Weeks ahead of the start of the 2019-2020 school year, the Chamber’s July Board meeting featured presentations from leaders in the state’s charter school movement on the sector as a whole, academic results from some of the leading charter schools in Albuquerque, and policy challenges and opportunities at the state and local levels.
Matt Pahl, Executive Director of Public Charter Schools of New Mexico, noted that while while the total number of charter schools in the state has remained flat since the 2013-2014 school year, the number of students attending charter schools statewide has increased by nearly 30%, an indication both that underperforming schools close even as new charters are approved and that there is a growing constituency of students and parents who value the options a healthy charter sector provides. Pahl also noted that a greater proportion of the top-rated schools under the school grading system are charter schools, and that a far lower percentage of charters rank among the lowest rated schools in the state than do traditional district schools.
On the policy front, discussion centered around the charter moratorium and student enrollment cap proposals that were defeated in the 2019 legislative session, and the importance of making legislators aware of the strong and growing support for high quality charters in Albuquerque and the state as a whole. Other policy issues include the need for charter lease assistance, equity in transportation funding from the state, and the ‘chiseling away’ of state funding for charters through multiple seemingly minor changes in funding policies.
The Board also heard from four top charter leaders in Albuquerque: JoAnn Mitchell from Mission Achievement and Success Charter School (MAS), Jade Rivera from Albuquerque Collegiate, Meaghan Hindman from Altura Preparatory School, and Kathy Sandoval-Snider from the Albuquerque Institute for Mathematics and Science (AIMS).
Each charter leader provided updates on their programs, academic results, and plans for growth and expansion:
- AIMS was rated the #1 high school in the state by US News and World Report, and is currently working toward opening a new campus in Rio Rancho.
- MAS has received the top “A” rating from the New Mexico Public Education Department four years in a row, and was the only school in the 2017-2018 school year to receive an “A” rating with more than two-thirds of the student population classified as economically disadvantaged. MAS aims to operate five schools in Albuquerque and Santa Fe by 2024 and double the number of students from low-income households attending “A” rated schools.
- Albuquerque Collegiate reported that 85% of their students were proficient in reading by the end of their first year (up from 25% at the beginning of the year), and after the Board meeting, the Public Education Department released results showing that Collegiate had the best kindergarten reading results in the state. The school is expanding this year to include second grade, and will continue to add grades over the next several years.
- Altura Preparatory School reported that more than 50% of their students showed growth of more 1.5 grade levels or more in reading, and will expand to include third grade this school year.