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Charters among top in U.S.

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HEGWER Bruce 2012This has been a landmark year for charter schools in New Mexico. Charter schools in this state continue to excel at providing high-quality educational opportunities for students. This is evidenced by the numerous national and state awards and recognitions that our charters receive. Just a few examples of the recognition that New Mexico charters have received this year:

  • U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has recognized Albuquerque Institute of Math & Science (AIMS) at UNM charter school as a National Blue Ribbon School for 2013. AIMS was also recognized by the Washington Post, ranking 45th in the nation, as one of the most challenging high schools;
  • The Moreno Valley High School of Angel Fire has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best high schools in the nation. It is the recipient of a gold medal ranking;
  • School of Dreams Academy in Los Lunas was one of 15 high school programs nationwide that was selected by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to compete in the prestigious Lemelson InvenTeam Competition.
  • Gordon Bernell Charter School in Albuquerque was recently featured on National Public Radio in a segment entitled “Diplomas Behind Bars.”
  • ACE Leadership and Health Leadership high schools were recognized recently for their partnerships with businesses and their work on the use of performance assessments with students;
  • Albuquerque Sign Language Academy is the first (and only) state-certified American Sign Language-English bilingual school in the nation, serving deaf, hard of hearing and hearing children through a dual language program.

Again, these are only a few examples of the quality work being done by charter schools in our state. These schools demonstrate what can be achieved with a few dedicated people who have great passion and a vision for a better educational system. This same type of effort is being put forth in nearly every charter school.

While only 10 percent of New Mexico’s public schools are charters, under our new school grading system, three out of our state’s top 10 schools were charters. Over 50 percent of the charters received either an “A” or a “B” on their evaluation.

I was recently asked, “What do we have to do make a difference in education in New Mexico?” My answer was to look at what is happening in many of our charter schools. There has been much discussion about educational reform, testing, teacher evaluation, interventions and remediation. Much of it has not been pleasant. This is where charter schools stand out. Charter leaders and pioneers in the area of school reform are at the forefront of educational innovations.

You don’t hear or see charter school folks in the papers or on the news complaining and arguing about changes. That is because charters are all about change. Charters are incubators where changes are easily tried and tested. Charter schools, by design, have the ability to quickly adapt to new ideas and to modify good practices to make them better.

Our mission at the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools is to support the growth of quality charter schools. The operative word here is “quality.” To that end, we applaud the efforts of the charter schools mentioned above that represent the quality of charter schools we have in our state.

Parents, students and community members can learn more about charter schools and other education options, at the Annual School Choice Fair sponsored by the charter school coalition on Feb. 3. It will be held at the Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid from 6 to 8 pm. Many charters will have tables set up with information about their schools. APS magnet schools have been invited to participate also. This is a wonderful opportunity for people to learn about the educational options available.

From the N.M. Coalition for Charter Schools, thanks everyone for a great year and best wishes for a happy holiday.

Bruce Hegwer, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools, writes a monthly column for the Journal.

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