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Top of the morning


The folks at the News & Observer covering Wake County schools apparently don’t have access to their own publication’s archives.

Monday’s front page story about the possible end of magnet schools quotes Ron Margiotta, who is likely to be elected the new board chair, saying that he supports the magnet schools, though he wants some changes made in the way they operate.

An May 13  N&O story reported

Wake County School board member Ron Margiotta got some negative reaction from other board members last week when he proposed elimination of the district’s vaunted magnet program

In case you are keeping score at home, Margiotta says he supports keeping magnet schools that he tried to eliminate six months ago.  That’s seems like a contradiction the N&O readers might be interested in.


  1. Something Clever

    November 16, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    You are playing games here Mr. Fitzsimon in a way that does not become you. The omitted context of the above quote from Mr. Marigiotta is important. The courts had just decided that the school district could assign students without regard for calendar or location. The quote you gave was a suggestion by Mr. Margiotta that as a result of the ruling magnet programs were no longer needed and could be eliminated in order to save money. While it got a lot of talk, the statement was designed to do that, nothing more.

    I challenge everyone to look at this situation with an open mind. It is my opinion that the magnet system is an affront to any decent human being. If you are poor and likely non-white, the WCPSS will send you wherever it may please with no regard for your wants or needs. If you are wealthier and more-often-than-not white, the system will provide wonderful extra programs for you in order to have you consider going to certain schools. They will also block admission to those schools by the poor and non-white who may wish to attend, but are not assigned there, so you can be sure that your school won’t become ‘unhealthy’. When there is overwhelming evidence that it is the students from lower economic backgrounds who need access to superior services in order to just reach the same level as those who come from higher economic standing, the entire policy seems counterproductive and reactionary in nature.

    Just because it appears to serve a progressive purpose should not blind us to the reality that those of privilege have created a publicly funded system to maintain their status. The magnet system is one that gives more to those who have the most.

  2. gregflynn

    November 16, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Magnet programs provide resources for “neighborhood schools” that would otherwise wither on the vine. Magnet schools have base attendance areas and poor students in these areas benefit from the additional resources as much as the affluent from other areas attracted by the magnet programs. It’s a win-win. Successful magnet schools like Wiley are now larger than they would have been without magnet status. They still serve a base population and do so with more resources and with more opportunities for success.

  3. Something Clever

    November 16, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    “Magnet schools have base attendance areas and poor students in these areas benefit from the additional resources as much as the affluent from other areas attracted by the magnet programs. It’s a win-win.”

    Care to prove that? I have yet to see any conclusive evidence of higher achievement by the less affluent base population at a magnet school than the same population elsewhere. The idea that it is a win-win simply isn’t substantiated. Yes, there are schools where that is true, but there are also non-magnet schools that report above average results for the low income populations without the additional programs.

    The four year graduation rate for low income students is down to 56.5%. I think the focus should be fixing that, not funding attractive programs for those who are at the least risk of failing.

  4. gregflynn

    November 16, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    First you argue that magnet programs provide superior services for wealthy whites to the exclusion of poor non-whites. Now you argue that the less affluent don’t benefit from these superior services anyway.

    Marie G Davis Middle in Charlotte is an example of an excellent magnet school that deteriorated rapidly once magnet status was removed. Now a new “military magnet” is rising in its ashes to try to reverse the damage.

    The idea of magnets or specialty programs for high schools is actually one of the keys to improving graduation rates:

  5. Something Clever

    November 16, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Greg – “First you argue that magnet programs provide superior services for wealthy whites to the exclusion of poor non-whites. Now you argue that the less affluent don’t benefit from these superior services anyway.”

    That is correct. Instead of a school that is 70% low income like some in Wake county who aren’t lucky enough to be granted a special program, in the case of a magnet school the administration ships out half the low income kids (no choice, no special program to entice them, just get out), so that the school is now just 35% low income. That is 35% who cannot possibly get any benefit from the programs because they will never be admitted based on the published criteria and are assigned elsewhere.

    For the remaining 35% who are the base population you mention, prove to me that there actually is any benefit for them. Are the outcomes of low income populations in magnet programs better than those at large? I have never seen anything that says it consistently is. There are cases where it does, and cases where it doesn’t. Magnet programs look nice, sound good, but when it comes to actually bringing about better results for those who need the most help, the data from WCPSS has never shown that to be so as far as I know. It is just as likely to happen in a non-magnet school than a magnet school.

    In what way was Davis Middle in Charlotte an excellent school? Was the at risk population performing better or were there just fewer of them so it looked better on the surface? The typical “healthy schools” line where low performing kids are dispersed in the hope that no one notices. (Which, in my opinion is why the business community loves it.) A “healthy school” with the same kids left out from the opportunities they deserve is worthless.

    I completely agree that specialty programs are essential for success in high schools. I just don’t believe that the school system should automatically remove half the population that needs them so that those who don’t can have them too. Especially when in some schools the extra funding for the programs is going only to benefit the more affluent application population. It is well documented that the low income population has a much lower participation rate in the very programs that are supposed to be established for their benefit. This is not the case in most elementary and middle schools where most of the magnet programs are non-elective, but in high schools such as the oft lauded Enloe, you can see it in action every day.

    Here are the Enloe 10th grade comprehensive test scores:

    The low income (E.D.) population does just 0.3% better than the district E.D. average, and 4% worse than the state E.D. average. The more affluent population (N.E.D.) is a solid 11.7% above the district N.E.D. average and a massive 20.1% better than the state N.E.D. average. I don’t understand how anyone can look at those numbers and not see the magnet program as being nothing more than a clever ruse that gives more to those who already have the most while doing nothing for those who actually need help.

  6. IBXer

    November 17, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Mr. Clever, the thing you must keep in mind is that to a liberal, it is the intention that is important, not the outcome.

  7. Something Clever

    November 17, 2009 at 9:32 am

    IBXer, to a progressive the social implications of a system that perpetuates economic differences is of great concern.

    To me, the magnet system is like affirmative action in reverse. In affirmative action, in order to correct current inequalities created by past injustices, the disadvantaged are given certain preferences. In the magnet system, the current inequalities created by past injustices result in preferential treatment for those with the advantages. I just don’t see how The Progressive Pulse can defend a system that is so clearly at odds with what I thought were the progressive ideal of Justice for All. How is moving low income students out of schools with special programs just?

  8. gregflynn

    November 17, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Keep telling us what we think. We’re too busy searching for the perfect A Capella Kum Bay Ya to do it for ourselves. For everybody else here’s something constructive to think about:

    Innovations in Education: Successful Magnet High Schools

    Innovations in Education: Creating and Sustaining Successful K–8 Magnet Schools

    Innovations in Education: Creating Successful Magnet School Programs

  9. Something Clever

    November 18, 2009 at 8:01 am

    Greg, for your last link:
    “The Wake superintendent sees the district’s magnet schools as incubators of innovation. He credits the magnets with having had a positive impact on the entire district because they have created a culture of healthy competition between schools within the district, which he believes has made all schools stronger. As a testament to this belief, the district cites the fact that in 2003, 91.3 percent of students tested at or above grade level, up from 81.9 percent in 1998. Also, the gap in achievement scores between white, African American, and Native American students is narrowing, especially for K-8 students.”

    Unfortunately, all those improvements have been undone and the gap is widening, not narrowing. Why this happened and how to fix it are the real questions, but defending the WCPSS in terms of performance for those children in need is like defending Bush’s record on income disparity and wealth distribution. We can debate all you want on why it happened, but you cannot change the record that, at least from a progressive perspective, things have been moving in the wrong direction.

  10. IBXer

    November 18, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Ignorant kids who sing about “Barack Hussein Obama” being so “mmm mmm mmm” in school all day instead of getting an education grow up to be registered Democrats.

    That is all that matters.

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