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Court action raises question about magnet school admissions

Monday, July 15, 2013 12:39 AM
Last updated 12:44 AM
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The lifting of a 40-year-old desegregation order has raised the question of whether changes will have to be made to the admissions process for Richmond County’s magnet schools.

The order permitted those schools to consider race when selecting students, and at least two of Richmond County’s three magnet schools did. Without a desegregation order, the U.S. Department of Education requires race-neutral policies and allows schools to use a student’s race only in addition to other criteria.

Because students for the county’s three magnet schools have already been selected for the 2013-14 year, Superintendent Frank Rober­son said he plans to re-examine policies later this year to prepare for the 2014-15 class.

Because the district’s demographics have shifted to majority-black students, Roberson said he does not foresee any problems.

“I think the natural selection or application process is going to almost guarantee diversity because of the nature of the demographics in the population in our community,” he said. “There’s really not anything to do but let the application process happen naturally, and you’re going to get the balance you desire.”

Federal guidelines released in 2011 allow schools to consider race as a “plus factor” among other admissions criteria, but it cannot be the defining feature.

For example, in competitive schools such as magnet schools, a district could draw from a lottery system made up only of students who meet basic criteria, such as grades. A district could also give preference to qualified students based on their socioeconomic status, their parents’ level of education or their neighborhood to achieve diversity, according to the guidelines.

“We live in a segregated society still, and if you’re not paying attention to diversity it’s not going to just magically appear on its own.” said Erica Frankenberg, an assistant professor in the department of education policy studies at Pennsylvania State University. “Magnet schools that say they have a goal of diversity are more diverse than those that don’t say they have that goal.”

In Richmond County, both C.T. Walker Traditional and John S. Davidson Fine Arts magnet schools maintain almost an even split of black and white students.

All students who meet C.T. Walker’s academic and conduct requirements are placed into a lottery when there are more applications than available seats. Principal Renee Kelly said students are placed in separate lotteries based on race so the school can draw a balanced amount of black, white and other qualified students.

“It’s important because it exposes kids to diversity they encounter in the real world,” Kelly said. “In the 21st century, that’s even more important.”

By their nature, magnet schools are more diverse than traditional public or charter schools because they draw from wide attendance zones and admit students based on a central theme or interest. They were established in the 1960s as a remedy to segregation by attracting students of all backgrounds to high-achieving schools of an individualized focus.

“All students, no matter what their ZIP code or race, have gifts and talents,” said Mag­net Schools of America executive director Scott Thomas. “When you design a school around a specific interest, you’re going to get a wider array of diverse students.”

A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engi­neering Magnet School Principal Lamonica Lewis said her school receives more black applicants than white, and her enrollment reflects that. A.R. Johnson has certain academic and standardized testing requirements for entrance, and students are ranked based on those criteria and required recommendations.

It has resulted in a student body that is nearly 70 percent black and 23 percent white, which is level with the makeup of the district.

“We really had no reason to look at race,” Lewis said. “We simply rank the students based on the information that they give us. … It is my hope that children of any background that have an interest in health, science and engineering apply, and that’s how it’s been for years.”

Thomas said nationally, many magnet schools are using other factors to achieve racial diversity by proxy – such as socioeconomic status, their native language or neighborhood – which helps add more cultural variation to the environment.

Thomas said diversity is proven to boost achievement among students, help in the development of empathy, improve language acquisition, increase the chances of going to college and develop overall character.

“A lot of school districts are happily moving away from race because socioeconomic diversity is still extremely important to schools and school districts,” Thomas said. “At the end of the day, what they have found works best is letting students choose and having compelling, high-quality programs will attract anyone and everyone.”

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anotherday
46
Points
anotherday 07/15/13 - 02:34 am
5
0
AR Johnson HS

My son applied for AR Johnson a few years ago and was accepted. However when he went on testing day I was quite taken back by the extremely unbalanced racial lines. He is white and I would say about 90% where black taking the entrance exam. He had very high score on all tests and even the PSAT and Iowa Test. I was very concerned he was going to be passed over because of his color, he wasn't. AR Johnson is an excellent school in Augusta but the diversity is not made up as the community at large. I think more could be done to inform other high-achieving students in the district about opportunities there.

Augustaisdying
526
Points
Augustaisdying 07/15/13 - 03:39 am
4
1
A.R. Johnson
Unpublished

The school has had the same racial demographics since it became a magnet school in the early 80's. Until the lifting of the desegregation order, the school had been afoul of the order since the school's inception. The previous principal, Deborah Walker, gave lip service to recruiting more white students (because of pressure from the board and central office), but did nothing about it. She continued to admit black students who were unqualified, but attended her church.

This leads me to wonder when the "unwritten rule" will be abolished, as it is illegal. The rule I am referring to requires that every principal at Johnson must be black, which has always been the case.

Also the case is that white teachers there have always been treated as tokens, subject to the whims of the black principals, while black sorority sisters, even incompetent ones, are protected and promoted.

Riverman1
84152
Points
Riverman1 07/15/13 - 04:22 am
3
2
Problem

If a way is not found to keep at least 50% black students in the magnet schools, the BOE will end the program, I suspect. The district is 70% black and schools won't be continued if they have a majority white population. If you think about it, the current racial breakdown of the district as a whole compared to Davidson and AR Johnson shows the problem.

Bodhisattva
6224
Points
Bodhisattva 07/15/13 - 06:12 am
0
4
Establishing a neighborhood

Establishing a neighborhood school attendance zone for the magnet schools as well as all of the other schools should work just fine.

belle
307
Points
belle 07/15/13 - 06:19 am
0
0
One school obviously missing...
Unpublished

Davidson Fine Arts will be the most affected by this. Can"t imagine why they were blatantly left out of the article.

seenitB4
87396
Points
seenitB4 07/15/13 - 06:33 am
6
4
Thank goodness

I am happy to say I no longer have children in the Richmond county school system...or anywhere ...YEA!!

corgimom
32616
Points
corgimom 07/15/13 - 07:20 am
1
9
The magnet schools should

The magnet schools should reflect the population of the school district, and they don't.

Sooner or later there will be a lawsuit, and the RCBOE will have no defense.

GnipGnop
12242
Points
GnipGnop 07/15/13 - 07:57 am
7
1
I look forward to the day

when a child is judged by the content of his character not the color of his skin...yes, I think I heard that somewhere. Anytime something is given and not earned it affects your character. Color shouldn't matter. You make the grade or you don't make it in. Same in sports. If you aren't faster and more agile you don't make it. Not everybody wins. People are smarter and faster than me. I have 2 choices, 1) Accept it or 2) Work harder to achieve my goals. It's that simple and it always has been....but if you look at ARC politics as a whole doesn't this all reflect what they see...incompetence rewarded, when it comes time to fire a horrible employee all they have is good reviews. It would be funny if it weren't our tax dollars and our children's futures at stake....

corgimom
32616
Points
corgimom 07/15/13 - 08:00 am
0
6
When you have a 78% black

When you have a 78% black school district, and the magnet schools are 50% black, that is discrimination.

When that 50-50 split started, RC was very different than it is now, and the magnet school selection hasn't changed. It's time to bring it up to date.

corgimom
32616
Points
corgimom 07/15/13 - 08:01 am
4
4
"He is white and I would say

"He is white and I would say about 90% where black taking the entrance exam. "

That's because those black kids are so desperate to get a decent education and go to a safe school, which is hard to come by in Richmond County.

Little Lamb
46069
Points
Little Lamb 07/15/13 - 11:56 am
1
1
Magnet

Yes, the admission policy must change, but the rational thing is to change it gradually. Davidson's and Walker's admission policies are structured to achieve approximately 50% black, 50% white (I guess the Asians are out of luck). They could set up a gradual, evolutionary shift and slowly increase the black percentage to head toward the percentages of the overall school system population.

But remember the history — the reason that the school board petitioned the federal judge to accept a plan that put 50% white population in Davidson in a school system that (at the time) was 60% to 65% black was an attempt to stem white flight. Now that the court order is voided, they don't need to fight that any more.

anotherday
46
Points
anotherday 07/15/13 - 08:14 am
1
0
AR Johnson

As a side note to my earlier post. The teachers DO an awesome job there and were very interested in all the students meeting the rules of the school. My son loved his time there and was very sad to leave because we were transferred.

seenitB4
87396
Points
seenitB4 07/15/13 - 08:27 am
3
2
I agree with this corgi

That's because those black kids are so desperate to get a decent education and go to a safe school, which is hard to come by in Richmond County.

Yes.. this is true...But can we blame the whites for this problem>?? A decent education & a safe school should be a gimmie...if they don't have it, what is THE PROBLEM? Some day the blame game will have to stop. (not blaming you corgi---just the facts as I see them)

Riverman1
84152
Points
Riverman1 07/15/13 - 08:51 am
2
2
This problem was the first

This problem was the first thing to come to my mind when I saw the decision to take the county out of federal supervision. 50-50 may fly with the BOE, but if the white students start to increase their numbers dramatically I believe the schools will be done away with.

Little Lamb
46069
Points
Little Lamb 07/15/13 - 09:27 am
2
0
BOE

RM, the superintendent and his staff are in complete control over admission policies. There is no reason to expect that Dr. Roberson will institute an admission policy that will lead to a dramatic increase of white percentages in the magnet schools.

cgaines85
39
Points
cgaines85 07/15/13 - 09:41 am
2
0
If the numbers were reversed...

Magnet schools such as Davidson and CT Walker are "racially balanced" to reduce the impact of racial segregation by neighborhoods and communities. Richmond county school system is over 70% African American. The magnet schools present a more diverse and equal opportunity to all races in the county that choose to audition and attend the schools. If Richmond County School system were 70% Caucasian, I have a strong feeling that some people would NOT be advocating for the schools sytem to make the magnet schools reflect such demographics.

seenitB4
87396
Points
seenitB4 07/15/13 - 09:48 am
2
2
which is hard to come by in Richmond County.

Funny..It wasn't so hard to come by in the 60s.

lifelongresident
1323
Points
lifelongresident 07/15/13 - 10:05 am
0
0
for the sake of political
Unpublished

for the sake of political correctness and "diversity" the school board will now start allowing "prah-jeck" students especailly those in close proximity to josey and laney to start attending johnoson and davidson, the goal will be to even out the performances of johnson and davidson and make the grade averages more in line with under-achieving, ffailing schools in the county. It is my opinion the school board member "thank it be unfair dat jonson and dadison sckuuls be doing dat good on de tests and stuff cause it not be fair and unna-prividge kids should be allowed to go to deese schuuls too fo to git a guud ed-u-ma-kay-shun" well so much for johnson and davidson being the flagship of richmond county schools soon they will be over-run and polluted with "nook-nook, bay-bay, and tray-tray's" kids.....

Riverman1
84152
Points
Riverman1 07/15/13 - 10:11 am
2
2
LL said, " There is no reason

LL said, " There is no reason to expect that Dr. Roberson will institute an admission policy that will lead to a dramatic increase of white percentages in the magnet schools."

The thing is race is NOW considered to keep the 50-50 balance at Davidson, at least. If the court said race can no long be used as a criteria, then you better start giving lots of points for "talent" or something else as hinted. I also think if the schools become more white, white kids currently going to private schools who will score high on tests will reenter the public system to attend the magnet schools creating even more whites in the schools.

Little Lamb
46069
Points
Little Lamb 07/15/13 - 10:22 am
1
0
Devious

What makes you think Dr. Roberson, Dr. Rountree, or Dr. Ashe have any desire to increase the white percentage in the magnet schools? The notion is absurd. The BOE controls the percentages now instead of some federal court judge. The BOE is not about to dilute the power they have attained.

badmoon426
1173
Points
badmoon426 07/15/13 - 10:23 am
3
1
All Schools Should Be...

...magnet schools.

The school system needs to provide education based on the student's ability. Education is the key and after school activities should be de-emphasized.

Little Lamb
46069
Points
Little Lamb 07/15/13 - 10:35 am
2
1
Alternative School

Certainly the Alternative School is a magnet school. Students are fighting to get in there!

corgimom
32616
Points
corgimom 07/15/13 - 10:43 am
0
2
"I have a strong feeling that

"I have a strong feeling that some people would NOT be advocating for the schools sytem to make the magnet schools reflect such demographics."

I would, why would I feel any different? And by the way, I'm white.

corgimom
32616
Points
corgimom 07/15/13 - 10:45 am
1
2
Badmoon, what RC really needs

Badmoon, what RC really needs is to build pediatric psychiatric hospitals and reform schools, Tubman Reformatory isn't enough.

Then the others could learn, you wouldn't need magnet schools.

And I speak from experience and knowledge.

corgimom
32616
Points
corgimom 07/15/13 - 10:50 am
1
2
My last post is truly

My last post is truly sincere.

All of you just don't understand, the number of truly emotionally disturbed and mentally ill kids in schools today. It is staggering. And these kids aren't just a little bit sick- they are very, very ill. They are thrust in these classrooms because of "mainstreaming", and they cause chaos. Not just once in a while, but day in, day out. They are downright dangerous. They are sociopathic, violent, psychopathic. They engage in criminal, violent behavior on a regular basis. And nothing is done.

And nothing will improve until people will demand that those ill children be removed from the schools and treated appropriately.

countyman
20149
Points
countyman 07/15/13 - 11:37 am
1
2
Magnet schools

Corgimom. The RC school system isn't 78% black.

I'm wondering why the Chronicle didn't mention the new magnet school in South Augusta, the IB program at ARC, etc.

countyman
20149
Points
countyman 07/15/13 - 11:37 am
1
2
Progressive

The RCBOE needs to build a new elementary, middle, or elementary/middle combo on Gordon highway to handle the growth. Many families continue to move into the surrounding area, and Sue Reynolds/Langford is not large enough.

Darby
25737
Points
Darby 07/15/13 - 02:31 pm
3
0
"Establishing a neighborhood school

attendance zone for the magnet schools as well as all of the other schools should work just fine."

.
Sorry, but that makes absolutely no sense. There's a reason they're called "Magnet" schools.

They are allegedly designed to attract the best and brightest. They should be populated by those students who want to be there (Hence the term magnet.) and have outperformed their peers.

If there is a racial imbalance, it should be addressed by concentrating academic focus on a specific race in the earlier years, years prior to the time students fill out that application for that coveted magnet school slot.

Trying to improve America's world standing by waiting until the last minute and shifting kids around according to their race is hurting the kids and detrimental to this once great nation.

countyman
20149
Points
countyman 07/15/13 - 11:54 am
1
2
Media

The Chronicle & the media in general hasn't mentioned that Lake Forest Hills reached the goal of becoming an IB World school. The RCBOE allows the media to report anything negative in the system, but doesn't make them include the positive too. I didn't hear much from the media in terms of Freedom Park being named an 'National Model School' either.

GnipGnop
12242
Points
GnipGnop 07/15/13 - 11:58 am
4
1
When you have a 59%

graduation rate, IB World school doesn't really matter now does it?

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