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Air Academy High School 4/5 stars on Google Reviews

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Robert Corl

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The Day of Silence
April 27, 2018

Robbie

Robbie

If you look up Air Academy High School on Google, our high school will come up with a rating of 4/5 stars on GreatSchools, a 3.9/5 stars on Niche, and a 4/5 stars on Google Reviews. By academic grade standards, this equates to about a B, or 80%. Overall, a 4/5 stars is a praiseworthy score, and I would agree with the general consensus.

Scrolling through Google Reviews, the reviews on AAHS are quite random. Most people agree that it is a solid school, several reviews are for AAHS’s state championship band, there are some upset students and parents that gave AAHS 1 star, and there is even a confused parent who left a review for an orthodontist’s office on the the page. The reviews are scattered at best and don’t exactly explain why Air Academy deserves a 4/5 rating.

From a student’s point of view (a student highly concerned with school policy, class offerings, district quality, teacher quality, and the like), let me explain in more detail about why Air Academy has the rating in a review that discusses more than orthodontistry:

In short, Air Academy High School is an admirable school with high quality teachers, extracurriculars, and college preparation. Its drawbacks include somewhat marginal course offerings due to a lack of resources, teacher retention rate and attraction, and arguably disproportionate and mismanaged funding.

Most of the drawbacks mentioned are not as important as the reasons that AAHS is a good school; if you look at what a high school is supposed to accomplish (provide students with a well rounded education that serves as a platform for whatever their next step in life may be), AAHS does this well. But the reason that this school is limited at 4 stars is because it has room for improvement, yet is hindered by its limited resources and staff and occasional questionable purchases.

A Discussion of the Teachers and Course Offerings

Despite what some disgruntled parents and students rant about on online review sites, Air Academy is a quality high school. The few angry reviews should not hold much weight in opinion, as they are written by people with some poor, but rare, interactions or by people whose expectations were far different than what AAHS has to offer. A few negative reviews should not outweigh the thousands of other students and parents that choose to stay silent because they are content with their experiences.

AAHS boasts some of the highest quality teachers in the city of Colorado Springs and the entire state of Colorado. The staff includes 2017’s National Speech and Debate Association Educator of the Year, a high level math teacher with both an undergrad and masters from Stanford University, a Fulbright Scholar, a biology teacher that has worked with Jane Goodall, multiple teachers with high AP test score averages of 4s and 5s, teachers who have traveled all across the nation or globe in attempts to better prepare themselves to teach the content in their classes, and more. Teachers at Air Academy are dedicated to their crafts and dedicated to their students.

There will always be students and parents who complain about the teachers in some capacity, and there will always be some teachers that are marginal at best. But compared to teachers at other schools, cities, and states, AAHS’s overall teacher quality is impressive, and students will not have an issue finding teachers that will challenge them.

However, AAHS is limited in its capacity to attract more high quality teachers and retain them. Whether a issue unique do District 20 due to policies and pay, or just a different issue altogether, Air Academy has been witnessing multiple teachers leave in the last few years.

Last year, we lost one of our AP Literature teachers to another district. The year before, AAHS cycled through 3 teachers in attempts to find a suitable physics teacher. This year, we will lose our only AP Chemistry teacher, one of a superb teaching level that boasts high test averages on one of College Board’s most difficult tests, to another school because of an offer for about a $20,000 per year pay raise. We will also be losing one of our gym teachers, who will be returning to teach at the elementary school level.

The high quality teacher pool of Air Academy is slowly but surely diminishing; for some reason or another, staff are finding reasons to leave, and Air Academy is struggling to find individuals to fill the gaps. Moreover, it leaves people wondering how many new teachers passed up this school in favor of others simply due to payment or benefits.

This shrinking pool of teachers and lack of an ability to attract suitable replacements is creating issues for the class offerings at Air Academy as well. For example, there is now only one teacher who teaches AP Language and Composition (5 classes of it now) simply because there are not other teachers at Air Academy who want to teach it or can teach it. It would be feasible to combine classes together, yet this would risk decreasing the quality of students’ education.

Students question the status of AP Chemistry next year with the exit of our current AP Chemistry teacher, skeptical about the school finding another teacher of the same quality. The other chemistry teacher at Air Academy, who has taught AP Chemistry in the past, would be a perfect replacement, but the addition of a few classes to her schedule also raises the question as to whether or not this would spread her too thin across all of her classes. Even more worrisome, she is technically retiring at the end of this year, and will only be taking a “transition year” next year.

One teacher, who was originally just the German teacher, now teaches Russian and even Spanish due to too few eligible teachers. The Spanish department, who has struggled to find more Spanish teachers, has been forced to delegate some of its teaching to other language teachers.

Air Academy is currently in the process of interviewing and hiring for next year, which includes a new chemistry teacher and new language teachers, but even now the process is facing obstacles. Many of the teachers, and something like at least four of the interviewed chemistry teachers, are choosing to go to other districts due to better pay. There is skepticism over whether or not we will be able to hire teachers of the same quality that are leaving or even if we will be able to hire some at all.

There is a reason that Air Academy does not offer AP business or economics courses, any form of computer science courses, and very few of the electives listed in Air Academy’s giant book of course offerings; we simply do not have the capacity to do so.

The past three years are full of evidence that shows that Air Academy, and possibly District 20 as a whole, is struggling with a long term issue of teacher retention and attraction. This does not necessarily mean that the quality of Air Academy’s teachers will decrease dramatically, but it should be noted that this has become an issue that is even apparent to the students of the high school. Many staffing issues are handled behind the curtains with administration, but the effects are now obvious to the general public.

In my own experiences, however, the teachers at Air Academy have been phenomenal and the aforementioned issue has not personally impacted my education. The teachers that I have had the opportunity of learning from and interacting with have been crucial in shaping my interests and myself as a person. Many of the teachers have not shown signs of leaving, and the problem seems to be relatively small.

 

On funding and extracurriculars

It is a well known fact that the education system in Colorado is underfunded. Just last Friday, District 20, along with several other districts in the state, were forced to close school as a consequence of teacher protests in Denver. The teachers marched on the capital to protest low pay and funding, some of the lowest in the nation. District 20 had so many staff members join the protests that they were forced to take an “educational development day” (essentially, the schools were closed) because they did not have enough staff or substitutes to operate the schools.

The issue of money in the school systems, or the lack thereof, is systemic, and it has noticeable consequences. Moreover, the funding that is given to us is sometimes, in my own opinion, disproportionately allocated and mismanaged. Somehow we can manage to rebuild an entire building of the school, redesign the entire library, and plan to open yet another coffee shop (although rumor has it that it has been recently cancelled), but we still cannot afford working stall doors in the bathrooms…

The school seems to be opting to take on large and ambitious projects in favor of fixing some of the smaller things that matter to students. I agree that B building, a couple decades-old building, needs to be reconstructed. The amount of asbestos and filth as a consequence of age that plague this building are concerning. I am actually glad that the school is choosing to use our $5,000 grant from the district to rebuild this portion of the school.

The same goes for the library. The library at Air Academy has essentially become the main commons of the school. Administration’s remodeling plans look promising. They are planning on reducing the number of books in the library, ironically, in favor of more computers and technology centers. One of the meeting rooms will be repurposed as another classroom. Overall, the quality of the library seems as though it will increase with this remodel.

Moreover, AAHS has also outfitted many of its classrooms with much more modern, functional, and comfortable furniture that is more reminiscent of how Google would furnish their idea labs and offices.

Using our funding and resources to embark on certain projects like B Building and the library are well overdue; it is primarily the other ways in which we choose to use our money that I question. In the past few years, we have made several purchases that I think could have been used for much more necessary products.

For example, AAHS purchased a few giant electronic bulletin boards that were installed in the hallways around the schools. Since their installment, the boards have either remained turned off or have only projected the stock images that come with the software. Even some of the new classroom furniture that I praised earlier is impractical; tiny chairs that only sit a few inches off the ground with small backs on them and couches are unnecessary. How much do we really need the 50+ inch flat panel TV in the hallway that is only used maybe two or three weeks in the entire year? As important as art and student expression is, how much did we need the totem pole looking landscape project in the senior courtyard?

Small purchases like these add up over the years, and I am continuously left confused as to why we can afford these type of products but still can’t manage to install working stall doors in the girl’s bathrooms, dividers between the urinals in the men’s bathrooms, working heat or air conditioning, actual desks instead of card tables in Mrs. Anderson’s room (one of the AP Lit teachers, one of the Honors Lit teachers, and the Journalism teacher), redesign the student parking lot, or buy us new and relevant textbooks.

The clubs and activities are also constantly given disproportionate funding. While I understand that extracurricular funding is difficult to manage, the allocation of money is often preposterous. Why does the football team, who just this year had their first winning season, as in a positive win-loss record, in 13 years get its funding every year, yet AAHS’s speech and debate team, one of the best in the state of Colorado and state champion two years ago, still has to rely on a vending machine and parents to fund its bus trips up to Denver?

Nearly every extracurricular seems to be struggling to find adequate funding for their respective activities, and this likely speaks of a larger issue at a district and state level in terms of lack of funding. However, I still believe that administration misallocates funding to their different activities and does not take enough time to understand everyone’s needs.

This issue should not be a large enough issue to dissuade someone from attending Air Academy, as we manage to perform at a high level with what we have.

Just in the past four years that I have been here, AAHS’s band has won three state championships and played in the Rose Bowl parade, boys soccer won two 4A 20-0 state championships and was declared 4A national champion in one of the years, boys basketball won a state championship, one of our wrestlers won state in their division, several of our cross country and track stars have won several state championships (with on of them winning a national title and being declared Gatorade’s national athlete of the year in girls cross country in 2016), a few swimmers have won state championships, speech and debate has won a state championship, and the list goes on. Even aside from state championships, our sports teams continue to be ranked in the top of the state of Colorado.

Every year, we send multiple students to some of the most exclusive colleges in the nation, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, and MIT. In just this senior class of 350, we had several students score 34, 35, and 36s on their ACTs and had semi finalists and even one finalist for the National Merit Scholarship (which is awarded based on PSAT scores in Junior year). This senior class had 25 students qualifying for summa cum laude in academics, the most in Air Academy’s history. We boast some of the highest test scores in the state. This year, we sent four students to the prestigious USAFA Political Science Assembly, the only four high schoolers that have ever been allowed to attend this event in the 59 years it has been running.

Air Academy’s academics and extracurriculars are unrivaled and we continue to be one of the best high schools in Colorado and the nation. The quality of students that are produced from this institution are among the best in the United States. Funding, obviously, is not that large of an issue.

In conclusion

Reviewing what Air Academy has to offer, this is an impressively high quality school. In the worst way, I would like to give AAHS 5/5 stars but cannot due to the aforementioned issues. Air Academy has room for improvement, and once that happens, I will be glad to return and give this school another review.

I love Air Academy and am proud to be a Kadet (even though the mythological mascot is fairly dumb). I have this high school to thank for the skills I have developed and opportunities I have been provided. My gratitude is beyond what I can express to the staff at Air Academy.

So, Air Academy High School: 4/5 stars on Google Reviews. This is a great orthodontist’s office.

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Air Academy High School 4/5 stars on Google Reviews