By the students, for the students. We want to be relatable, and we want to accurately represent the students of HISD. Anyone can submit – see the sidebar to learn how. Powered by the HISD Student Congress.
Raquel Douglas, Carnegie Vanguard, 2015
I’m a senior at one of the most thriving magnet schools in HISD, Carnegie Vanguard. I’ve gone here for four years. Coming here has, without a doubt, been one of the most beneficial experiences of my life thus far. Because of my time here, I’ve been awarded with opportunities I never could have dreamed of as a child growing up near Sunnyside. But, to be honest, I hate the magnet school system.
Let’s abolish the magnet school system.
Let’s get rid of this idea that only certain schools should be awarded certain programs, attracting students from all over the city at the expense of “zoned” schools. Carnegie is consistently named as one of the best schools in the state and in the nation, the 3rd best public high school in Texas according to US News, and 11th in the nation by the Washington Post Challenge Index. But let’s level out the playing field, and give every student in HISD the same opportunities I had at the vanguard program at Carnegie, and many of my peers had in the IB program at Lamar or the dual credit courses at Furr or the international programs at HAIS and Sharpstown.
Rather than deem certain programs at certain schools “magnet,” HISD should give every school a program that will serve to enhance the educational and vocational experience for students all over the district. I’m not saying we should get rid of the current magnet schools like Rogers or Carnegie, but that schools that don’t have magnet programs within their school should have the opportunity to get one. Obviously, not every program will be successful and not every student should be forced into a magnet program that may not suit their interests, but every school needs to at least provide these opportunities for their students. Why can’t Cullen Middle School have a STEM program? Why don’t we add more than Fine Arts programs at Burbank and Codwell Elementary or make Looscan a Science and Math Magnet?
While the existing magnet programs are open to mostly every HISD student, many students in low-income areas aren’t even aware that these programs exist. HISD is trying really hard to fix this problem with their “School Choice” initiative and their recent Language Immersion Schools, but students and parents are reluctant to send their children across the district to go to some of these schools. For others, regardless of how extensive the bussing system is, this simply isn’t feasible. Former HISD Trustee Donald R. McAdams wrote that families, those of very poor minorities especially, were the least likely to take advantage of the magnet school system, preferring to stay at their neighborhood schools (p. 59).
Read more statistics here.
The few gifted families who are able to take advantage of these services do. High schools like Kashmere and Westbury have frequently, and correctly, complain that they lose the best and brightest students in their neighborhood to magnet schools, thereby drawing away funding and opportunities for the kids who decide to stay in the neighborhood. High schools like Yates, while they currently have broadcasting and maritime magnet programs, has lost their mechanic program, their beauty program, and their C-STEM program. Jones lost their Vanguard program.
Current magnet schools have long long waiting lists, with some of the most popular getting 3-4 times as many applicants as they have space. For the most extreme cases, that number is way higher. For the 2014-15 school year, Twain Elementary, the most competitive magnet school according to Houston School Surveys, has an acceptance rate of less than 2%. Pin Oak Middle is almost at 7%. Bellaire High School, one of largest and apparently one of the most sought out high schools in the district, has an acceptance rate hovering around 11%. This year, HISD magnet schools had over 50,000 applicants, a growth of almost 17,000 from last year alone. Remember how there are only 215,000 students in HISD to begin with? If nearly 25% of HISD students are applying for magnet programs, doesn’t it make sense to have a similar proportion of each school have magnet-caliber activities? The demand for magnet schools is clearly there.
Why aren’t the magnet schools?