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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sunset Park and District Three's Magnet Program

Four years ago, the Board was told a year round calendar would be good for
students by; providing a shorter break during the summer; a draw from across
the district which would help bring the school up to capacity and:
intersession periods throughout the year which would provide enrichment
opportunities and a chance for slower students to catch up so summer school
would not be necessary. Since that time, the Superintendent, Principal, and
the Program Coordinator have moved on and the school has not lived up to
expectations. Just last year, the district went into partnership with
Winthrop to make the school a math & science magnet - and this has not met
expectations either. Now the District wants to drop the year round calendar
and math & science and start yet another magnet - a gifted and talented
school... And all of this without a serious analysis of what has happened
during the last four years with what was good and what was bad. On top of
all this, the school has not met AYP and students were given the option to
opt out last year because of its title one status.

The most often quoted district with school magnets (by the administration)
is Wake County, NC. A quick look at their criteria for being selected into a
magnet shows the following:

Applications are selected through a random computerized process using the
following criteria:

· Application submitted during the on-time acceptance

· Transportation Patterns

· Siblings

· School Capacity

· Classroom Capacity

· Diversity

· Present magnet/year-round status of applicant

They also have established Objectives for their magnet programs.

"Magnet Programs will be used to foster healthy schools throughout the Wake
County Public School System by using choice to help:

· Reduce high concentrations of poverty and
support diverse populations;

· Maximize use of school facilities and

· Provide expanded educational

The administration wants the Board to go forward with another leap of faith.
Gomer Pile is smarter than that.


Since the proposal is for a gifted and talented magnet - this is what Wake
County has in that area:
Curriculum: Gifted & Talented
Unique Features

* Variety of electives and course levels for exploration of interests,
acceleration, and a rich, in-depth study of the subject

* Opportunities for in-depth visual and performing arts studies

* Foreign Language offered elementary through high school

* Extensive AP course offerings at the high school level

The Gifted and Talented Program is based on the belief that every child has
gifts and talents to be valued and nurtured. This program promotes choice
for the student and parent. Children explore a wide variety of learning
experiences through core and elective courses that continually develop
individual strengths and interests. There are no tests, auditions, or
performance standards for acceptance into the Gifted and Talented Program.
All students have the opportunity to take elective classes. Students in k-2
take two electives and students in our 3-5 classes take three electives.

The philosophy of Wake Forest Elementary's gifted and talented magnet
program is visible through the structure of the curriculum and instructional
techniques. The curriculum design offers a "choice" model for students and
parents. It provides options and alternatives for learning designed to
accommodate varying gifts, talents, interests, strengths, and needs.

Academically gifted students have been state-tested, starting in the third
grade, and qualify for Differentiated Services in Gifted Education.

Gifted and Talented (GT) is the title given to the program in seven magnet
elementary schools, four magnet middle schools, and one magnet high school.
The GT magnet program is based on the belief that every child has gifts and
talents that need to be valued and nurtured.


Ultimately, the elementary school choice comes down to what Jay Mathews
describes in his article on how to choose a school:

7. Don't worry about elementary school.

The fact that you have read this far means you are an energetic parent who
puts great emphasis on education and who, I would guess, has been reading
and talking to your children since they were infants. You have filled your
house with books. You make learning exciting. All the studies show that you
are going to have much more influence over your child's academic achievement
through sixth grade than the elementary school you choose. So as long as the
school is safe and you like it, it really doesn't matter whether its test
scores are not the highest. Your child is still getting a great education
because of you.


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