Sunday, March 12, 2006

Magnet school program slated for overhaul


This is exactly what I was talking about for the past number of months. Bring back TINKER BELL. The honesty was gone when Mr. Roosevelt said, "we are going to do this once and be done with it." I said -- NO WAY. That 'right size' effort was not a one-time fix. The schools need continual changes in an on-going, sustained way.
Magnet school program slated for overhaul: "The Pittsburgh Public Schools' popular magnet programs will be getting an overhaul as part of the district's far-reaching efforts to improve academic performance."
Everything is going to need to be 'on the table.' And, the only way that this is going to work is that the people need to have the conversations there be open with tinkering expected and WELCOMED.

I know that everything needs to be on the table. Mr. Roosevelt knows it. But, he isn't saying it in a direct way. The right-size effort was a struggle and there are many more to come, countless more.

Told you so. Don't tell me that we'll do it once and be done with it.

Yes, there can be additional ARTS schools. I suggested at last months Pgh Public Schools Board Meeting that a second MIDDLE SCHOOL for the ARTS be put in Knoxville. Why only have one "RODGERS?" Duplicate it. Put one in the east and another in the south.


Anonymous said...

Magnet school program slated for overhaul

Sunday, March 12, 2006
By Joe Smydo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pittsburgh Public Schools' popular magnet programs will be getting an overhaul as part of the district's far-reaching efforts to improve academic performance.

Superintendent Mark Roosevelt said the programs would be studied because he fears "some of the magnets have lost their intensity and their rigor." He said he was particularly concerned about foreign language magnets.

In addition, Mr. Roosevelt said, he wants to make sure the district is offering the right mix of magnet programs.

School board member Patrick Dowd, chairman of the marketing and communications committee and former chairman of the education committee, said the magnet program had to be reinvigorated. He said he would like to see a task force on magnet schools, much like the group Mr. Roosevelt appointed for gifted education.

"We want to have more of these programs, more choice," Dr. Dowd said.

Some parents have requested new magnet offerings. Supporters of Miller African-Centered Academy in the Hill District have requested a magnet designation for a black culture program.

Some magnets give students an opportunity to focus their education on special interests, such as foreign languages, technology or the arts. Other magnets offer a special approach to education, such as "traditional academies," which place heavy emphasis on discipline and require students to wear uniforms.

In Pittsburgh, magnets were used as a tool for desegregating schools in the 1970s and '80s.

A diverse student population remains a reason some families like the programs. Magnets reserve a percentage of slots for black students and the rest for students of other races.

Most magnet programs --the Homewood Montessori program and elementary foreign language programs, for example -- admit students without a prerequisite as long as space is available. The district admits students by lottery if a magnet has more applicants than slots.

Rogers Middle School for the Creative and Performing Arts and Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts require students to audition for admission.

Those who begin a language at an elementary magnet have an option of continuing that study at middle and high schools, and students from some neighborhoods prefer nearby magnets.

Magnets long have been some of the district's most popular and best-known programs. But as the district creates more rigorous schools, called accelerated learning academies, revamps the districtwide curriculum and tackles an array of academic deficiencies, magnets will have a turn under the microscope.

"The rigor of many of the magnet programs needs to be revisited," said J. Kaye Cupples, the district's executive director of support services, who oversees magnet registration but is not in charge of the curriculum. In some cases, magnets sound better than they are, Dr. Cupples said, citing the technology program at Milliones Middle School in the Hill District.

He said the district did "not put a lot of resources into the program," which attracts about 10 students at a time. Because few white students apply, he said, the program lacks the racial balance of other magnets.

Lynn Spampinato, deputy superintendent for instruction, assessment and accountability, said foreign language programs should be reviewed for effectiveness.

"Are students walking out speaking the language?" she said.

Dr. Spampinato said career and technology magnets should be reviewed to make sure they're adequately preparing students for post-secondary vocational and technical schools.

Dr. Dowd said he would like to explore the possibility of adding mathematics and science magnets; of creating "high-end" magnets which would admit students by test score; of offering additional foreign languages, such as Chinese; and of determining whether foreign languages could be more fully integrated into their magnets' curriculum.

He said he was concerned that some parents enroll their children in magnet schools not because they like the special programs but because they don't like neighborhood schools for one reason or another. He said he'd like to raise the level of all schools, but make magnets attractive because of top-shelf programs.

Elaine Mormer, of Squirrel Hill, said dissatisfaction years ago with a neighborhood school was a reason she enrolled her daughter in the French magnet at East Hills International Studies Academy. After middle school, her daughter left the foreign language magnets and enrolled in the pre-engineering magnet at Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill.

Her other two children entered magnet programs, one for French and the other for German. One later left the program; the other is still enrolled.

Ms. Mormer said she was pleased with the quality of instruction but wondered why magnet-style programs aren't provided at neighborhood schools.

In recent years, as the district's academic performance fell, the district has lost students to charter schools offering the kinds of innovative programs for which magnets became known.

An expanded magnet concept is part of the charter school Education Innovations Inc. wants to open for children in kindergarten through 12th grade.

"There is room, I think, in Pittsburgh to have more than one arts school," said Sal Wilcox, chief executive officer of Education Innovations.

Mr. Wilcox has said the proposed charter school would offer several magnets under one roof. Students would be exposed over a period to years to architecture, engineering, arts, languages and world culture, then have the opportunity to select a major and a minor.

(Joe Smydo can be reached at or 412-263-1548.)

Mark Rauterkus said...

posting from another public list....

If you haven't read Sunday's Post-Gazette, please read the article on the magnet program, specifically the foreign language schools. I think it is on the front page of the local section. It sounded very positive to me for the future of the international/foreign language program. I think most of us have been saying that we want the program to be strengthened and that sounds like what they will try to do. I thought that it was interesting that they mentioned trying to add Chinese; I know Mr. Walters would love that after his trip last summer to China. Many of the ideas mentioned in the article were things that we had talked about at Frick's PSCC and we were waiting to see the results of the school closing program.

After reading this article, it seems very important to me that the international studies schools organize a united front to show our commitment to the program.

amy moore