Three Garner area schools received national recognition for their magnet program.
Smith Magnet Elementary, East Garner Middle and Garner Magnet High were each recognized as Magnet Schools of Distinction by Magnet Schools of America. They were among 23 Wake County schools to be recognized.
According to a press release from the Magnet Schools of America, 319 schools applied in the nation and 208 received some type of recognition.
The Magnet School of Distinction is the second highest award of recognition behind Magnet School of Excellence. Each school submitted applications that were scored by a panel of educators.
The schools are judged based off five qualities:
▪ Whether the school is able to raise student achievement
▪ Whether the school promotes racial and socio-economic diversity
▪ Whether the school is able to provide an integrated curricula and instruction
▪ The school’s ability to create community partnerships
▪ The school’s specialized teaching staff
Schools with robust professional development programs are also graded highly, John Laughner, a spokesman for Magnet Schools of America, said.
First-year East Garner Principal Elena Ashburn said she was proud of what the school achieved. East Garner Middle has an International Baccalaureate and a Creative Arts program.
“It’s an honor that the staff and students have worked for,” Ashburn said. “I can’t stress enough how hard-working and dedicated the staff are. They want the best for the students.”
This is the third year in a row Smith Elementary School has been on the list. Smith principal Chris Lassiter said it is also a testament to the hard work of the teachers.
“We take very seriously the integrity and the fidelity the high expectations the International Baccalaureate program has for its academic instructional expectations,” Lassiter, an eight year principal at Smith, said. So we hold very tight to the integrity of that program. That’s only half of it. If you’re not affecting student learning then the program is just that.”
“Our students had tremendous growth in literacy, math and science scores. I think its a marriage of the two.”
Lisa Thompson, Director of Magnet Themes and Curriculum for WCPSS, said that schools apply through a rigorous, thorough documentation of what goes on the school.
“Even for the schools that don’t end up winning anything, for these schools to have that document of what they have in place is very valuable,” she said.
The documentation examines the overall feel of the school, how diverse the school is, parent and community involvement, and how the given theme of the magnet – such as science or arts – is implemented in the classroom and of course, achievement.
Magnet Schools of America Executive Director Todd Mann said this is an opportunity to acknowledge magnet schools across the county.
“Merit awards are only given to the highest quality theme-based programs,” Mann said. “These schools are models of success and represent the best in public education.”