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          Front Page




APS Chief Criticizes Think Tank Report

By Andrea Schoellkopf
Journal Staff Writer
          Albuquerque schools Superintendent Winston Brooks, disturbed by a Think New Mexico report calling for smaller schools, says the focus should instead be on smaller classes.
        "Their research has shown no academic improvement in a high school that has 400 versus a high school that has 2,000," Brooks said Monday.
        In a presentation at Hoover Middle School library, Brooks referenced that report as well as the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which calls for high schools no larger than 400 students.
        "Having smaller schools is not financially feasible," Brooks said, adding that there would be a need for more principals and assistant principals. He cited the successful Eldorado football team and ROTC programs as items that would suffer if the 2,000-student school were broken up into smaller schools.
        Brooks concedes that, when it comes to dropouts and truancy, smaller charter schools like South Valley Academy have an advantage over neighboring Rio Grande High.
        "Everybody typically knows everybody else," he said. "You've got to balance all the good things with reality."
        Think New Mexico, which was behind the push for full-day kindergarten, announced plans earlier this month to lobby for smaller schools, saying larger schools "breed alienation and dropouts." The organization wants the state to stop offering matching construction funds to schools exceeding the size limit and it wants at-risk high schools to start a "school within a school" design to personalize classes.
        The report wants the state to allow no more than 225 students per grade for high schools, 120 students per grade for middle schools and 60 students per grade for elementary.
        The group also recommends that schools be built without performing arts centers, libraries and gymnasiums and instead use the Internet and other community resources as a cost-saving measure.
        APS has estimated it would take an additional 10 to 15 high schools to meet the Think New Mexico requirements.