Saturday, March 10, 2007

Little Rock and Arkansas Magnet School Failures

There seems to be very little academic success in the magnet schools in Arkansas. In the thirteen magnet schools in Little Rock, nine of them score lower than state average (much, much lower in most cases) on state benchmark and nationally normed tests. Jonesboro, who is in the magnet school implementing stage, scores higher than state average in about 41 of 44 areas. The three magnet schools in Little Rock that do score as high or higher than the state average have stacked decks like wealthy districts and low minority rates. (One middle school scores higher in some areas than state average and lower in some to make up the thirteen magnet schools.)

Even with the stacked deck, Jonesboro scores higher than Little Rock's highest scoring magnet high school in most areas, especially in End of course algebra (by 34 pts) and End of Course Geometry and 11th Literacy by 5 points. Twenty-six percent of their students taking AP courses pass them; 41 % of Jonesboro student taking AP courses pass them. And Jonesboro has a smaller percentage of students that need remediation than this high school does. In one Little Rock magnet high school, McClellan, only 2 out of 424 students taking AP classes passed them (less than 2 out of 200). McClellan had an average of 16% of students scoring proficient or above on End of Course in Algebra, Geometry, and 11th Grade Literacy. Another Little Rock magnet high school, J.A. Fair, scored only slightly better.

The elementary school that has the highest scores in Little Rock District is Williams Traditional Magnet School. The executive director of the review board on magnet schools in Little Rock said as its name implies, Williams Traditional is like schools used to be, like when she was in school. She said the parents loved the schools, and there was always a healthy, long waiting list for that school. One wonders then why there is so much hype about magnet schools and why Jonesboro or other schools would want to change to magnet schools.

In one Little Rock magnet high school, they have 99.7% minorities; in one middle school they have 90% minorities, and in one elementary school they have 88% minorities. The greatest disparity in racial balance among magnet schools in Little Rock, 43.7%. There is also great disparity among schools in poverty rates and in academic success.

Six of these magnet schools in Little Rock have been around twenty years, since 1987, and several others for more than ten years. If they were going to make any difference in balancing race, poverty, or increasing academic scores, they should have been able to

We have already discovered that the scores in Hot Springs and Texarkana and Jackson, Tennessee, schools that Jonesboro studied as models, have much lower scores than Jonesboro. Jonesboro's scores are remarkably better than Texarkana in EVERY area, and Jonesboro scores significantly better in 35 of 40 categories than Hot Springs.

Jackson, Tennessee elementary magnet schools score lower than the state average on their TCAP state tests in EVERY area, 10 to 20 points lower in some areas. Jonesboro's performance record is higher than the state average in 41 out of 44 areas.

Batesville is the only magnet school that scores higher than Jonesboro but only by three points in the overall average of the benchmark scores through 6th grade. However, their enrollment is half the size of Jonesboro, and they have half the number of minorities and fewer students in poverty.

We also have already discovered that there is a great difference in the racial make-up of the enrollment in magnet schools at Hot Springs, Texarkana, and Batesville so even though magnet schools were originally designed to increase integration; in reality they are resegregating the races. Batesville has one magnet school with 35% minorities and another with 4% minorities; Hot Springs, one magnet school with 71% minorities and another with 25% minorities, and Texarkana one magnet school with 65% minorities and one with 33% minority.

And with graduation rates being low in most of the magnet schools (Hot Springs 56% and two high school magnet schools in Little Rock at 64% and 75%, Batesville 76.1% - as compared with Jonesboro's 86%), it seems rather obvious that the students are not nearly as excited about the themes and methods of delivery in the magnet schools as those advocating magnet schools in Jonesboro seem to be. If they were, they would be sticking around to graduate.

How, therefore, can anyone call magnet schools a success or want to use them as models?

For details and dcocumentation see this link: http://www.wpaag.org/IB%20-%20Little%20Rock%20&%20AR%20Magnet%20Sch.%20Failure.htm

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