Good things happen because of Wake County’s magnet school program. Using special programs in the arts or foreign language to entice parents to seek out a magnet, schools that might otherwise be underused or high in percentage of lower-income students instead find a niche that draws in diverse families. Thus, those schools prosper.
So it is hardly time to panic, and school officials admirably are not, over the fact that applications for a couple of Wake’s award-winning magnets, Brentwood and Wendell, are lagging relative to some other magnets in applications. These two magnets do have higher percentages of lower-income students.
School officials don’t think applications are lower because of the income mix, but even if that is a reason the schools aren’t as sought after by some parents, it’s no reason to surrender. One of the big ideas about magnets was to ensure diversity by making families interested in art training, for example, take a look at a magnet with that offering. School administrators still have faith in that dynamic.
Nonetheless, they may do some tweaking, such as changing a curriculum to make it more interesting to more families and improving and promoting new ideas within the programs that exist.
Lagging applications here and there can be addressed, and Wake school leaders say that’s what they’re doing. One must remember that when magnets began, there were skeptics. And then, parents from suburban neighborhoods began to take their children to old schools downtown. Magnets had a positive effect on those suburban kids and their parents, for that matter, who came to a part of town they otherwise might never have visited and found value, great value, in those old schools.
So let’s allow Wake system leaders to innovate, to use their imaginations, to develop curriculum ideas that will bolster applications at, say, Fox Elementary and Brentwood and Wendell. The magnet school idea has worked. It needs to keep working.