Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Drawing Kids Like A Really Bad Magnet

I've avoided writing on school issues for a number of weeks now, as the mere thought of doing so makes me want to slit my wrists and the wrists of anyone in razor blade proximity to me. Okay, that's a pretty harsh image for 5:48 in the morning.

How about the mere thought of school issues has made me want to curl into the fetal position on the floor near my post-surgery dog and whimper in non-narcotic seizures of pain as I hold him desperately?

That doesn't seem much better, and the same can be said for the new-fangled but really very old and tired idea of APS School Board denizen Robert Lucero regarding Del Norte and Sandia High Schools.

As noted in this fascinating KOB "story" from last night, both of these schools are literally falling apart and enrollment is dropping. So what is Lucero's faux exciting idea here:

"The school board is considering the possibility of turning Del Norte High and Sandia High into magnet schools. It's an idea that school board member Robert Lucero said should have been put in place a long time ago. 'I think it's a great idea, it's long overdue that we need a magnet process for our high schools to keep our students motivated and keep them in school,' said Lucero."

The story goes on to say that school board members are batting ideas around like making a school a "film production" magnet school, in addition to the usual candidates: technology, science, fine arts, and sumo wrestling.

Very academically sexy sounding stuff, and in the antiquated thinking of APS positively "out of the box". Kooky enough to be "charter school thinking" even. But before prospective public school families arrest the flight to the Westside that has played a bigger role in Sandia/Del Norte declining enrollment, let's look at another "magnet school" done APS style.

Hayes Middle School is, as its web site states, "A Scientific Research and Technology Magnet School". It's located at the corner of Texas and Lomas N.E., at the edge of what was once known as the "war zone", alongside I-40 and a bunch of car dealerships.

Enrollment at Hayes has been dropping for years, and its test scores have been bad for as least as long. I worked there back in the 90s, and we tried to make the best of a bad situation through a steady diet of public funding for technology stuff. Because the school had plenty of "poor" students, the Feds were happy to throw money at us for things like fancy network servers, and I, as "technology coordinator" (quotation marks most needed), dutifully filled out grant applications and called state legislators to get more money for computers, robotics stuff, GPS equipment and anything else that could be termed "technology".

After I left in 2000 to experience my own hallucinatory trip through "Charter School Land", Hayes officially became a "A Scientific Research and Technology Magnet School", and had even more money thrown at it toward this purpose.

Maybe you didn't know Hayes MS is a magnet school. Maybe you just remember seeing Hayes' test scores in the paper and remember that the school is still "failing". Maybe you don't know anything about the school because the enrollment is still very low and going nowhere, even with new construction all around campus.

The bottom line is that Hayes is "A Scientific Research and Technology Magnet School" in name only. You can't have a "magnet school", if it has no magnetic pull. And one might argue marketing ideas like "magnet schools" have a real tough time succeeding when the District running them has demonstrated zero marketing ability. Less than zero.

APS can call every one of its institutions a "magnet school" if they want, but that doesn't mean squat. What might really draw, or retain, students better? How about just being a good school? How about being a really good school? I would much rather the District, and its individual components, focus on the grinding, unsexy drive to bettering itself over the illusionary academic sexiness of something like a "film production magnet school". And I say that as a teacher of a "film class".

Okay, I'm going to lie back down on the floor with the post-surgery dog now, and reminisce about Hayes Middle School, the 1990s and having no gray hair. Ah, the Clinton years....


Kelsey Atherton said...

Last I knew, Sandia was full of transfers. Overfull, really, and they had to turn down many applicants. That was no more than four years ago, and I'm rather surprised to see the school claim to have fallen so far, so fast.

To be fair, these transfers were from Highland, AHS, and other schools with declining populations, and so that might have drained the pool of available students. But, if my perception wasn't off, it seemed the school was a magnet already, working purely on the advertising of decent test scores and a gifted program. Hmm....

Ched MacQuigg said...

Magnet school students have to take the same no child left behind tests as any other school in the APS?

If there isn't time enough now to teach to the NCLB tests; where will a school get more time to emphasize magnetism? or any other discipline?

Anonymous said...

I say we impeach the APS school board and start over! We need more educators on the school board. I picture several retired educators watching the news with opinions of this board - I wish they would step in and help turn this district around.
APS is famous for putting bandaids on the problems. And Richardson running for President with his "improve education" speech makes me gag every time I hear it. I hope the country does some research to see how very little he's done for our state on education.
Charter schools, magnet schools, blah blah blah ... Lucero & Griego keep saying that APS is in the business of education and not running a police department. HA - they can't even get public education right. What makes them think they aren't part of the problem in APS?
What credentials or knowledge do they have on education? H*** ... some of them don't even bother to read up on issues prior to it being presented to the Board.

history said...

As a teacher at Hayes (where we actually have a class called "Magic of Science") I have to confess that we do not attract many kids. We have our successes and failures like every other school in the district (and no, science, and technology are not really solving the problem). My conclusion? Unless we became an "everybody passes magnet school", the term "magnet school" is, practically speaking, an oxymoron, just like "education president/governor", "failing school", "No Child Left Behind", and "caring school board".

Anonymous said...

They need to create ESL magnet schools. But of course, that would make too much sense and would probably be considered politically incorrect.

Anonymous said...

bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch

Say it at a public forum at a school board meeting.

frannyzoo said...

Anonymous: Thanks for your helpful comment above, and for your advice specifying exactly where one should "bitch", as if making a public forum statement at a school board meeting was any less of a waste of time than writing/commenting on a blog, screaming from the top of a distant mountain or mumbling it incoherently at a bus stop. Again, thanks.

Anonymous said...

yours is precisely the attitude that guarantees that nothing will ever change in the leadership of the APS.

Anonymous said...

OKAY ... I challenge any and every person who has a beef with APS to attend this meeting and voice what you don't like and make a suggestion on how to improve it. I would love to see a packed Board room of educators, parents and students who care enough to say it out loud to the Board. In numbers we could promote change, but if only a few of us come out of our caves - nothing will change. I dare you to be more involved! "Be the change you want to see in the world" Gandhi

Thursday (11-15-2007)
5:00 p.m. Board of Education Policy and Instruction Committee Meeting, APS DeLayo-Martin Community Room, 6400 Uptown Blvd., NE, Albuquerque, NE

Nora said...

I was rejected from Sandia when I tried to transfer there some 6-odd years ago. I'm really glad I didn't get in, honestly.

Hung said...

Hayes in the 90's were good times. Mostly due to the protective shelter of the smart kids portables. Though ironically, the portables probably also had mold that reduced my lifespan by 20 years! You win some, you lose some.

Since when are you a famous blogger, Mr. Key? I mean, Scot?