Guest Columnist

Magnet school pipeline offers more parent choice

Community members, teachers and administrators high five students as they walk through a welcome line during the 2016 first day of the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s magnet school at Kenwood Leadership Academy in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Jim Slosiarek/Gazette Archives)
Community members, teachers and administrators high five students as they walk through a welcome line during the 2016 first day of the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s magnet school at Kenwood Leadership Academy in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Jim Slosiarek/Gazette Archives)

The Cedar Rapids Community School District is committed to our vision: Every Learner: Future Ready. Through listening to our families, staff, and students over the past several years, it is clear that our community is proud of our district and also is very open to multiple pathways to support our vision.

Four years ago, CRCSD introduced a magnet school program pathway. This pathway provided three components our community was seeking: 1) more choice for families to meet their children’s specific learning needs and interests; 2) a place to introduce innovative, future-relevant school models to inform the district’s future moves, and; 3) the creation of magnet schools representing the community’s identity and values.

Because of our community’s interest in providing more choice for students and families and the potential for magnet schools to accelerate the district’s progress on offering personalized learning, we are opening two additional magnet schools. In the fall of 2019, CRCSD will have five magnet schools to offer to our families — three elementary schools and two middle schools. The elementary schools include Johnson STEAM Academy (JSA); Kenwood Leadership Academy (KLA); and new this fall, Cedar River Academy (CRA — Taylor Elementary). The middle schools include Roosevelt Creative Corridor Business Academy (RCCBA), and new this fall, McKinley STEAM Academy.

Johnson STEAM Academy’s theme is STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics; students regularly work and learn through projects that integrate multiple disciplines. Student engagement and attendance has increased and is a major element in improving achievement.

Kenwood Leadership Academy’s theme is leadership, with a focus on the development of leadership skills and dispositions in both students and staff to increase ownership and engagement in their learning and future. Student and staff attendance has increased, office referrals have decreased, and parents are indicating that they have seen a positive impact in their student’s ownership of learning, thoughts of school and outlook for their future.

Cedar River Academy at Taylor’s theme is sustainability, with a focus on sustainability of community, environment and self. Students will learn through hands-on projects based around environmental needs with an increase in community engagement — especially as a river town!

Roosevelt Creative Corridor Business Academy’s theme is business and students follow three main pathways of learning: STEAM, Leadership & Entrepreneurship, and Global Systems. RCCBA provides a learning environment that honors Roosevelt’s vision to Educate/Empower/Achieve and maintains its mission to provide a rigorous and relevant curriculum that empowers all students to become creative problem solvers and effective communicators in a diverse and dynamic world.

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McKinley STEAM Academy’s theme is STEAM and MSA will focus on science and engineering practices through innovative blended learning as a path to personalization with community partnerships with local engineering, health, and creative industries.

Magnet schools serve the families in their neighborhood attendance zones as well as other students from around the CRCSD and surrounding districts. The magnet school lottery allows additional students from across the district and surrounding districts to attend the magnet programs. Each of our magnet schools have lottery seats open for the 2019-20 school year. The application form can be found at http://bit.ly/CRCSDMagnetLottery. The deadline to apply to the lottery is March 8 by 11:59 p.m. Each school has established visit times for interested parents/guardians.

Magnet schools are responsible for all the state mandates, testing requirements and student learning expectations. Learners attending our magnet schools will be able to leverage their personal passions and interests as a vehicle to learn how to read, write, do math, and conduct scientific and historical inquiry, while learning important 21st century skills. Students will be engaged in solving real problems at school and in the community while working across content areas.

We are excited about these new learning opportunities and appreciative that our community is simultaneously pushing us to make new things happen and supporting us as we do so. While it can be scary to think beyond simply improving the existing educational experience, it is imperative that we create for our children what our forefathers built for us: a learning system designed for their future rather than our past. This new way forward ensures the long-term health and success of our children and our community. Beyond our magnet programs, we have many innovative practices across our schools: digital literacy initiatives, community school based programs, and personalized learning systems like Iowa BIG to support our vision: Every Learner: Future Ready!

• Noreen Bush is deputy superintendent of the Cedar Rapids Community School District.

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