Some proponents of our school district’s new diversity policy have emphasized the possibility of meeting the policy’s goal—to reduce the concentration in any one school of kids from low-income families—through the creation of magnet schools that would draw families voluntarily from many different parts of town.
I’ve got nothing against the idea of magnet schools; it would be great if the district could make progress toward its diversity goals through voluntary transfers. But I don’t really understand them, either. How exactly would, say, a “science and technology” magnet school differ from our current elementary schools?
Keep in mind that the district has so much instruction stuffed into its current school day, and finds all of it so indispensable, that it has shortened recess and squeezed its lunch periods down to fifteen minutes. And that the superintendent explained to me that the district can’t add even five more minutes to the lunch period because “it’s very difficult to both meet the minimal instructional minutes and get all the [state-mandated] Common Core content delivered in the classroom.” And that the assistant superintendent also explained that “we as public schools are charged with far more than providing core academic instruction. For example, we teach a bullying/harassement curriculum, a health foods curriculum (in several schools with grant money) and financial literacy.” And that the teachers’ union president recently told the school board that the district’s overstuffed elementary school day is short-changing the kids and causing morale problems among the teachers.
What parts of the current school day will suddenly become expendable to create a greater emphasis on science and technology (or whatever the school’s particular theme will be)? Either these magnet schools will be all talk without any real difference, or there is more room for change in the school day than the district admits. Which is it?
(Cross-posted at the Patch).