Magnetic energy

New approach could invigorate Richmond County schools

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If you're not moving forward, there could be at least two problems.

Sometimes it's the car. Other times it's the driver.

In the case of Richmond County's school system, it has been a bit of both. But past problems appear closer to being solved than we have seen in a while.

The new "driver" is Dr. Frank Roberson, and as the new superintendent of Richmond County schools, he is looking under his car's hood. One of his ideas to soup up the engine is to harness the power of magnets.

Unlike more conventional schools, magnet schools foster academic success through specialized curricula and instruction in certain academic disciplines. The magnets in Richmond County -- A.R. Johnson Health, Science and Engineering; C.T. Walker Traditional; and John S. Davidson Fine Arts -- have been wildly successful. You can't ignore success. Dr. Roberson certainly isn't.

He asked himself the question that others in Augusta have been asking for years: Since the schools' magnet programs are so positive and productive at select schools, why not spread that enhanced instruction to other schools?

Put another way: Why not make every school a magnet school?

Dr. Roberson says there's no reason the tone and method of magnet programs can't be duplicated. That's why he's leading the school system into bold -- and smart -- territory: Magnet programs are being planned or proposed for nine Richmond County schools over the next few years.

Many magnet proposals don't yet have a focus. But three high schools -- Butler, Cross Creek and Josey -- are fleshing their plans out. So are Morgan Road Middle School, and Hephzibah Elementary and Middle schools.

A special School for Science and Mathematics is proposed for A. Brian Merry Elementary School. A School of Discovery at Hains Elementary School would emphasize science, math, engineering and technology. Lake Forest Hills Elementary School is applying to be the site of a Primary Years Programme, sanctioned by the nonprofit educational foundation International Baccalaureate, or IB.

There already is an IB diploma program at the Academy of Richmond County. There's also a new Advanced Placement Academy at Laney High School.

One of the most exciting projects is a vocational magnet school that would sit on, and integrate with, Augusta Technical College's main campus.

All these programs rightfully differ from one another, because the schools and their pupils are different. That's important to remember. Cookie-cutter curricula that require all teachers to instruct the same way surely can't be the only, or the best, answer. Already, a lot of teachers out there fight a good fight daily -- often uphill -- to keep their classrooms innovative and engaging.

Look at how widely magnetic energy is radiating.

In Tampa, Fla., two magnet schools are being planned for next year -- one just for boys, the other just for girls. Four more are either eyeing IB programs or opening joint "creative science" programs.

In Cincinnati, when the enrollment period was announced this month to sign children up for a set number of the city's most popular charter schools, lines formed days in advance, with parents often setting up tents during their entrenchment.

Some magnet schools play well to an area's strengths. In Groton, Conn., home to a crucial U.S. Navy submarine base, a magnet school specializing in marine science is slated to open in August.

We hope Dr. Roberson's ideas mark the start of an exciting and invigorating era for Richmond County schools. Magnets could pull Augusta's pupils toward brighter futures.

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Taylor B
5
Points
Taylor B 11/20/10 - 11:55 pm
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The vocational school is a

The vocational school is a great idea, but should have been pushed as an afterschool program such as Jessye Norman School of Arts. 20.6 million dollars later with the same results? Let's keep our eye on the prize. Corporations could have funded this, such as EZGO, thermal ceramics, John Deere, or anyone else doing industrial business in the CSRA. Work harder, not smarter, RCBOE. Get out your checkbook, John Q. Taxpayer...

Riverman1
84893
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Riverman1 11/21/10 - 12:10 am
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0
You have to tailor the

You have to tailor the schools to fit the students. Until we have a magnetic pole switch Richmond Cty won't have enough students to populate more true magnet schools. The county begs for increased technical training for students. Magnet schools work by selecting the best from those who are ambitious enough to apply and the pool of applicants is finite.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 11/21/10 - 12:28 am
0
0
There's more to a magnet

There's more to a magnet school than calling it a magnet school.

Look at the numbers.

Ask yourself a couple of questions...

1) Are Davidson and AR Johnson great schools because of the teaching or because of the students they pick?

2) Why is it their graduating classes are always so much smaller than their freshman classes of four years earlier? Where do those students go?

3) If "every school is a magnet," then will those schools still have the power to kick students out for minor infractions of the magnet school contract?

BobG
0
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BobG 11/21/10 - 01:11 am
0
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Insider - you are exactly

Insider - you are exactly right, as far as you went. You could have pursued the teaching aspect just a bit further. As you suggested, the students in the current system are the "cream of the crop" and even then, significant numbers are sent back to their original schools because they just can't make it.

The teachers are also hand picked and when the faculty at C.T.Walker, Davidson and A.R. Johnson have been selected, there is little else left in Richmond county to work with. (Even some of those at the current magnet schools fall short of expectations.) Believe me, I know from experience.

Unfortunately, with few exceptions, the great majority of those who seek education degrees in Georgia and elsewhere are to be found at the lower end of the talent scale.

The only solution I can see would be to set much higher standard for teachers and pay them accordingly. Unfortunately, where that has been tried, the teachers unions always get involved and we end up simply paying more money to people who are already failing to do the job.

It doesn't make me happy to do it, but I'll predict abject failure for this venture unless Dr. Roberson possesses leadership qualities above and beyond those of the vast majority of administrators. I hope he does and proves me wrong.

johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 11/21/10 - 05:07 am
0
0
Good posts, everybody. I

Good posts, everybody.
I still feel that with the federal government teaching and rewarding a system that emphasizes zero responsibility and zero accountability(re: the subsidized "welfare" system), the A/RC schools will continue to have a difficult time building an improved education system populated with so many students from this federal system. A major shift of this social mindset will have to be made to create an atmosphere that will produce achievers. Attempting to educate pre-programed children beyond this (sadly) socially acceptable state is an almost impossible goal to reach. I hope Dr. Robertson is up to the task.

overburdened_taxpayer
117
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overburdened_taxpayer 11/21/10 - 08:48 am
0
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Have you seen some of the

Have you seen some of the kids in school? What about the one's that are just too stupid to attend these schools? Are they going to make a magnet school for idiots?

MajorPaul
0
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MajorPaul 11/21/10 - 09:17 am
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Magnet schools are good for a

Magnet schools are good for a reason. You have to earn the right to be there!
Every day I see students who would do wonderfully in a Magnet School for Future Welfare Recipients. These kids do not care a thing about going to school, will not do their work, and disrupt the class constantly.
I am all for more magnet schools. But I hope Dr. Roberson does not just do like the army did, and "let everyone wear a beret." Going to a magnet school has to remain a privilege earned by keeping up good grades and behavior!

Little Lamb
46392
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Little Lamb 11/21/10 - 09:21 am
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Good questions, overburdened.

Good questions, overburdened. Your last question reminded me of a 1960s song:
- - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
What the world needs now is magnet schools.
That's the only way we will not be foo - oo - ools.
What the world needs now is magnet schools.
No, not just for some, but for everyone.

Riverman1
84893
Points
Riverman1 11/21/10 - 09:42 am
0
0
Medical researchers have

Medical researchers have noted that most people with coronary artery disease also have a crease in their ear lobes. So if doctors perform cosmetic surgery and remove the crease from these people's ear lobes, the heart disease will be cured too...right?

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 11/21/10 - 11:57 am
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If we want to make a change,

If we want to make a change, we should change the way we place teachers.

Currently, teachers right out of college with no experience start in the inner city at low-performing schools.

Half of teachers quit teaching within five years in this country. In Augusta, those who don't quit "graduate" to teaching in a magnet school.

Does that make sense? The brightest students getting the most experienced teachers and the ones who need the most help getting the rookies?

BobG
0
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BobG 11/21/10 - 12:21 pm
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0
Little Lamb - You nailed

Little Lamb - You nailed it...

ameliaf
0
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ameliaf 11/21/10 - 12:34 pm
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Don't knock vocational ed. I

Don't knock vocational ed. I think one of the problems in schools now is that those who would do better to be carpenters, auto mechanics, air conditioning repairmen, or masons, don't get an enough focus on basic skills. Lots of very smart kids - and some not so book smart but "mechanical minded" - need a focus on the trades to prepare them for their future.

Not everyone is college material and we have to stop running the schools as if the only future for which we prepare young people is college.

sconservative
61
Points
sconservative 11/25/10 - 11:34 am
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This is deja vu all over

This is deja vu all over again. More than a decade ago the AC editorial was refuted by a thoughtful A.R. Johnson grad who pointed out what Insider and BobG have pointed out. The students and teachers are selected and the parents must be motivated to get their kids in and keep them there. The failure of American schools has tracked the disintegration of the family. The moral problem must be solved first.

sconservative
61
Points
sconservative 11/25/10 - 11:43 am
0
0
Please reprint the Guest

Please reprint the Guest Column from the young teacher who explained why she was quitting. Her life was threatened if she did not change a C to a B so that the student would qualify for a Hope scholarship. That in addition to being assigned to the worst schools with little possibility of change - due to seniority/tenure and union rules - promotes the loss of good teachers. The poor teachers simply socially promote.

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