The Alabama School of Mathematics and Science (ASMS) is the state's only fully public residential high school for sophomores, juniors, and seniors seeking advanced studies in mathematics, science, and the humanities. Located in Mobile's Old Dauphin Way Historic District, ASMS was established in 1989 by the Alabama State Legislature to identify, challenge, and train Alabama's future leaders. Tuition, room, and board are free.
In the late 1980s, a group of concerned citizens banded together in Mobile to develop an advanced high school that could draw students from each county in the state. Many in this group belonged to Mobile United, a service organization focused on solving community challenges. One of the most notable members of the founding group was Ann Smith Bedsole, the first Republican woman to be elected to the Alabama House of Representatives and a member of the ASMS School Board and Foundation Board of Directors. Other notable supporters have included Sen. Jeff Sessions and Rep. Steve McMillan, who has also served on both the ASMS School Board and Foundation Board of Directors since the school's founding. The models for ASMS were the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics and the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, where students complete their final two or three years of high school with advanced studies in mathematics and the sciences.
In 1989, the legislature approved a bill creating ASMS and gave the school's founders $300,000 in start-up funds to hire faculty and staff and to purchase books and office equipment. Shortly thereafter, the ASMS Foundation, a non-profit organization located in Mobile that receives donations from businesses, industries, individuals, and other foundations, was created to raise additional funds to purchase a school campus and to furnish labs and dorm rooms. The 15-acre ASMS campus sits on the former property of Mobile Dauphin Way Baptist Church, although it has been heavily modified and refurbished.
The first students arrived in 1991, while much of the campus was under construction. In fact, the ASMS Foundation has overseen the renovation of every building on campus as well as the construction of a boys' dormitory and the Ann Smith Bedsole Library. The school has future plans to renovate the art and band rooms and refurbish some of the laboratories.
ASMS benefits from a unique partnership between the state of Alabama and the business and industry communities. A roughly $6 million operating budget for the school is supplied by the state. The campus, however, is owned and maintained by the ASMS Foundation, which also raises money for the operating budget and other projects. Since the school was established, the foundation has raised nearly $16 million, much of which has been spent on capital-improvement projects. The ASMS School Board governs the school. The Alabama governor appoints nine of the board's 21 members. Of those nine appointees, seven are appointed to represent congressional districts, and two are appointed to represent the Mobile-Baldwin area. Although ASMS receives state funding, the school does not fall under the jurisdiction of the state school board. The ASMS School Board employs a president to administer the school.
ASMS has the capacity to enroll 250 students each year. Over the course of the school's history, ASMS has enrolled a student from every Alabama county. One hundred percent of ASMS graduates matriculate to college, and nearly 60 percent of these students pursue fields relating to math or science. Since 1993, ASMS has graduated more than 1,900 students, more than 600 of whom have earned post-graduate degrees.
Many courses are taught at the advanced placement or honors level, and students are taught by an experienced 22-member faculty, of whom nearly 60 percent holds doctoral or terminal degrees. Varsity and intramural sports, residential-life activities, and college counseling complement the strong academic program, which is comprehensive in the sciences as well as the humanities. ASMS is a diverse campus: historically, 30 percent of the student body has self-identified as members of ethnic minority groups.
Admission is open to all Alabama high school students. The Admission Selection Committee evaluates three areas: academic achievement, maturity, and achievement in extracurricular activities. In addition, each candidate is interviewed on campus. All students live in dormitories under the supervision of a professional staff. ASMS offers a comprehensive residential-life program. With all students living on campus, numerous opportunities exist for tutorials, guest lectures, field trips, and visits to local cultural events, as well as to educational and scientific institutions.
During Special Projects Week, students leave normal classes and study a subject in depth. Some stay on campus and work in labs while others travel off campus. Recently, students have traveled to Italy, China, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Spain, Florida, New York, and Washington, D.C. During this time, students explore topics through research and interactive experiences.
For the last five years (since 2008) ASMS was ranked by Newsweek magazine as a top 10 public high school in Alabama and listed as a top high school in the nation. In recent years, seven students have earned Bill Gates Millennium Scholarships, which pay for all of their undergraduate and post-graduate studies at the schools of their choice. Additionally, in 2008 an ASMS student was the first semifinalist from Alabama in the Intel Science Talent Search; he was rewarded for his cancer cell research. Moreover, a group of physics students built a robot to detect landmines with funding from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology grant. Since its inception, more than 125 students have been recognized as National Merit Finalists, and ASMS graduates have earned more than $132 million in scholarships since 2000. In addition, the school has recently opened an art gallery that hosts academically oriented exhibits aimed at teaching the student body about a specific or general topic related to science, math, or the humanities.