The ASMS Model

2023 ASMS Spring 9493

When it comes to school choice, students and families need to know that they actually have them. When we think about school choice for Alabamians, the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science (ASMS) is a life-changing option for students. ASMS is a specialized public residential high school for sophomores, juniors, and seniors seeking advanced studies in math, science, computer science, and the humanities. Our 255 students live on campus and attend college-level classes taught by instructors with master’s degrees and doctorates. We recruit from all 67 counties, first serving students with limited educational opportunities. We were founded by the state legislature in 1989, meaning we were a STEM school before STEM was a buzzword for science, technology, engineering, and math.

The school is nestled in Mobile’s Old Dauphin Way Historic District, which sits just west of downtown and is lined with moss-draped oak trees and historic homes. The 13-acre campus used to be a church but has been extensively renovated to accommodate students. Students often say that our auditorium, formerly a sanctuary, looks like something from a Harry Potter movie.

Just as students at Hogwarts belong to different houses, ASMS has four unique halls for students to be sorted into. On campus, “hall spirit” is fiercer than a Quidditch match. Being a residential school means we offer a completely immersive education to Alabama high schoolers. The boarding school component of ASMS uniquely prepares students for the independence of college, especially since they must do their own laundry, wake themselves up in the morning, and learn how to live away from their families. Our graduates easily transition to college life because they are accustomed to making their own decisions and managing rigorous academic schedules.

ASMS does not charge for tuition, room, board, or textbooks. We offer a rigorous curriculum that aligns with what is taught in college. Our classes are small, and students can even help instructors develop specialized or advanced courses which augment regular course offerings – including Flight Studies, Organic Chemistry, and Paleontology.

Although ASMS is not the right choice for everyone, it provides an incredible experience for many Alabama families, and it has for over three decades. The advanced nature of our school sometimes makes students think they have to be a genius to apply. However, our process is holistic and quite similar to applying for college. We typically seek students who are hard-working and mature enough to leave home early. Students can apply during their 9th or 10th-grade year in high school, and most students have good grades when they apply. We ask candidates to take the ACT only to indicate what courses they might need to start with at the school. Top applicants are also given a personal interview with our admissions team.

Thus, the conversation about school choice ultimately goes back to answering the question: “What works in education in Alabama?”

We answer the question like this: ASMS is what works. The school has a successful record of educating motivated students from all walks of life. Throughout its history, all 67 Alabama counties have been represented by students. Moreover, 100 percent of ASMS graduates attend college, and our graduating ACT composite is 30, well above the Alabama average of 19.

We have seen this firsthand through our successful ASMS graduates. An education from ASMS prepares students for promising futures as leaders in their field. It leads to careers in computing, engineering, medicine, and other high-paying science-based jobs.

ASMS has produced roughly 3,000 outstanding graduates since its first class arrived in 1991. Of those, nearly 75 percent work in science and math fields, and 65 percent still live and work in Alabama, giving back to the state that supported them. We are a turbocharged STEM pipeline.

Sometimes we wonder how ASMS can be such a life-changing school for so many students yet still unknown by many in our state. We are working to spread the good word about our school, and our state leaders are the reason why that is possible as they prioritize expanding educational opportunities.

ASMS and other schools like it offer many solutions for education in Alabama and are data-backed as being successful for students who choose them. No matter what path students and families choose, we believe Alabama students should have access to the educational experiences they deserve.

The homework assignment is to explore the available choices to make informed decisions. We hope ASMS will be an option all Alabama families take time to explore!