• by Bradley Scott, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • June – July 2012 •
A recent visit to the Medical Magnet Program at Carroll High School in Monroe, Louisiana, brought back memories of a research study the equity assistance center undertook almost two decades ago. IDRA published the report conducted in the Region VI service area of the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity, titled Magnet Schools: Pockets of Excellence in a Sea of Diversity (Scott & DeLuna, 1994). The study examined 11 magnet schools in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas looking at 12 areas research identified as important indicators of effectiveness when magnet schools are used as a strategy for desegregation. The 12 areas are as follows.
Magnet School Indicators of Effectiveness
highly skilled teachers with great experience and skills or those new teachers who have demonstrated potential for excellent teaching coupled with a high commitment to their students and their success.
Student selection (assignment)
students and their parents self select or are recruited to the magnet school or program because of the student’s interest in its content and its positive outcomes.
Student selection (enrollment)
parents choose or the students see the magnet school or program as being a way of getting the best education available in the district and also perceive some value in the diverse educational experience the school or program can provide.
magnet schools and programs value a low student teacher ratio because such configurations can provide students with more individual attention as well as providing an opportunity for adults to respond to students’ academic, social, emotional and psychological needs.
the curriculum is rigorous, unique, innovative and challenging and it operates at the higher levels of thinking, requiring more intense decision-making, creativity and problem solving skills.
Magnet school image
schools continually ensure their image is one that projects success and finds it important that parents, students and staff believe in the effectiveness of the program. They talk positively about the program and feel driven to live up to the image of the program. Leadership is open, receptive and willing to listen and support doing what is necessary to get the job of equity and excellence done right. Teachers also see parents as partners who are willing to support the program and go the extra mile to help the students and the program to succeed.
the places and spaces for learning are well-kept and lighted. The appearance of the physical environment is not taken for granted. It looks like an important place for learning. Materials and equipment are appropriate to the theme of the school and program, in good working order and up to date.
students’ performance generally tends to be highly responsive to the theme of the magnet and they tend to perform at higher levels on all of the measures of student success including academic outcomes, cross-cultural relations, self concept and esteem, resilience, efficacy, school graduation, college-going and view of life success.
students receive a great deal of support for their success from counselors, staff members, teachers and principals in addition to adult volunteers, parents and adult magnet theme experts. The structures of supports are intentionally put into place and are monitored to ensure they produce the desired outcomes for students.
the staff, parents and other adults work hard to create and support positive intergroup relations. Multicultural educational experiences and curriculum; cooperative cross racial, cross cultural learning and grouping approaches; and the use of democratic principles and social justice-based interaction all help to ensure an environment of equal status, knowledge and acquaintance ship, common goal and institutional fairness that translates to good race relations.
Parent and community involvement
parent and community involvement and engagement is actively solicited by the school and this program welcomes this engagement. Parents are involved in all facets of classroom operations, guidance and counseling, mentoring, clubs and other activities, task forces, monitoring groups, decision-making and problem solving and collaborative parent-teacher conference. Staff perceive parents as interested and excited about their children’s success and therefore expend great efforts to keep parents informed and engaged.
Magnet and non-magnet school collaboration
good magnet schools and programs seek to transfer their best practices to non-magnet schools as a part of making the educational experiences of all learners better. This happens in reciprocal professional development sessions and coaching and mentoring settings when possible. Good leadership in non-magnet schools and good teachers reach out to magnet schools and programs and vice versa because of their academic success and the organizational supports and operation encourage such reciprocity. Neither strong leaders nor good teachers in non-magnet settings are threatened by the presence and the success of strong magnet schools or programs because they see, understand and embrace the quality, rigor and success these programs have to offer when they work well.
Shining Example in Louisiana
It was clear during this most recent visit that a pocket of excellence is emerging in Monroe City Schools that will serve northeastern Louisiana for years to come. They are creating success specifically in the indicator areas of staffing, student selection in assignment and enrollment, student-teacher ratio, curriculum, parent and community relations, and student outcomes.
The IDRA SCCE has worked with the staff to bring into focus and to shape the nature of the program and its design. Under the leadership of Dr. Kathleen J. Harris, superintendent; Ms. Patricia Johnson, director of the 21st Century Learning Center; and Mrs. Shandra N. Smith, program coordinator for the Medical Magnet, the staff have launched an exciting, forward-thinking medical magnet program that is already producing exciting college and career opportunities for its students.
The magnet program is a unique four-year program designed for students who have a strong aptitude and interest in math and science, desire a challenging course of studies, and aspire to pursue higher education leading to a career in medicine or health-related fields. In operation for two years, the magnet program is housed at Carroll High School, whose principal is Patrick Taylor.
I was invited to participate in this year’s course completion and pinning ceremonies for the six female students who had successfully completed the program. They received certifications as nursing and pharmacist assistants. The pinning ceremony dates almost as far back as Florence Nightingale.
Three of the students were offered jobs on the spot as they received their certification and were pinned. Their fellow students were excited for them. Their parents were understandably proud and overwhelmed by the impressive program and demonstration of appreciation for the young women. The graduates were honored by the mayor of Monroe with acknowledgements and certificates of achievement from the city council. They also were honored by the Louisiana state senate, including having their names read into the state record. And they received special acknowledgements from the medical magnet instructional team, including Catherine Johnson, R.N.; Georgia Jones, R.N.; and Matthews Williams, chemistry teacher.
The Carroll High School Medical Magnet Program is becoming one of the showcase examples of what determination, dedication, focus, will and vision can produce for students even in the most challenging of circumstances.
IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity commends them for these accomplishments in two short years. We encourage them to continue moving forward in the other indicator areas of image, physical environment (as the programs grows and improves), student support, race relations (as non-minorities return to the system), and magnet and non magnet collaboration.
Clearly Carroll High School benefits from the presence of a highly successful magnet program as a part of its campus make-up, and the magnet program over time should benefit by drawing non-minorities back into a highly effective secondary campus in a city school district. We wish them continued success.
Scott, B., & A. De Luna. Magnet Schools: Pockets of Excellence in a Sea of Diversity (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, 1994).
Bradley Scott, Ph.D., is director of IDRA’s South Central Collaborative for Equity. Comments and questions may be directed to him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2012, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the June-July 2012 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]