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November 25, 2008

Report: Don't forget about magnet schools

The Civil Rights Project at UCLA released a study today recommending that, with all the buzz about charter schools, the nation's public school systems shouldn't forget about magnet schools, which tend to be more diverse than charters.

The country's 2,683 magnet schools have improved both the quality and the equity in public schools over the past 40 years, the report says, but they have been left out of the discussion on how to reform schools. Magnet schools enroll 2 million students, twice as many as charter schools.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:02 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Around the Nation, Charter Schools, Study, study!


I wonder how people feel about the very existence of magnet schools. Clearly Poly/City/Western will produce better results when they take the highest performing middle schoolers to start with. Would the system be better having those resources and caring families spread amongst the rest of the system similar to the private school argument? It's the question of, do I isolate the cream of the crop so that they can really excel or do I keep my classes mixed so that the high performing students will raise the achievement of their non-GATE peers?

(Note I'm not advocating for the shutting down of our magnet schools and it would never happen but I do see a parallel with other arguments on the blog)

Help me out's OK to go to a go to a private school (assuming you've got the money) because it's got a "school climate generally...more focused on learning and achievement", but if you've got a kid who excels academically taking him/her out of a failing neighborhood school prevents that school from getting the benefit of having that kid in their class? Or is your point that if one objects to being able to buy your way out of the public school mess you should also object to being able to being able to get out of a public school mess based on academic skills? I see meritocracy as a good thing and monetocracy (had to find that one on the web - A form of government in which the political and sociological driving force is material wealth) as a bad idea, but of course that's a judgment call.

Anyway there are many things that the magnet schools contribute to the whole of the City Schools:
1. When measuring success of the City Schools by test scores or college scholarships or the like, they bring up the average.
2. I've been told that bored bright kids are a headache for teachers who are having trouble teaching the majority of the class
3. In my experience there needs to be a critical mass of "nerdy kids" in a class to keep them from being harrassed which eventually teaches them that "acting smart" will get you beat up. Pooling these kids together leads to less tension in their former classes. Bullying is a more likely outcome than your statement that these kids will raise the achievement of their non-GATE peers
4. If magnet schools are more diverse than charter schools they are way more so than private schools, meaning that they give a path to success to a larger number than the few that might get scholarships to private schools.

G&T kids need differentiated instruction - I think that was the point of the schools receiving extra money for kids scoring advanced on state tests. The reality is that that in a non-magnet school this money goes into a too small budget and the G&T kids get little to no benifit from it. Until that's no longer the case, magnet schools seem like their only choice.

Magnet schools exist to fill a purpose. So do charter, public, military, parochial, and private schools. Almost every country has some sort of a sifting system to identify different types of students, workers, learners. "Isolating" one group of students based on their inherent/potential abilities does not inhibit or prohibit the inherent/potential abilities of others. The challenge to raise the potential of all scholars (high, middle, low) resides, in part, with the skill and experience of the master teacher.

There are definitely benefits to heterogenous grouping but most ed research-thus far-shows that it is not the best students who reap those benefits, or even the lowest, it is the ones in the middle.


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