The academic program at AIMS@UNM challenges both analytical and creative thinking.
With the changes to the curriculum made in 2006, the school has continuously improved, both vertically and horizontally (by content and by students). Over the past two years, the school has implemented a practice of utilizing both internal and external assessments to inform curriculum and drive instruction. In addition to the NMSBA (New Mexico Standards Based Assessment), the school also administers the “ Plan”,” Compass”, “ACT” exams, and all high school students are required to take AP classes and exams in Literature, English, U.S. History, World History and Calculus.
During the 2009-2010 school year, the goal of the school was extensive professional development of staff to design formative assessments in the core areas of math, science, language arts and social studies at all grade levels. These teacher-crafted assessments allowed teachers to continue to build upon their knowledge with respect to analyzing their in-class formative assessments (Figure 1). Subsequently, utilization of this information has resulted in a consistent increase in yearly student performance on the NMSBA.
For 2011-2012, the Administration disaggregated three years’ worth of student test scores to teachers; by teacher and student. This has allowed the school to identify highly effective teachers in the classroom, as well as teachers who have little or even negative effect on student performance, and facilitate corrective measures. Over the years, performance has also increased within subgroups, with the achievement gap becoming less profound over time. A three-year trend for the class of 2014 demonstrates gains made across all ethnicities and gender groups in math, science and reading. In some cases, proficiency is approaching 100%.
Dedicated faculty and small class sizes allow for plenty of one-on-one personal attention.
An essential aspect of the AIMS@UNM program that has allowed the campus to maintain a small-school feel is the Advisory program. Put in place by the current Administration, the Albuquerque Institute for Mathematics and Science @UNM incorporates advisory, discipline and responsibility for one’s own education through the “House” system. Students are arranged longitudinally, grades six through twelve in “Houses”; each named for a historical “Archer”. Houses are led by a “senior of distinction” who has demonstrated the leadership skills necessary to advise their younger classmates as they move up through the AIMS program. Houses meet for 20 minutes each day, and also provide the structure for the “Student Success Seminars” at the end of the day. Competitions between “Houses” incorporate project-based learning and also provide a venue for “House Pride." Additionally, Houses design their own “uniforms”, lore, culture and traditions, thereby giving their House community a common language and customs.