Gazette Editorial Board
The Gazette reported Tuesday that several Cedar Rapids school administrators are seriously reviewing whether to develop magnet schools in the district, even as early as the fall of 2014.
We applaud such exploration. Not just because it’s “something different,” but because it’s aimed at expanding the kind of learning environments that will help more students find success in fast-changing, diverse and demanding 21st century workplaces.
That includes offering more choices that attract a diverse group of students.
Magnet schools are not private schools. They are part of the public school system. What distinguishes them is that they usually have alternative kinds of teaching modes and/or focus on an academic theme, such as science, math, the arts or entrepreneurship. They usually require some additional funding. And they are open to students outside of the school’s regular boundaries.
Johnson School of the Arts is perhaps the closest thing to a magnet school in Cedar Rapids. That elementary school focuses on academic achievement “through a curriculum infused with the arts.”
Magnet schools were introduced nationally in the late 1960s as a voluntary way to advance academic desegregation, rather than forcing students to bus to other schools.
Diversity is still one of the magnet school purposes, but the emphasis on academic opportunity and excellence has grown in the past couple of decades. Competition to get into these schools has increased.
So are magnet schools the right way to go for Cedar Rapids? We’re not sure. But we think they should be thoroughly considered. Appropriately, the district will seek community input first before making any decisions. Community conversation events will begin Oct. 29 with others in November and December. And parents and other residents also can offer their feedback and submit questions at the district’s community engagement website: http://www.engagecrschools.com/
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