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The Education Innovator #2
Volume III
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The Education Innovator
 January 18, 2005 • Number 2
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Feature
Hot Springs Arkansas Magnet Schools Program
What's New
President Bush unveils new high school reform plan; 2005 schedule for Education News Parents Can Use released; Advanced Placement Test Fee application period reopened; notices of proposed priority, requirements, and definitions published for Arts in Education programs; Authorizer Issue Brief published by National Association of Charter School Authorizers; CAPE has examples of what private schools are doing to help tsunami victims.
Innovations in the News
An Achievable Dream Academy students recreate events in history and are profiled on CBS' The Early Show, plus information on closing the achievement gap, magnet schools, reading and writing, and supplemental educational services.

Hot Springs Is a Hot Spot for Choice and Change
Many residents of Hot Springs, Arkansas take pride in the fact that it was the childhood home of former President Bill Clinton. Today, the people of Hot Springs can also take pride in the success of their magnet schools program, which has begun to raise student achievement.

Launched in 2000, the Hot Springs magnet schools program was part of a multi-district desegregation plan ordered by a federal district court. Regional superintendents from 7 of the 12 districts affected by the order agreed to the plan, and it was endorsed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Today, Hot Springs is an all-magnet district serving its own students, as well as students from the 12 other districts.

According to the Hot Springs School District, the purpose of the magnet program is to "offer educational choice...[with] unique opportunities for in-depth experiences and study in specific areas of interest." All the schools in the district are magnets, which include four elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. While the focus in all schools is on mathematics and literacy, each elementary school also has a theme. At the middle and high school levels, each school is divided into theme-related academies.

At Hot Springs Middle School, for example, the academies are: Math/Science Technology Academy, Visual and Performing Arts Academy, and International Baccalaureate, which has specific sub-themes, such as community service, the environment, or health and social education. The middle school science curriculum has units in physical, earth, and life science and integrates technology as a tool for decision-making, enhanced productivity, communication, research, and problem solving.

Throughout the school district, the themes are used to build core content learning aligned with state academic standards. Each middle school academy has five core content teachers who stay with the same students for their entire middle school experience, thus creating small, supportive learning communities for students and teachers.

The magnet themes are aligned vertically from the elementary level through the high school level, where the themes are used to create "career" academies. The career academy themes are business/technology, communications/humanities/law, creative and performing arts, health sciences/human services, and mathematics/engineering/sciences.

The district reports that it has made significant progress in reducing and preventing racial/ethnic group isolation. The district also reports that students are making achievement gains. For example, scores on the Arkansas Benchmark Exam in mathematics and reading for 8th grade have improved. The 2003 math scores for 8th grade students who met or exceeded standards showed an increase of 10 percentage points over 2002 scores. In reading, performance jumped considerably between 2002 and 2003, going from 10 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards to 52 percent scoring at that level (9 percentage points above the state average).

The program has a number of distinctive elements. Each campus has a math and/or literacy focus teacher who works with teachers and students to raise achievement in those areas. Students' progress is continuously assessed, and regular reports on students' strengths and deficiencies are given to parents. Additional time and resources are allocated for students who are not meeting state standards. In addition to the stress on academics, low-cost day care is available.

To support the overall magnet program, each school employs a magnet coordinator, who is responsible for maintaining the magnet theme and supporting the core curriculum. The coordinators work together to align the programs and experiences from one campus to the next, as students progress from elementary through high school. Coordinators also assist with the application process and student recruitment. Ninety-five percent of applicants are placed in their first choice school, and, to date, no one has been placed in his or her third choice.

The school district's overall success with the program has enabled it to become a leader in the county, as a host to students who are eligible to transfer from their schools in need of improvement under No Child Left Behind.

In 2000-01, Hot Springs received a three-year, $6 million Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant. The Hot Springs magnet program is profiled in OII's book Innovations in Education: Creating Successful Magnet Schools Programs.

Resources: Note: The featured program is an example of one school district's magnet schools program. The program is innovative, but does not necessarily have evidence of general effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation. The success of the program may not be replicable, depending on unique conditions in differing locations.

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What's New
100th Issue of the Education Innovator: March 7 will mark the 100th issue of The Education Innovator. To celebrate this milestone, we are asking Innovator readers to nominate an innovative practice or program to be featured in that issue. Please send nominations using the feature outline to OIIcontacts@ed.gov by February 7. (Jan. 17)

From the White House

President George W. Bush unveiled his new high school reform plan which builds upon No Child Left Behind, at a briefing at J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church, VA. He emphasized accountability, the right for parents to have options if schools do not measure up, and rigorous coursework such as that offered by Advanced Placement and the International Baccalaureate. (Jan. 12)

From the U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education has released the 2005 schedule for the Education News Parents Can Use television program, which has Arts Education as the theme for the March 15th show. All programs are archived for viewing if you are not able to tune into the live production. (Jan. 13)

From OII

Advanced Placement Test Fee Application Period Reopened: A notice reopening the AP Test Fee application period was published in the Federal Register on January 13. Any state that missed the earlier application deadline for this non-competitive program may apply for the test fee funds at this time. Those states that have already applied do not need to reapply. The e-application must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. EST on January 24. Questions should be addressed to Madeline Baggett. (Jan. 13)

The notices of proposed priority, requirements, and definitions have been published for the Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination and the Professional Development for Arts Educators programs. (Jan. 13)

Charter Schools

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers publishes Authorizer Issue Briefs. The latest, "Square Pegs: Charter School Authorizers in Non-Charter Agencies," download files PDF (74KB) explores the challenges authorizers face when they are located in institutions whose missions are larger than charter school authorizing. (Jan. 2005)

Tsunami Relief

The Council for American Public Education (CAPE) has stories on its website of what private schools are doing to help the victims of the tsunami disaster. (Jan. 12)

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Innovations in the News

American History
Students at the OII-funded An Achievable Dream Academy of Newport News Public Schools recreate events in history as a way to increase achievement in history while instilling character education. Schools work with area museums and the National Council for History Education to help teachers in elementary schools make history more relevant. The program was featured on CBS' The Early Show. [More-Daily Press] (Jan. 3) and [CBS] (Jan. 13)

A group of 19 teachers from throughout Ohio went to the home of President Warren G. Harding as part of the History in the Heartland seminar of the OII- funded Teaching American History project. The seminar focused on the 1920 election and how historic sites can be incorporated into teaching history. [More-Marion Star] (Dec. 14)

Magnet Schools
Now is the time for parents to start thinking about next year if they want their child to attend a magnet school in Duval County (FL) (see Creating Successful Magnet Schools Programs). In Fall 2005 there will be 7 new "Inspirations" schools, so named because they are the next generation of magnets, focusing on such topics as visual and performing arts, math, Spanish immersion, and military science. These new schools are funded by an OII Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant. [More-First Coast News] (Jan. 10)

Magnet school applications are now available to Montgomery County (AL) parents if they want their child to attend a magnet school. The magnet programs offer expanded educational choices, according to the school district. The number of students who apply has been increasing annually: in 2003 there were 3,943 applicants, and in 2004 there were 4,115. [More-Montgomery Advertiser] (Jan. 10)

Parents and students attended the Winston Salem/Forsyth County Schools Magnet Fair at a local shopping mall to find out what these schools are offering. Atkins School, for example, has three academies—biotechnology, computer technology, and pre-engineering—in a program designed with the help of community and business leaders. [More-Journal Now]

Wichita (KS) parents can attend the annual Choices Fair and magnet school open houses to help them decide where they would like their child to go to school. The most popular schools have waiting lists. [More-Wichita Eagle] (Jan. 9)

Closing the Achievement Gap
The popular Homework Club at Madison Elementary School in Des Moines (IA) received a $10,000 district grant to help close the achievement gap for English-as-a-Second-Language students in kindergarten through the fifth grade. Students' skills will be measured to determine whether the program will receive funding in the future. [More-Des Moines Register] (Jan. 6)

Four Fayette County (KY) organizations have been awarded nearly $2 million in grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to improve the education and development of preschool-aged children from minority and low-income families. These grants are part of the Miami-based foundation's investment to ensure that all children get a quality education. [More-Ascribe] (Dec. 29)

Reading and Writing
Lawyer Nina Zolt and her husband, venture capitalist Miles Gilburne, have raised more than $15 million in private donations to develop In2Books with the goal of boosting literacy in DC public schools. The program includes books, a framework for building students' reading and writing skills, professional development for teachers, and support services. [More-Education Week] (Jan. 5)

The OII-funded National Writing Project has selected the Alaska State Writing Consortium at the University of Alaska to be one of five pilot sites to use computers to improve the teaching of writing by looking at how teachers can communicate with each other about teaching methods and how they can use computers in the classroom. [More-Juneau Empire] (Dec. 16)

Jim Schaefer, a teacher-consultant for the OII-funded Eastern Michigan Writing Project, has started "Riprap," a website and public access television show dedicated to academic literature, serious reading, and the love of language and writing. [More-MLive.com] (Dec. 28)

Supplemental Educational Services
Education writer Alexander Russo explains the advantages of having private vendors provide supplemental educational services in Chicago: students get more individual attention, and parents have a choice of tutors. (See also U.S. Education Department policy letter to Illinois State Board of Education. [More-Chicago Journal] (Jan. 12)

Desert Sands Unified School District (see Creating Strong District School Choice Programs) and other schools in Southern California are providing supplemental educational services for students at schools in need of improvement. Most of the services are tutorial and are offered at school, at students' homes, or via the Internet. [More-Desert Sun] (Jan. 11)

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Last Modified: 08/13/2009