Monday, May 7, 2012

Magnets and choice in Reno

Reader Ashley Holmes wanted to know what incoming Superintendent Heath Morrison thinks about magnet schools.  His short answer:  "I love having options for students." 

The Washoe County School District doesn't have as many magnets as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools,  but Morrison recently launched magnet programs for gifted and talented students in four middle schools  (I'll be writing more about that).  Like CMS partial magnets, they're housed within a nonmagnet school.  Morrison said when it comes to the full vs. partial question,  his most important rule is "that form follows function."

Morrison has also started "signature academies" in high schools,  which offer themes ranging from health sciences to International Baccalaureate and offer seats to students who live outside the school zone.  Morrison says they're not the same as CMS magnets,  but it's another form of academic choice.

Like North Carolina,  Nevada also has charter schools  --  including eight that are sponsored by Morrison's district.  They were created about 10 years ago,  well before he arrived in 2009.  While I was in Reno,  Morrison told a parents' group he doesn't think charters are the answer to the nation's educational challenges,  but he supports those that provide a clear benefit to students.

"I am a fan of great schools,"  he said.  "If they're great charter schools I'm happy.  If they're great public schools I'm happy."

I visited the district-sponsored Academy for Career Education, a charter high school that trains students for careers in construction, architecture,  design and diesel technology.  It was created by construction executives and former Washoe County School District employees who thought the district wasn't doing enough career education.  Morrison calls it one of the district's best charters.

Mike Cate,  a contractor who helped create the academy,  said Morrison has been more supportive than his predecessors.  "The previous superintendents,  they looked at us more as a competitive school,"  Cate said.  "As long as it's an environment where the kids learn,  (Morrison) is for it."

ACE students go to school in a converted building at the Reno airport and do a lot of hands-on work -- everything from building houses to using the latest design software.  One advantage of being a charter,  Cate said,  is that students who fight are "fired,"  just like they would be on a construction job. When you have students working with nail guns, hammers and power tools,  he said,  you can't afford discipline problems.


Anonymous said...

Vo-Tech schools. That is what we had when I was in high school and that is what we need now. Sorry Mr. PResident, not everyone wants to go to college. Nor should they.

Anonymous said...

"You can't afford discipline problems." That's the business world. CMS affords the student a wide array of poor behavior choices much less offering anything for students not on current flavor of the day in Career and Technical Education.

Anonymous said...

When my son went to a public high school on the West Coast it had a voc school where you could learn auto shop, cosmetology, landscaping, etc. during your senior year IF you had your high school requirements on track. The concept won nat'l honors. I agree with those who feel it is time to make K thru 14 free so the majority could graduate with a marketable trade. Anon 6:29 is right...a 4 year degree is not for every one. But a job is.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:29am -
President Obama NEVER said everyone should go to a traditional four year college. That is a myth (lie) perpetuated by the Republicans, and of course Rick Santorum who made the now famous "snob" comment.

Here is the precise and exact Obama quote:
"When I speak about higher education we are not just talking about a four year degree. We're talking about someone going to a Community College and getting trained...for that manufacturing job that now is requiring someone walking through the door handling a million dollar piece of equipment".

Anonymous said...

CMS reported if a student takes two level CTE career and technical Ed. Course he or she has an 85 percent graduation rate. This is CMS numbers, if that's the case why doesn't, CMS promote CTE more to their struggling students. Many schools in CMS has a 60 percent drop out rate among Afro-American males. If you are not ready for college yet at least be ready for a job. You can go back to college at any age, I went back to school at 35 and was a better student because I was mature, and understood what
It takes to graduate. CMS does a poor job of preparing students to graduate from college yet they practically run a college feeder program. We really need some career readiness for student that will not go or graduate from college.

Anonymous said...

It does not matter folks as we dont have enough Charter Schools to send the kids too. It sounds good "vocational" options , but thats now called prison. We the tax payers of course pay for those as we do the public schools. You cannot get free daycare for kids who are 16 years old anymore. Morrison is a politician so far with lip service to match Petey Gorman.

csawyer said...

The charter's ability to "fire" students is the secret to many a charter school's "success".

Charters have the luxury of sending struggling students back to traditional public schools.

Wiley Coyote said...

...I agree with those who feel it is time to make K thru 14 free..

I love how some people believe things that come from government are "free"...

...the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money"

Anonymous said...

The greatest disservice public schools do to kids is not "firing" them when they misbehave.

In the real world, not only can you be fired, but you can be sued and also be put in jail or prison for being a jerk.

The "urban" high school I attended decades ago was more dangerous than any workplace I've ever been in for just that reason.

Anonymous said...

9:10 is absolutely right about CMS and career training. However this may not be totally CMS's fault.

I suspect that one of the reasons Vo-Tech Ed has been de-emphasized so much is because of "equity" issues. Some consider it unfair that low income and minority children were often the majority in these programs. After all, everyone should have an equal shot at a college education whether they want it or not (so the thinking goes). And surely it was racist thinking that channeled certain kids into vo-tech to begin with (never mind that it might have trained these kids to make a decent living for themselves). In fact one UNCC faculty member (sociology department) has claimed that white parents want to keep minorities in lower track classes so that there is less competition for slots at UNC Chapel Hill for their kids.

I might add that there are many non-minority kids who also would probably be better off in vo-tech than in college prep.

Just throw in the word "equity" and common sense often goes right out the window. College for all!

everalert said...

Anon at 10:33: Totally agree. Those who consider vocational schools unfair because they were largely populated with low income students and minorities prefer them to populate the prisons, I guess. Because that is the result.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:10.

Well, maybe now that the BLS has predicted that most of the fastest growing jobs of the next decade will not require a college degree, those Sociologists can relax a little.

White parents will be tossing black kids into colleges at a rate that will make their heads swim.

And they'll still be unemployed when they get out.

Anonymous said...

csawyer, Do charter schools send back "struggling" students or do they send back students who won't obey the rules and do the work? Would you prefer that they keep those who don't live up to the schools' requirements, thus diminishing the education opportunities for other students?

Anonymous said...

This will never happen in CMS

Makes to much dollars and sense!

Anonymous said...

CMS wont hold a kid back when not performing , because its a "mark " against the principal. Its the right thing to do in most cases , BUT they simply dont beleive they have failing students. They are not willing to fact FACTS about the real world (CMS).

Anonymous said...

To the person who says President Obama NEVER said college as a general reference to all higher education, I beg to differ. I think someone pointed it out to him that he needs to be more specific so lately he has been. Education Secretary Duncan apparently didn't get the memo because he still generalizes.

As to the issue regarding respect for community colleges and their students. Anyone who has ever attended one knows that both students and teachers deserve it. As a senior citizen let me say that the attitude has been around forever. First they were called trade schools, then there were voc schools, then tech schools, somewhere in there were business schools, then junior colleges and now community colleges which embody all of the above and then some. Those headed for 4 year schools always considered the others to be lazy or dumb. As a person who has attended classes at both kinds of schools I want to say I learned more and it cost me less at the community college level.

We need both. Let's just help our kids get there which ever suits their needs.

OTE admin said...

"Vo-Tech schools. That is what we had when I was in high school and that is what we need now. Sorry Mr. PResident, not everyone wants to go to college. Nor should they."--Bingo. Morrison doesn't subscribe to this, however. He thinks everybody should be college-ready or "career-ready" which means having a college degree. Vocational education needs to make a big comeback.

Anonymous said...

Ann, your post doesn't describe how the personnel decisions at these Reno magnet / charter schools work. Do principals have 100% control in hiring and firing teachers and other staff, as they do at typical charter schools? Do teachers have tenure at the Reno magnet schools? Are salaries set by a formula or according to principals' judgment?

These and other human-resources policies are where the critical differences between charters and traditional public schools exist. If you're going to write about charters, magnets and public schools, you should delve into HR policies.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Yes, hiring/firing of teachers is independent. Don't know details of pay scale at ACE or other magnets, but I know the leaders there mentioned that the corporate sponsors paid bonuses to teachers for good results, when public schools were not getting anything like that.

Anonymous said...

CMS wont get a dime from corporate sponsors until they become trust worthy. This has been preached and every time they throw $100k at a study to tell them they are viewed as sleazy it hurts them more. All the while they listen to Spanglers, Gates , Bill Anderson and Broad. AWESOME LOSERS !

Anonymous said...

What do you call a job with little advancement opportunities,no bonus nor cost of living increases and a reduction in your heatlh and elimination of your vision and dental benefits?


Is there a reason that we dont teach careers in education?

Anonymous said...

Being a former correctional instructor, one thing that was common in their prison folder was the vast majority did not complete the tenth grade and none of them were enrolled in a vocational program in school. It cost 30,000 a year to warehouse and feed an inmate. We could use that same money to train kids to earn some money instead of walking the streets. We as taxpayers could demand our schools do this if we really wanted to but we rather blog about our problems than go out an do some real research. I found one website here in Charlotte NC I am gonna give them a call.

Anonymous said...

CMS = loss of dollars and no sense

Anonymous said...

You might ask Jimmy Chancey how many CTE teachers have left his "leadership" in CMS to either retire or move to other counties. When there is little to no support of career training in CMS, there's no opportunities for students or teachers.

Anonymous said...

Amen to that. A walking zombie shows more leadership than Chancey. He was actually booed by his teachers giving a speach a couple of years ago.

What waisted time has been spent. The other poster was right. Spend some up front in education or spend a lot ($30,000) on the back end in jails and prison.

Anonymous said...

The answer is bring back BIG JOHN ! He was with CMS numerous years and left for Cabarrus last year. Of course everyone who was not fired was looking to leave CMS for stability. They just dont get it !

Anonymous said...

Yes, do define Reno's definition of Gifted and Talented.

Please, compare and contrast identification and assessment practices with CMS's Gifted and Talented program.

1. IQ score
2. Achievement tests
3. Portfolios
4. Teacher nomination
5. Parent nomination
6. Extracurricular activities
7. Creativity
8. Leadership
9. Performing and Visual Arts
10. Humor

Muli-cultural assessment?
Multi-factored assessment?
Maker's DISCOVER assessment?
Renzulli's assessment?
Piirto's assessment?
NCLB assessment?

Prevalence of giftedness in general population and CMS: 3%, 10%, 15%?, 20?

CMS is 32% white. What percentage of white students make up CMS's gifted population? What percentage of African-American and Hispanic-Americans are in CMS's gifted education program? What percentage of Asian-American's are in CMS's gifted program?

What is the per-pupil expenditure of "suburban" and "urban" students in CMS's gifted program?

Most important factor:

1. Intellectual giftedness?
2. Imaginative/creative giftedness?
3. Leadership skills?
4. Artistic giftedness?

Educational Placement:

1. Special schools?
2. Self-contained classrooms?
3. Ability grouping?
3. Pull-out programs?
4. Differentiated instruction?

Anonymous said...

9:26 , Man that would take CMS to hire 6 executives with 4 year guaranteed contracts and $200k a year. Let me help you 98% of our gifted kids are white. So I saved us a bunch of money and I dont consider myself gifted !

Anonymous said...


"Gifted" characteristics:

1. "Perceive the operation of larger systems of knowledge that others may not recognize" (like our school board).

2. "Ability to make sound judgements" (like our school board)

3. "Relate one idea to another" (like our school board).

I herby nominate you as a bonafide member of CMS's Gifted and Talented community!

Anonymous said...

"Many gifted children are creative. Although no universally accepted definition if creativity exists".

I can't make this stuff up.

Anonymous said...

Gifted children are also "problem solvers" - like our school board.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I forgot Guilford's definition of gifted:

"...includes dimensions of fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration.

*(self-nominated gifted points for "elaboration")

Anonymous said...

So, would Jesus attend a Vo-Tech school or a Gifted school?

Anonymous said...

What if the innkeeper had just let Mary and Joseph stay the night?

Anonymous said...

Is walking on water a "gift" or a "talent"?

Ann Doss Helms said...

This is clearly a forum for gifted adults -- or at least creative ones!

Anonymous said...

Jesus was a carpenter but he would not have received the training if he was at most CMS high schools

Wonder where Chancey would have placed him? Ummmmmmm

Thomaszxgy said...

Ann, You might ask Jimmy Chancey how many CTE teachers have left his "leadership" in CMS to either retire or move to other counties. When there is little to no support of career training in CMS, there's no opportunities for students or teachers.