Magnet Review: JCPS explains the process


Ian Johnson

You’ve probably heard the commotion on Twitter; JCPS has hired an outside source to review the magnet programs at Manual.

While the result of the review and the future of Manual may be up in the air, an overview of the process released to JCPS principals clearly outlines how the school district intends to use the information gathered from the review.

The process is broken up into five phases, beginning with the independent organization Magnet Schools of America, Inc. auditing all 59 magnet programs(PDF) in JCPS. The review consists of interviewing magnet coordinators and the school principal, as well as analyzing magnet achievement, demographic, budget and building data. A consultant will also go through a “walk-through protocol” that includes observing classes and interviewing students. Representatives from the firm reviewed the magnets at Manual last Tuesday.

From here, the MSA’s report will be presented to the school board, community and schools for initial reception and feedback, where it will be used along with feedback from schools to make a recommendation to the board. The board will then “develop an implementation plan based on Board-approved recommendations.”

The chief goal of the report is to determine what magnet schools in the county are working effectively and are accurately representing students in the district. This means that a recommendation to the Board could possibly result in the closure of magnets that are ineffective, but it could also mean increased funding for magnets producing students with specialized skills. The review also has the goals of creating a more organized database for magnets and providing information about building capacity.

The outline also provided an example of a report from the MSA about magnets in the Houston Independent School District from 2011(PDF), which recommended the district implement a lottery admissions system to increase diversity and cut 55 magnets that were deemed “unnecessary and ineffective”. It also called for increased standards and funding in remaining magnets.

The MSA will present its report of JCPS magnets on Monday, March 24 at the VanHoose Education Center.

The report could recommend several options to the board, but no immediate actions will take place after the review is released, as it will take school and community opinion into account. For example, the MSA could recommend closing of a Manual magnet or the construction of additional facilities, but it would not necessarily happen as it is only an outside opinion that provides a basis for a decision.