by Anna Kucaj, Coordinator of Magnet Schools
It is an exciting time to work with magnet schools here in Nashville.
While magnets aren’t new to Metro Schools, we’ve recently added new ones and are developing more for the future. Two years ago we welcomed six new thematic magnet schools to the fold providing theme-based programs that engage students in STEM (Hattie Cotton, Bailey, & Stratford), museum studies (Robert Churchwell & John Early), and the entertainment industry (Pearl-Cohn).
These schools converted to magnets through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and keep us plenty busy. But we’re also gearing up to apply for the next round of funding offered by the Magnet School Assistance Program, meaning even more of our schools may offer enriching, hands-on programs like these.
Thanks to the optional schools process, we’ve had the chance to talk to students about what they like about their schools and to open our doors to parents looking to find the best fit for their children. We have also asked schools to show their interest in developing a magnet program by engaging parents, teachers, and community members in the process of identifying a theme and making a plan to serve students within their zone and across Davidson County.
It has been truly amazing to watch these groups join together and participate in conversations around new and innovative instruction that could provide even more options to Metro students and families.
Once schools have submitted their preliminary proposals, we will consult the U. S DOE guidelines and choose which schools to include in the application. We’ll work closely with those schools to develop a competitive grant application.
We believe in the theme-based magnet model. We have found that when students choose their school based on an interest in a theme, their level of engagement with the learning process increases, attendance increases, and discipline problems decline—all factors in successful schools and academic achievement.
In fact, Hattie Cotton STEM Magnet Elementary School was recently named a Tennessee Reward School for being in the top 5% of schools in the entire state for annual growth. We are exceptionally proud of the hard work of Hattie Cotton students, teachers, staff and families that made such a tremendous achievement possible.
One thing we have found as we build these new magnet programs: it’s the people involved who make the difference. We have students who come to school each morning ready to engage, teachers who participate in professional development after school and during the summer, parents who bring their child to school every day – either from across the street or across town, and partners who give of their time and resources to share their expertise.
With all of us working together, our magnet programs are becoming stronger!