Metro planning to add up to six magnet schools

Wednesday, December 30, 2009 at 1:44am

As many as six new magnet schools could open up in Metro Nashville Public Schools next school year, but it appears they’ll be solely theme-based and not rely on rigorous academic entrance requirements.

A report released last week by Director of Schools Jesse Register to the Metro Nashville Board of Education lists pursuing federal grant money to open six magnet schools for the 2010-2011 school year as one area for his evaluation.

The set of assessment standards also includes continuing to reorganize and decentralize the MNPS central office, examining an alterative pay structure for teachers and increasing the diversity of school faculty. The board will use these criteria, along with more than 20 other goals, to grade Register’s performance come June 2010.

“The magnet schools that we’re looking at are theme-based magnets, not more schools like those that have academic admission criteria,” Register said in an interview with The City Paper. “They’re schools that attract students because of the theme that they are offering.”

Student enrollment into each of Metro’s 12 magnet schools is based on a lottery system. Every magnet school is centered on an academic them –– such as math, science, arts, business and communications –– but only Meigs Middle Magnet School, Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School and Martin Luther King Academic Magnet High School require its students to meet certain grades and student achievement test scores.

Magnet schools tend to be popular choices for parents and students, who apply in large numbers to Hume-Fogg and Martin Luther King, which consistently rank among the top schools nationwide by publications such as Newsweek.

“When students get in those schools there’s almost no turnover,” Register said of the success of magnet schools. “They stay. There’s no transiency rate. We have some schools where the children from the beginning of the year to the end of the year, you might have a 50 percent or greater turnover rate, so you’ve got sort of a revolving door. A real advantage to (magnet schools) is a stable student body.”

One of the six magnet schools could be found at the new Wharton Elementary School, which is currently housed at the old Brookemeade school building in Bellevue while the Wharton building on Dr. D.B. Todd Boulevard in north Nashville undergoes renovations.

Register said he is in ongoing conversations with museums across Nashville to launch Wharton as a museum-based magnet school, similar to one he saw first-hand in Chattanooga during his tenure as superintendent of Hamilton County Schools. Under the plan, he said, students would have access to places like the First Center for the Visual Arts.

“It is a tremendous educational program when you develop that kind of partnership, when we have an elementary school that has access to all the museums in town for its students,” Register said.

11 Comments on this post:

By: dogmrb on 12/30/09 at 7:01

Duh. Someone has a firm grip on the obvious.

And, of course, use the business model ; -) If you have a product in high demand, academic magnets, don't make anymore; you wouldn't want more customers!

By: richgoose on 12/30/09 at 7:57

There is no question that Dr.Register is on the right track. The problem that must be overcome is how to keep the students who do not want to learn anything out of these theme based schools. In any case this will be a noble effort.

By: localboy on 12/30/09 at 10:19

can you spell school choice?

By: Siobhanne on 12/30/09 at 10:43

Many kids who qualify for Hume-Fogg and MLK but are cooling their heels on waiting lists end up in private schools instead. It is common knowledge that AP classes in zoned schools are not taught at the same level as AP classes in magnet schools. Many parents are not willing to sacrifice their child's education while waiting for the system to improve. If theme based magnets do not have academic qualifications for admission, they will be absolutely no different from the zoned schools out there now. This has been tried before and didn't work. Example: East Literature Magnet School.

By: d4deli on 12/30/09 at 12:00

I appreciate that this article clearly states that the Magnet Schools in Nashville are "Themed based", except for the three academic magnets. Many people still have a notion that magnet schools are all similar to the very successful academic magnets. If the truth be known, two existing magnet schools, Rose Park and Carter Lawrence are now really zone schools with the magnet name. The recent re-zoning was the final blow to those schools. It isn't even truthful to call them a Magnet School anymore. That makes me wonder many more "magnets" are going to be created to impress people. Lip service only.

By: youmustbekiddingme on 12/30/09 at 12:12

Is there a budget surplus at Metro? Because I was under the impression that there was not enough in the coffers to keep the current schools running adequately. Why not spend that money on more teachers and books? Bring back arts and music? East Literature Magnet should be lesson enough that this model is a failure.

By: hotmale on 12/30/09 at 2:54

Metro now has two academic magnets (MLK and Hume-Fogg) that are listed in the top 30 high schools in the nation. We most certainly would not want to add a third academic high school in Metro, and build on our sucess!

Instead, we are just going to add more mediocre theme magnets. Our smart kids who were not lucky enough to get into MLK or Hume-Fogg during the lottery, will just have to waste their talents and abilities in a non-academic magnet school or a regular school. And if the parents of these smart kids do not like their children not getting a great education, why they can then just move out of the county or pay for a private school (wait, that is what people are doing already)!

What a waste of a great opportunity to add at least one more academic magnet school! There should be an opening for all kids in an academic magnet school for any who qualify and want to attend. It changed our child's life for the better!

By: JeffF on 12/30/09 at 5:24

Magnets like Fogg and MLK are designed to distract from the lack of effort put into the 99% of other schools by the system, staff, and sadly the students. I wish everyone could sit together and think of a way to lift all boats (all Metro schools) instead of just a handful that most students would not be able to get into because of the lottery selection method. Instead Nashville can sit back and crow about the two poster schools while the other 50 rot.

You can't educate every child in Nashville to the level of MLK and Hume-Fogg. If you did then there would be no one left to work in the hospitality industry, the convention center, or custodial and cafeteria jobs at Vanderbilt. The majority of Nashville's children are economic cannon fodder and Metro schools still plays around with Magnets.

By: P51Jock on 12/30/09 at 6:40

All these choices but where is the Vocational High School that was under development under our great. late, Herr Doctor Pedro Garcia?

Why not teach young people something they can actually use? There are specific programs at certain high schools, but why not a true vocational high school where students can learn a real trade or explore different vocational opportunities that are available?

One example of what is not working is the big picture high school. It is far from being a true hands on kind of education and after a few years of social experimentation will be declared the true disaster it really is...get back to the basics that work....and do it before we have to watch our education system go full circle and return to programs that can actually do something for the students.

You are way off course on all this social engineering Dr. Register. Young people learn from the bottom up on a foundation, not throwing curve balls all over the place and hoping the batter can hit the ball if it happens to come over home plate.

The direction we are heading is just a bunch of mumbo, jumbo waste of money and even more importantly, the future of the young people being dragged through it.

By: dogmrb on 12/31/09 at 9:07

I agree totally with P51Jock. We need more choices, especially applied technical skills for students. As we all know, in Nashville the extraordinary quality of our wait staff in restaurants is often highly educated young adults hoping to make a career in music. While the academic training for many contributes to their musicianship, those hoping to be sound engineers etc. go faster with on the job experience.

And I'm totally in favor of national public service for two years after high school with no exceptions, like the CCC provided in the '30s. Time to mature, work on practical skills and learn to work with others in groups.

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