Thursday, March 01, 2007

Magnet Schools Have Low Test Scores/Marketing Campaigns Cloud Reality

The article below by Anne Johansen was printed on the front page of the Jonesboro Sun Feb. 28, 07, for a Pro and Con article on magnet schools. The author of article granted permission to post it.

Magnet schools don't measure up to their reputation. Most citizens probably have a positive view of magnet schools but know very little of the problems associated with them.

Magnet school promoters use extensive marketing campaigns very effectively to create a positive perception of magnet schools just as Jonesboro is doing with its TV and radio ads.

The US Department of Education provides a litany of marketing and recruiting techniques, such as open house sessions, parent information sessions, magnet web pages, flyers, posters, news releases, and television ads. Jonesboro is using many of these techniques.

However, magnet school advocates don't market or advertise the actual test scores of magnet schools. Jonesboro Sun reported Sept 29, 06, that 4 districts with magnet schools had been observed by 75 school representatives as models for Jonesboro's magnet schools: Batesville, Hot Springs, Texarkana, and Jackson, Tennessee, all selected because of similar demographics and size.

Jonesboro scores significantly better in 35 of 40 categories than Hot Springs In 2005 Hot Springs had a graduation rate of only 56%, Jonesboro 86%. Hot Springs had 67% college remediation, Jonesboro 45.8%. And Hot Springs spends $1,395 more per pupil than Jonesboro.

Jonesboro's scores are remarkably better than Texarkana in EVERY area. Jonesboro 5th grade literacy score is 27 points higher than Texarkana, 24 points higher in 6th grade, and 25 points higher in 5th grade math on the state benchmark tests.

Jonesboro's l1th Grade Literacy test score is more than double that of Texarkana (65 to 31) and 28 points higher than Hot Springs. This is a key score, indicating the end product of the students' learning in reading, grammar, and writing. It was originally half the exit exam which is now being resurrected by the state.

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.
For rest of story and documentation, see this link: or click Thursday below


Blogger Debbie Pelley said...

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. 

Batesville has one magnet school with 35% minorities and another with 4% minorities.  Racial imbalance has been another problem with magnet schools.  Even though the main purpose for magnet school federal grants was to further integration of schools, in reality they are leading to re-segregation.

There are only three districts in Arkansas that have voluntary magnet schools (Little Rock magnet schools were ordered by court desegregation ruling).  Two other districts, Pine Bluff and Forrest City, tried magnet schools but abandoned them.  Pine Bluff reported they had received mega bucks from a federal grant and had everything they wanted, but magnet schools just didn't work for them.

Magnet schools often use controversial innovative teaching techniques.   For example, Hot Springs is the only district in the state that has implemented the controversial United Nations International Baccalaureate Program district wide.    The planned "International Studies" Jonesboro magnet school reports on their website that, "The curriculum will not be 'textbook driven' but will focus on developing thinking and inquiring minds with opportunities for students to work in small groups and create projects." 

That statement incorporates four tenets of the old failed controversial Outcome Based Education (OBE) philosophy – (1) no textbooks, (2) group/cooperative learning, (3) teachers as coaches, and (4) hands on learning vs. traditional instruction.

At a statewide Hot Springs Teacher Conference in 1996, these words were used to advertise a teacher workshop:  "Are these teachers crazy? They took 170 seventh graders to a city park all day for five days to study the geographic regions of Arkansas. Hands on activities… made it happen.  Students heard a blues singer and wrote their own Delta Blues…Students took wild turkey feathers and experimented with the effect of oil on feathers.  Get packets and ideas!" [A week spent on such activities bears little academic fruit].

 Another description of a teacher workshop included this statement, "Before long these [projects] can take up all of your year if you let them."    That is probably exactly why some of these magnet schools are not scoring any better.

Jonesboro's performance record is higher than the state average in 41 out of 44 areas.  There is still much room for improved excellence. However, based on the success rate of the magnet schools, they are no model to follow.  Implementing magnet schools could lead to very expensive, ruinous results and longer days for our students, parents, and teachers because of the busing of students to various schools.
Anne Johansen,
Jonesboro, Arkansas 72401,
Note: 2005 scores were used because that is the latest full report completed.  ADE said they wouldn't have the 2006 full performance record until later this year.  These scores can be easily accessed at this link:
1. The performance report cards for the state, Jonesboro, Hot Springs, Texarkana and Batesville and all the magnet schools can be found at this link:   Just choose state or district or school and arrow down to the name you are looking for.
2. Jackson Tennessee scores can be found at these links: 
Parkview magnet
Lincoln magnet school:
Issac Lane Magnet
North Parkway
3.  Jonesboro Sun Story.  District considers magnet schools by Sherry F. Pruitt, 9/29/06 by  Sherry F. Pruitt
4.US Department of Education  "Innovations in Education: Creating Successful Magnet School Programs – Market Your Schools"
5.  Innovative teaching techniques are attached by hard copy – don't have them on computer.

12:35 PM, March 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting that you do not refer to any of the Little Rock magnet schools except to say that they were court ordered. Court ordered or not, they have proven a successful alternative to non-magnet schools in the LR area.

2:45 PM, March 02, 2007  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

ANYTHING would be successful compared to the non-magnet schools in the LR area! In LR the magnet schools are the escape hatch for those who without money to go private or homeschool. In areas where the schools are not as dysfunctional, no escape hatch is needed so the magnet schools are expensive and ineffective relative to the main school system.

7:31 AM, March 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Concerning the scores on LIttle Rock magnet schools - I believe articles submitted to a paper have to be about 600 words or so. I saw pages of research that was given to Jonesboro School Board members. I am sure that only a portion of that research could be included in the article.

Have you done the research on the magnet schools in Little Rock to show what their actual scores are; if their schools are balanced racially; and if the students have to be gifted with high intelligence in order to enter the school. If so will you share it with the rest of us? And Little Rock was not used as a model for Jonesboro.

No, some of you won't even read the research when it is presented to you in writing or as a click away. You have your minds made up, and you don't want to be bothered with the facts. Our chidlren are the ones that pay the price for this attitude.

Anyone can take the cream of the crop from an entire district like Hot Springs did with Park magnet school and produce great scores. I don't know yet if Little Rock magnet schools have doen that or not. I was told that a Hot Springs school official said "Park magnet was like a wonderful little private school." Park magnet is an elitist form of education and has three times as many whites as black, and the low scoring magnet school in Hot Springs has twice as many blacks as white so that constitutes resegregation by race and by poverty.

I beliee the court ruled we had to have adequate and equal education for all, not just for the elite.

And the magnet schools in Jonesobro are opening the door for desegregation orders and court run schools at tremendous costs to the taxpayers.

Everyone (even the media) seems to be able to see the problems when presented with the facts except those of you who already had your minds made up to begin with.

10:28 AM, March 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would say that you have your mind made up, Anonymous, and others on this board. LR Magnet schools use a lottery system and "gifted with high intelligence" is not a criteria in the lottery. Where in the heck would you have gotten some whacky idea like that? Have YOU done YOUR research? Do you even live in LR or have you ever spoken with LRSD concerning the criteria to enter the lottery to enter a magnet school? These public schools give parents a choice in education (in addition to private or home-schooling). The magnet school in LR my children attend is over 50% African American. Is that balanced enough for you?

Oh and Mark Moore - you have such an elitist attitude. If it makes you feel any better, the parking lot at the PUBLIC school is full of luxury vehicles at pick-up time. The schools in LR are diverse in their economic make-up. Some of us don't think it is a good thing to force our kids to go to schools with kids that are exactly like them - color, socio-economic level, etc. Miracle of miracles, some folks CHOOSE public school for their kids around here and not just because "they are without money to go private or homeschool". That statement is truly offensive. While I have many friends who homeschool successfully, I wouldn't say it is for everyone any more than I would say that public is for everyone. I don't share your cookie-cutter attitude but it is certainly your right to have it.

Maybe you all should spend some time in the real world and associate with a more diverse group. What about some single-mothers? People of other races? Less affluent? GASP!!! It might be that your one-size-fits-all mentality doesn't work in the real world after all.

6:56 PM, March 03, 2007  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Well that is the first time I have ever been called THAT name.

I am sorry that you are offended, but I stand by my statement, with the caveat that I am sure that people WITH the money to do private or home school ALSO use the magnet schools as an escape hatch. I did not mean to imply that there were ONLY people without means in magnet schools, nor that there were not some parents who choose the public schools for the reasons you give. The main point is that when the overall school system is poor, magnet schools can and do serve as an escape hatch because they are from a select group that is motivated enough about education to seek out the magnet school.

It makes no difference that "gifted with high intelligence" is not a criteria in the lottery. The point is that on average those who care enough to even ENTER this lottery are those with higher motivation and/or intelligence than those who do not.

I don't think homeschool is for everyone either, but that is not what this thread is about. The thread is about the current Magnet school concept and if it is a good idea or not. We noted that when established in an otherwise healthy district, magnet schools tend to suffer from low test scores. It is only in problem districts where they are used as a lifeboat, like LRSD, that they have scores higher than the district. The solution there is not mangnet schools, but fixing the district.

As for my need to spend time in the "real world", it might interest you to know that I was a public school teacher for 12 years, nine of them in a black-majority district. I gave my all to my kids during those years. You are 180 degrees wrong in everything you implied about me. Perhaps YOU are the one who needs to abandon a "cookie-cutter" mentality about people.

5:53 PM, March 04, 2007  

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