The Education Innovator #39
Volume II
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The Education Innovator
 October 18, 2004 • Number 39
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Hamilton County Schools, Chattanooga, Tennessee
What's New
OII releases fourth book in the Innovations in Education series: Creating Successful Magnet Schools Programs; OII co-hosts "Innovations in Education: Building a Public-Private Partnership Model for K-12 Reform;" Maya & Miguel television program in Spanish and English premiers; the next Education News Parents Can Use television program covers "Supplemental Services: Helping All Students Achieve;" "Parental Involvement from the Practitioner's Perspective Webcast" is now available; National Center for Education Statistics releases statistics on private schools; models of school-based teacher induction programs being sought by IES contractor; the Casey Foundation launches a web-based toolkit of resources for schools, families, and communities; Governor Mike Huckabee (AR), the 2004-06 Chair of the Education Commission of the States, is focusing his term on "The Arts: a Lifetime of Learning;" and the National Endowment for the Arts releases the second edition of Imagine! Introducing Your Child to the Arts.
Innovations in the News
Montgomery County (MD) is starting its first middle school magnet consortium, plus information on choice, magnet schools, private schools, supplemental educational services, and Transition to Teaching.

Hamilton Magnet Schools Build Quality through Balance and Planning
In 1997, educators in Hamilton County, Tennessee, faced an enormous challenge. The city of Chattanooga, at the county's center, had decided to go out of the schooling business. Its predominantly urban, mostly minority schools would be merged with Hamilton County's predominantly suburban and mostly white schools. How could leaders take these two distinct systems, with different cultures, curricula, and histories and make them work as one? They found an answer: magnet schools. Magnets not only helped the new unified system integrate its schools and reduce minority group isolation, they also strengthened its focus on narrowing the achievement gap, giving parents more options, and creating and sustaining innovative educational practices and programs.

Today, 15 percent of Hamilton County's 41,000 students are enrolled in one of its 13 magnet schools. The magnet schools program has helped to attract middle class students, who once attended private schools, back into the school system. There is also greater racial diversity at some schools, such as Barger Academy, which in 1997 had a minority population of 96 percent, and today has a minority population of 76 percent.

Hamilton County magnet schools offer a variety of programs from which students can choose: fine arts, math and science, and technology. Additionally, several are organized around specific pedagogies, including two Paideia-based schools that integrate methods to teach literacy along with problem solving and other higher order thinking skills. These schools use professional development trainers, arrange release time so new teachers can observe Paideia seminars, and assign more experienced teachers to serve as mentors for new teachers.

Other magnet schools create professional balance by allowing time for teacher collaboration and planning to bolster student learning. At Battle Academy, for example, teachers have full-day planning meetings to evaluate progress toward goals. Many teachers consider these events "the heart and soul of this school." Teachers take a half-day the week before the meeting to plan for it.

The district is also using its magnet program to assist the high priority schools that are deemed in need of improvement under No Child Left Behind. For example, the district converted three of its schools needing improvement to magnets in order to raise the schools' quality levels by improving teaching and instruction and to get parental support.

Admission to a magnet school is conducted by zone, lottery (if a student wants to attend a school outside the zone), or by audition for the 6th—12th—grade fine arts school. The district has designated some magnets as "work-site schools" for children of parents who are employed near the school; these children are given priority placement in these schools. The district encourages parents and students to visit schools, so they have an idea of the schools to which they wish to apply. The tour is available online, as are the application and admission guidelines. The application period is lengthy—three months, from November 1 to January 28—so that parents and students have sufficient time to explore their options and apply to the school of their choice.

The district realizes that good management does not happen "organically," but must be deliberate and focused. Therefore, a Director of Magnet Schools heads the program. The district provides the schools with a variety of tools and assistance, including resource facilitators, some of whom are technology or museum specialists, for example, and others who are curriculum facilitators, to assist teachers with instruction and provide professional development.

In addition, the district has a full-time parent coordinator at each school to assist parents. All parents whose children attend a magnet school outside their neighborhood are required to volunteer at least 18 hours a year at school. In the 2003-04 school year, Hamilton magnet school parents volunteered over 70,000 hours of service, saving the district an estimated $360,500 for services that would have otherwise been contracted out.

The district realizes that it needs to invest in the success of its magnet school program, and that to attract student and parent involvement, the program needs to be marketed. The district hired an advertising agency to teach principals marketing techniques, to help them conduct focus groups, and to help them administer surveys. The district advertises its schools through shopping mall recruitment fairs, speakers at civic and religious meetings, talk radio programs, and local billboards.

In the same entrepreneurial spirit, the district has also achieved financial balance through successful community partnerships that provide funding and support. The district encourages individual schools to form their own unique partnerships. One principal of a math, science, and technology magnet school recruited the involvement of a local Best Buy store, which provided a $2,400 grant to the school to buy digital cameras. The partnership has grown: Best Buy employees now volunteer at the school, and the store has donated CD players to use as incentives for student performance. Another school, the Normal Park Museum Magnet, has partnered with Chattem and Pearls, a local folk art gallery, to hold its first "Normal-Palooza" community festival to raise money for the school (see Innovations in the News).

Hamilton County has received grants from OII's Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) in 1998, 2001, and 2004. Additionally, the Hamilton County Magnet Schools program is profiled in the new OII book, Innovations in Education: Creating Successful Magnet Schools Programs (see What's New).

Resources: Note: The featured program is an example of one school district's educational approach and is given to help districts implement the provisions of No Child Left Behind. The program described 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.


What's New
From OII

OII has released the fourth book in the Innovations in Education series: Creating Successful Magnet Schools Programs. It provides "lessons learned" on such topics as starting and promoting a magnet schools program, reaching out to parents, and making programs better over time. The book is available free from ED Pubs (order number EU 0113P) or on the web. (Oct. 18)

OII co-hosted a conference entitled, "Innovations in Education: Building a Public-Private Partnership Model for K-12 Reform," with the Philadelphia School District and Drexel University. At the meeting, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige said, "A dynamic partnership of government, teachers, business, and parents transforms our schools, helps end the achievement gap, and makes American education inclusive for all students." (Oct. 8)

Maya & Miguel , a new television program in Spanish and English, premiered on October 11. The program helps children develop language skills and an understanding of Latino culture. Scholastic Entertainment and PBS produce the show, whose development was funded by an OII Ready to Learn TV grant. (Oct. 11)

From the U.S. Department of Education

The next Education News Parents Can Use television program from the U.S. Department of Education will cover "Supplemental Services: Helping All Students Achieve". The program will feature OII's Assistant Deputy Secretary Nina Rees and will air live on October 19 at 8:00 P.M. ET and at other dates and times in the coming weeks. Please check local listings for the time and date that it will air in your area. (Oct. 18)

The U.S. Department of Education has produced a "Parental Involvement from the Practitioner's Perspective Webcast," which includes presentations by Ray Simon, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, and representatives from the state, local, and education research communities. (Oct. 12)

The National Center for Education Statistics has released Characteristics of Private Schools in the United States: Results From the 2001-2002 Private School Universe Survey. According to the report, private school students made up about 10 percent of the total elementary and secondary school enrollment in the U.S. in 2001-2002. (Oct. 13)

Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. and its partners have been awarded a five-year, $10.3 million contract from the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, to conduct an evaluation of the impact of school-based teacher induction programs. Mathematica is seeking strong induction programs to be selected as the model to be tested. The deadline for applications is November 15. (Oct. 13)

School Toolkit

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has developed a web-based toolkit of resources for schools, families, and communities to help build partnerships for student success. (Sept. 24)

The Arts

Governor Mike Huckabee (AR), the 2004-06 Chair of the Education Commission of the States, is focusing his term on "The Arts: a Lifetime of Learning," download files MS Word (44K) which will concentrate on making sure that every child has the "opportunity to participate in, learn about, and enjoy the arts." (Oct. 5)

The National Endowment for the Arts has released the second edition of Imagine! Introducing Your Child to the Arts This handbook suggests activities parents can do with their children to involve them in the world of the arts. (2004)


Innovations in the News

According to a Manhattan Institute report, states that adopted stronger testing and accountability systems, as well as states that offered a broader range of educational choices, were more likely to overcome the disadvantages of some of their students. [More-Family News] (Oct. 12)

Sweden's school choice system was introduced in 1992. It is based on a "voucher" which is equivalent in value to the average cost of educating a child in the local state school. Some in Britain are looking to the Swedish model. [More-BBC News] (Oct. 5)

A Pasadena Star News editorial illustrates how the expansion of public school choice has shifted the thinking of parents to consider choosing public schools for their children, as the list of high-performing elementary schools in the district is growing. [More-Pasadena Star News] (Oct. 12)

Magnet Schools
The Normal-Palooza festival will benefit Normal Park Museum Magnet in Chattanooga (TN). Parents and members of the school's PTA created the fundraiser. The school, now in its third year following a facility renovation, serves neighborhood children and a large number of students from throughout the Chattanooga area. [More-Chattanoogan] (Oct. 8)

About $800 million is being bonded by the city of Hartford to fund the overhaul of magnet schools. The state will reimburse 70 to 100 percent of the cost. The goal is to upgrade the facilities and make the schools more competitive. [More-WFSB] (Oct 13)

Montgomery County (MD) is starting its first middle school magnet consortium, a group of three middle schools with specialized programs emphasizing interdisciplinary study. The specialty areas will include aerospace science, computers, performing arts, and communication. [More-Washington Post] (Oct. 7) (free registration)

To keep students together and preserve two magnet schools' unique programs, parents in Duluth (MN) are suggesting merging the schools rather than closing them. Grant Elementary School has a language and cultural program, while Chester Park's program is in arts integration technology. [More-KDLH] (Oct. 13)

Private Schools
British Prime Minister Tony Blair will meet with the heads of leading independent schools to enlist their help in running the British government's flagship city academies. Two hundred academies are being designed to revive standards in British inner cities by 2010. [More-Sunday Times Britain] (Oct. 10)

Following a business maxim, Catholic schools in Sioux City (IA) are changing their tuition to a "cost-based tuition/need-based aid" model. [More-KTIV] (Oct. 6)

Schools in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse scored above public school averages on New York State's fourth and eighth grade math exams. [More-Post-Standard] (Oct. 8)

Supplemental Educational Services
The San Francisco Examiner offers suggestions to the San Francisco Unified School District on how it can communicate better with parents about the free supplemental educational services available for their children. [More-San Francisco Examiner] (Oct. 12)

Transition to Teaching
OII gave the University of Texas at El Paso a $1 million grant to create online courses and provide scholarships in the Alternative Teacher Certification Program. Participants begin teaching in a local school district while attending evening classes. [More-El Paso Times] (Oct. 9)

Last year, 46 teachers took posts in Indiana classrooms after completing Transition to Teaching programs at state colleges. The programs offer one to two years of instruction but assume the new teachers already know much of their subject. [More-Indy Star] (Oct. 13)


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Last Modified: 11/16/2007