS and CNM to apply for funding to assist in get the school going.

  • The eCADEMY online school will offer a complete curriculum to students who want to take online classes full-time. While they will do most of their work remotely, students will still go to the school for labs and other hands-on instruction, or if they want to meet with a teacher for extra help. Unlike many online courses, there are no tuition or textbook fees charged to students. Again, no economic barrier here.

Freshmen and sophomores can enroll this fall, with remaining grades added the next two years. It’s a great option for students who need scheduling flexibility because they work or they’re ill, or if they just need a different kind of environment.

  • Sandia High becomes the first comprehensive public high school in New Mexico approved to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. Students from around the district are invited to apply for the rigorous, internationally-renowned program when entering their junior year. The two-year program is designed to prepare students for college and beyond. We’re fortunate to have a principal with IB experience to manage it.

Some people think these three new programs are APS’ first steps away from the traditional school setting. Actually, they are three new markings on an old timeline.

Dual-credit is hardly a new concept at APS. The district has had dual-credit agreements with UNM and the old TVI going way back when high schools created the schedules, but students paid tuition out of their own pockets. Now that the state picks up tuition and reimburses the district for books, the program thrives. An incredible 1,553 APS students took dual-credit courses at CNM in 2011-12 alone. That’s like one-third of the district’s entire graduating class in any given year.

Eight other schools of choice, what we used to call alternative schools, have existed more than 35 years, in some cases. They offer unique features from project-based learning to services for pregnant and parenting teens to work-study programs to a home-based component. All involve a small-classroom environment.

The Career Enrichment Center opened in 1977 and offered a variety career and trade-based education options. It’s best known now for its Licensed Practical Nurse program in which 100 percent of the class passes the certification test in its first attempt. Early College Academy has been around for eight years, and was first located on the TVI campus. A considerable waiting list makes the school at CNM necessary.

Nex+Gen Academy opened in 2009 and is already used as a demonstration school for other schools of its kind around the country. The magnet school emphasizes project-based learning and technology in the classroom based on the national New Tech Learning Network.

We’re ready to offer as many choices as we or our community can think of.

But remember, we’re charged with educating all of Albuquerque’s students, not just a couple hundred, as space permits. No student is turned away. Parents have asked, and we continue to answer.

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