The Education Innovator #10
Archived Information

The Education Innovator
 May 5, 2003 • Number 10
 Share this page Share this page
  Past issues
What's inside...
New Haven Public Schools of Choice, New Haven, Connecticut
What's New
OII invites you to the first Innovations in Education Exchange; U.S. Department of Education co-hosts White House forum on American history, civics, and service; the National Commission on Writing has released a report on the state of writing among U.S. students.
Innovations in the News
Denver Public Schools is considering a plan rewarding teachers with more money for boosting students test scores; plus news on charter schools and school choice.

New Haven Public Schools of Choice Dedicated to Options for Parents and Students
New Haven, the seventh poorest community in the United States, is typical of many older urban areas. Once a thriving manufacturing center, the city has lost jobs and middle class residents to surrounding suburbs. Despite these economic and demographic trends that have laid waste to many American cities, New Haven has been able to discourage white flight from its schools, through the establishment and expansion of the New Haven Public Schools' magnet schools along with the development and inclusion of other public school choice options.

Magnet schools offer a special curriculum capable of attracting a diverse student body. These schools aim to eliminate, reduce, or prevent minority group isolation while strengthening students' knowledge of academic subjects and vocational skills. New Haven magnet schools focus on an intense academic program that pushes basic skills and critical thinking. Students are expected to work very hard to master challenging work in core curriculum areas as well as the area(s) of emphasis at each magnet school. Among the subjects included as areas of emphasis are reading, writing, mathematics, public speaking, Spanish, science, civics/history, arts and technology. Some of the magnet schools also provide heterogeneous, multi-age classrooms and a two-year stay with one teacher and assistant. State-of-the-art internet access, multiple computer labs, and classroom internet links for students to use in projects and assignments are found in most magnet schools. These schools also work to provide a nurturing and safe school environment.

Perhaps one of the most notable things about the New Haven program is its creative range of options available to parents and students. The variety of offerings is aimed to fit various learning styles and interests. New Haven has expanded what began as a traditional intra-district magnet program into a broader public school choice program. As New Haven has expanded its choice program, it has added an inter-district magnet schools strategy that is beginning to draw students back to New Haven from suburban schools and communities. As well, the choice program includes charter schools&mdeash;including independent charter schools that work with the New Haven Public Schools in a collaborative annual student recruitment and application process—and a new component called lighthouse schools. Lighthouse schools are focused on providing parental options for students who are attending schools that have been identified as low performing.

Examples of the range of options open to parents and students in New Haven include:
  • The Metropolitan Business High School—a new magnet school that is part of New Haven's current Magnet Schools Assistance program project—that has the goal of preparing students to successfully manage and own business enterprises in the 21st century global community. The school partners with universities and area businesses to achieve this goal;
  • The Common Ground Charter High School that is located at the 20-acre West Rock State Park and emphasizes collaborative learning in environmental studies; and
  • The Hyde Leadership High School that has a "character first" philosophy of building courage, integrity, concern, curiosity, and leadership through strong community service, athletics, and arts programs. The school also partners with the Hyde School in Bath, Maine.
After years of decline, enrollment is beginning to grow at New Haven's schools, largely because of the options they provide. Academic success among the students at most magnet schools in New Haven has dramatically increased. While magnet schools came of age in the 1980s, they appear to be an innovation with both staying power and the ability to thrive in a dynamic and expanding system of choice within the New Haven community.

The Office of Innovation and Improvement funds five of New Havens' 17 magnet schools through a Magnet Schools Assistance program grant. This program provides grants to local educational agencies, which are under a court-ordered or federally approved voluntary desegregation plan, to establish and operate magnet schools. Additionally, the Office of Innovation and Improvement funds a Voluntary Public School Choice project in New Haven. This program provides flexible support to help States and school districts expand public school choice program. New Haven's project focuses specifically on expanding parental options for students who are attending schools that have been identified as low performing. Project goals include:

  • Increasing the number of students in low performing schools who will apply to other schools;
  • Augmenting the number of seats available in each school of choice;
  • Enlarging the number of students in low-performing schools who are admitted to schools of choice; and
  • Heightening academic achievement specifically in language arts and mathematics for students from low performing schools who are attending schools of choice.
For more information about the New Haven Public Schools of Choice program, go to: ; for additional information about the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, go to and for further information about the Voluntary Public School Choice Program, go to


What's New
OII invites you to the first Innovations in Education Exchange
OII invites you to the first Innovations in Education Exchange. The panel discussion on "Exploring Virtual Schools" will be at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 29th in the U.S. Department of Education auditorium, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC. Contact to RSVP. (May 2)

The U.S. Department of Education co-hosted White House forum on American history
The U.S. Department of Education co-hosted "We the People," the White House Forum on American History, Civics, and Service, on May 1. One of the panelists in the program was an OII grantee who directs the Teaching American History grant to the Los Angeles Unified School District. The new Teaching of Traditional American History grant competition was announced at the forum, and is scheduled to open on May 6. For information about the forum, go to For information about the grant competition, go to (May1)

The National Commission on Writing released a report on the state of writing among U.S. students
The National Commission on Writing, a panel of the College Board, has released a report on the state of writing among U.S. students. The report recommends that students spend twice as much time on writing, that writing be taught in all subjects and in all grades, and that all districts adopt a writing plan. The Chair of the Commission's advisory board directs the National Writing Project, an OII grantee. For more information about the commission's report, go to, For information about the National Writing Project, see (April 25)


Innovations in the News

Teacher Quality
Denver Public Schools is considering a plan rewarding teachers with more money for boosting students test scores. [More-The Denver Post] (April 21)

Charter Schools
A Franklin County, Ohio judge has ruled that charter schools in Ohio are constitutional and part of the state's public school system. [More-The Columbus Dispatch] (April 21)

The number of Charter Schools in the Utah could increase by as much as 50%. Six new applications have been given to the state Office of Education and a handful more at school districts across the state. [More-The Salt Lake Tribune] (April 23)

School Choice
Seminole County, Florida's School Board pledged to maintain "equity and excellence" at all of its schools. The biggest change for many parents will be the transfer policy. More children will be allowed to switch to schools that have room for extra students, and transfers based on economic status will replace transfers based on race. [More-The Orlando Sentinel] (April 23)

Philadelphia schools chief Paul Vallas said hundreds of courses in the city's curriculum are "irrelevant" and should be deleted from the list of course offerings. Vallas encouraged a shift toward a core curriculum supplemented by meaningful electives. [More-The Philadelphia Inquirer] (April 25)

Print this page Printable view Bookmark  and Share
Last Modified: 04/26/2011