Charter schools offer students and parents a welcome alternative to traditional public schools, but not everyone thinks they're God's gift to education
by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, February 23, 2006
Amy Biehl is six years old, but until last month she had spent her entire young life in a little space attached to a church in the Northeast Heights. You might call it humble beginnings. Yet, despite her confined living quarters, which were never really meant to house her anyway, she's done surprisingly well for herself. She gets great test scores. Parents rave about her. She's even sent some of her kids off to college.
Amy Biehl is one of Albuquerque's newest and most impressive high schools. The school recently moved into the historic post office building Downtown on Fourth Street and Gold, becoming the first urban high school in Albuquerque in more than 40 years. Named after Amy Elizabeth Biehl, a woman who devoted her life to scholarship and humanitarianism, the school's mission is in community service, in keeping with Biehl's life ambitions.
Amy Biehl is special for several reasons. It's a mentor school with the Coalition of Essential Schools (one of only 20 in the nation), which means its faculty have the rare opportunity of visiting other high-performing schools around the country and, in turn, helping other small schools get started. It's also located in one of the most historic buildings in the city, and it has the unique advantage of being able to use nearby attractions as part of its classroom—the Main Library for research, the Barelas Community Center for gym class. Lastly, more than 93 percent of its students use public transportation.
Another element that certainly sets Amy Biehl apart is its classification. As one of the first charter schools not only in New Mexico but in the entire nation, the high school is part of an educational trend sweeping the country.