Magnet Schools and Desegregation Debate: Pro

Please click on the audio icons in the PowerPoint to hear us present our side of the debate.  Feel free to comment on my blog in response to the presentation. Thanks!

Magnet Schools and Desegregation Debate_with recordings

18 responses to “Magnet Schools and Desegregation Debate: Pro

  1. I feel that Anne and Casey did a nice job with their online debate. I would have preferred that they just not read the bullets, but add or expand on the information they presented with their audio segments. I think I too am a supporter of Magnet Schools. I feel that the statistics that Anne and Casey presented did a great job of showing these schools are usually successful. I really think that the theme requirement helps with the needed creativity too help keep students interested. Although these schools were originally set out to address desegregation issues, I think they have moved way past that to show that they are also adaptable. I’m sure the more diverse student bodies help with that also. Overall I feel Anne and Casey did a great job.

  2. I found both Casey’s and Anne’s debate to be very interesting. However, I would be a pro supporter of the Magnet Schools, especially in a society like today. Had I known what a Magnet School was about 6 years ago, I would have accepted an invitation for my son Jonathan to attend. I don’t think in my case it was related to socio economic issues though, but, I didn’t find out and he never attended. Now I see the benefits that my niece is getting from the Magenet program she is in.

  3. (From my personal experience, while these magnet schools do have voluntary enrollment, as is my understanding, typically only those who have the intelligence to appreciate tend to be a part of them.)

  4. I have to say, I think that I agree with the con side of the argument. While magnet schools sound great, they really shouldn’t be the exception. We should be teaching and getting these kinds of results in the “regular” classroom. I remember being in a school with a magnet center in high school. I didn’t resent these kids or anything, but it was definitely weird to be so cut off from these students. The only way you could interact with them was if they already went to my high school, as many of them were bussed to the center. Financing these programs for just a few students overall is playing favoritism to those who test well, but what about problem solvers who maybe get test anxiety? For what seems like such a small section of the student population, this feels like it’s doing more harm than good. These finances need to be put back into the public school system in the “regular” classroom so that all students have access to the same quality education. I’m not saying that these kids should be denied a more challenging education if that is what they need. The pros had some great points that indicate that magnet schools do great things for students who are motivated and want to be in that program. What I am saying is that we are selling other kids short on themselves by not giving them the same opportunities because their IQ isn’t as high as someone else’s.

  5. Magnet schools can be a good and bad thing when it comes to students and excelling. Some think the pressure is too much for them and others think that by pushing hard you can help instill in them hard work. I think my opinion of them is mixed, but I would like to say that lean more towards not having them and having more honors courses in regular public schools. I think when we send children there there is a label attached to it and its not necessarily a good thing. I do however think it is important to have a strong honors program in our high schools because these classes challenge students who want to excel further in those specific subject areas. Well done on the debate Anne, Casey and Randy!

  6. Heather McElwain

    I have a friend who went to a magnet school and she loved it. She would always say “I was a dance major” and I was constantly confused; when I graduated from high school I had my high school diploma, but I didn’t “major” in anything. While I think magnet schools could be a good idea, because you are grouped with people who are interested in similar things, I think I’m also leaning toward the “con” on this one. I really like the idea that’s been floating around of embedding magnet programs into schools that are already in existence that could accept more students into the programs, and truly desegregate classrooms.

    I agree with a lot of Jacquie said, especially that regardless what school a child goes to, the more parent involvement and support, the more likely the student is to succeed. I also found it interesting (not picking on you Jacquie, just playing Devil’s Advocate) that she said she would be in support of it as a parent. What if your child didn’t make it into the program? Would you still be a parent who supports magnet schools? Think about competitive areas, like Fairfax County. When my sister graduated from high school, there were quite a few students GPA exceeded 4.0, and that was just in her graduating class at her school. Think about all of Fairfax County. How many students could they really accept into a magnet school, and then who gets left behind?

    Overall, I think this ties in really well with this weeks blog post – equal educational opportunities. Magnet schools completely take away any chance of having equal education. The students in the programs would excel, as was pointed out, but what happens to the students who aren’t in the program. They deserve to have the same opportunities and be able to be given the chance to succeed. Instead, with magnet schools, you’re setting the rest of the students up for failure. Instead of setting up magnet schools, use the funds to get better equipment in all of the schools in the district, or use the funds to pay your teachers. There are so many things that money can go to that would make it a much better learning environment for all, not just the cream of the crop who are accepted to magnet schools.

  7. This is also my first time being introduced to magnet schools. I think as a parent, I would be pro, and as a public school teacher I would be con. As a parent, I would want my child to focus on their interests as much as possible and be in an enriching, diverse environment where students and parents care about school.
    That said, I agreed with Randy in that there will be many students missing out on this opportunity. From this debate, I personally gathered that the reason there is higher attendance and higher achievement in magnet schools is because you have parent and community involvement. Any child will go to school more often if there is a parent or guardian making sure they do. When Anne and Casey listed the four components of a magnet school, they mentioned “choice of school by student and parent”. This means you have a parent at home that values education and can take the time to discuss the best possible schooling with their child. I understand racial diversity could be seen in the magnet school, but I doubt there is socioeconomic diversity. If a family is struggling to make ends meet, there is probably less of a chance (due to working hours or personal values) that the parents are involved with their child’s education.
    Why not find a way to bring these enriching programs and parent and community involvement into a regular public school? I think the focus should be desegregation within each classroom of a school, not the school. At the school where I work, the AP and Honors classes are predominantly white. We should be finding a way to enroll minorities into these classes and have them succeed, not have them leave the school.

  8. I have just commented on Randy’s presentation and noted that Magnet Schools are doing great jobs especially towards desegregation and are models of what public schools are capable of doing if properly funded. The critical issue and difference between Magnet and Public School is finance as Randy noted. A child whose performance improved after moving from a zoned public school to a magnet school as noted in Anne Robert’s presentation did so because of the new learning experiences that he was exposed to. A child will be able to comprehend, internalize, remember and apply effectively what he learnt both theoretically and practically. These Magnet School students go on field trips, have access to laboratory experiments, and other hands on educational activities than students in zoned public school do not benefit from. If same opportunities are given to students in the zoned school, their performance rate will skyrocket as witnessed in the Freedom Writers movie, where the students organised fundraising to invite the women that hide Anne Frank. The students interest in reading changed when they were given brand new books by their teacher in the movie. These students were able to appreciate and understand the importance and impact of field trip, first hand information, and personal experience of a learning activity. Their field trip to the Museum and the dinner organised by their teacher where they listened to the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust marked a change not only in their academic performance but in their moral lives. Financing these activities was an issue for the school administration and district in the movie, but the teacher funded the programs and the students supported by organizing fundraising. This spells out the difference – FINANCE

  9. Both sides of this debate are making really great cases! It’s clear that magnet schools do have advantages: increasing attendance, achievement, behavior, test scores, and possibly aiding desegregation. However, Randy makes some great points. Magnet schools are only able to accept a small percentage of students in any district, which leaves the majority of students left out of these great programs. Money spent on magnet schools could be put back into the schools where all students could receive the benefits of more funding. Maybe Prince William County’s model is a better idea: having magnet programs embedded within a school – as long as it isn’t only the white, middle class students who are excepted into them.

  10. I think I may be on Team Randy on this one. Although I’m sure these magnet schools are doing wonderful, revolutionary things– which is great!– but so many public schools could really benefit from that money. It seems silly that there are school teachers working for no money and going on the Ellen DeGeneres show to get hand-out money from JC Penney’s, when there is more money to be invested into education (as we see with these magnet schools).
    For financial reasons, which benefits both the teachers and the students, schools should either be public or private– not within a weird financial grey area in between.

  11. @Jennifer,
    In a study of a magnet school, Jefferson High School (the city is unspecified) bused in white students to attend their magnet program. This made the ethnic ratio of the school 51% latino, 40% white, 7% black, and 3% asian. Pretty desegregated, right? Absolutely, on the school wide level. However, when interviewed, one student said he could count the minority students on one hand, for the three years he was in the program (Bush, Burley & Causey-Bush, 2001). Whites were the MINORITY in the school, and yet, in the program they are the MAJORITY, maintaining segregation in the classrooms, where I think it matters most. When non-program students were interviewed, they told stories of teachers simply handing them worksheets as busy work, while the magnet students left the school, frequently, for field trips. So, not only were non-program students receiving less of an education, the financial burden of these trips and transportation are put on the families in the district, whose children were not the even the ones utilizing the money! I agree that finances should not be a deciding factor, but in times when teachers are not even making the (small) salary they deserve, it matters the most. Charles McMillan, in his article titled “Magnet Schools: An Approach to Voluntary Desegregation (1980),” he argues that the same programs that spark parents’ and students’ interest in magnet schools, would attract the same parents and students to regular schools. Simply put, GOOD programs. Why not invest the money used for magnet schools into normal programs?

  12. Kathy Paschall

    Learning about magnet schools has been very interesting. The public schools in my county don’t have magnet schools, but after hearing the pros and cons, I think I’m in favor of them. It’s just sad one of the biggest downfalls of such programs is the issues associated with financing them. For the pro side I have one question I’m curious about: in what ways do magnet schools increase community involvement? As for the con side, the finances really do make for an easy argument…without money you can’t keep up these special programs! The rebuttal brings up a good point about if enrollment increases then the costs may go down, but unfortunately that may not happen for all magnet schools. 🙁 Good job guys!!!

  13. Thanks for the comments so far!

    Jennifer – We found research to support that magnet schools accurately represented the racial/ethnic distribution of students in the studied representative district (Department of Education, 2004). Therefore, it can be concluded that magnet schools help in reflecting racial distribution of each school district. If you have any more questions about our research, let us know!

    Lori – I also had a personal experience with magnet schools. I attended a Math&Science magnet high school and chose this debate so that I might get to know more about the subject. As far as how well students are mixed with the host school, I can speak from personal experience. My first couple of years, I did not really have many classes with students outside of my program, other than gym and elective classes. However, once I was a junior, I took several classes outside of my program, as I began to take AP classes. AP classes did a good job of mixing non-program students with program students. Most of my fellow students, especially those who normally lived outside of the school district, spoke of how they liked the choice of school as well. It’s a great way to make a good school more affordable (i.e., your living costs could be lower by living in any part of the district since the school system bused students from anywhere in the county). Great to hear about another personal perspective on magnet schools!

  14. Here in Prince William County we have specialty programs in our high schools and middle schools. I guess you could say these programs are magnet programs embedded in all of our schools that provide secondary education. From my personal point of view, I am happy that we have the specialty program opportunities here in my county. You do have to apply to get into these programs, but to my knowledge no child has ever been denied. Perhaps that’s because the children that are interested in these programs are high achievers to begin with. I’m not sure. At any rate, my older son is going to high school next year and will be attending a school that is not his base school to participate in their International Baccalaureate program. This is a much more rigorous and challenging program and would be available to him in a school. Additionally, the orchestra at the school has a very accomplished director. The caveat is that we are responsible for transportation beyond the express buses that go between the school and select other schools in the county. So essentially, I’m not even sure if these programs actually drive up the cost in our county. There is no doubt in my mind that this program increases diversity in some of the schools here in this county however, I am unsure if the students attending the specialty programs are truly mixed together with the population of the school. I guess I’ll know more about that next year. So, I’m just rambling about my own experience, but I have to say that it’s nice that my son was able to have a choice about what his high school education looked like. Sorry Randy, I think I’m leaning towards the pro argument.

  15. I have to admit that I know very little about magnet schools. After hearing the pros from Anne and Casey, I’m almost ready to endorse them. I think they’re good not just for desegregation, but for students who want an alternative to their neighborhood school and an academic challenge of a particular focus (i.e. math or science).

    The cons, however, swayed me a little. I don’t like how they drive up the cost of education or that they may be too selective, leaving many students left out. Also, Randy mentioned that in actuality, magnet schools maintain segregation along racial and SES lines. My question is, how is segregation maintained in magnet schools?

    Good arguments from both sides!