U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently recognized the Albuquerque Institute of Math & Science at UNM Charter School (AIMS@UNM), as one of 12 charter schools nationwide as a National Blue Ribbon School for 2013 based on its overall excellence and or progress in improving student academic achievement.

"Excellence in education matters and we should honor the schools that are leading the way to prepare students for success in college and careers," Sec. Duncan said. "National Blue Ribbon schools represent examples of educational excellence, and their work reflects the belief that every child in America deserves a world-class education."

Overall, the Department will honor the 236 public and 50 private schools at a recognition ceremony on Nov. 18-19 in Washington, D.C. In its 31-year history, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed this coveted award on nearly 7,500 of America's schools.

“Of course it’s nice to be recognized, but for us it means moving into the national arena,” AIMS Director Kathy Sandoval-Snider said.  “Educators, both administrators and teachers, are rarely given the ball and told to run!  We did, that's what Charter schools do, but always in the back of your head you wonder if you know what you're doing.  To be one of 12 Charters in the nation to be recognized, and the first charter in the state....I think we scored a touchdown.”

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program award recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students either achieve very high learning standards or are making notable improvements toward those standards. Founded in 1982, the U. S. Department of Education has sought out and celebrated great American schools. The National Blue Ribbon School award affirms the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in outstanding schools.

The program recognizes schools in one of two performance categories. The first category is "Exemplary High Performing," in which schools are recognized among their state's highest performing schools, as measured by state assessments or nationally-normed tests. The second category is "Exemplary Improving," in which schools that have at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds demonstrate the most progress in improving student achievement levels as measured by state assessments or nationally-normed tests.

AIMS is committed to preparing its students, grades six thru 12, for college, community, and beyond through a rigorous focus on math and science and an emphasis on global participation. AIMS@UNM has created a highly structured school environment that sets high academic and behavioral expectations for its students. With an emphasis on mathematics and science, and a requirement for “Critical Language” study, the school’s mission is to prepare all students for college. Beginning in the sixth grade and continuing through their graduation, all students enjoy a common culture of college preparation.

“A huge component of our mission is the dual credit requirement,” Sandoval-Snider said. “In order to graduate, student’s must take 30 credit hour at UNM.  Most of our students however take many more.  On the average, students graduate from AIMS with 50 credit hours.  Credits needed to graduate from AIMS are in excess of those required by the state of New Mexico.”