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Applications Up For Magnet Schools; Little Change In SES Diversity

Gwendolyn Glenn
Assistant Superintendent Akeishia Craven-Howell and CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox

CMS’ third lottery for magnet school programs ended last month and district officials say applications are up by 35 percent from last year. The district made changes to the lottery for the magnet program this year to create more diversity at these schools, but it didn’t change things much.

CMS officials point to an enrollment increase of 20 percent next year in magnet programs. They say many programs have no available seats and some that never had wait lists, have them now. In addition to aggressively getting the word out to parents about magnet program, Superintendent Clayton Wilcox attributes the increases to new offerings.

“Our student assignment plan this year added nine new choices for families and of those choices we now have 2,630 seats that parents are choosing,” Wilcox said.

Credit Gwendolyn Glenn / WFAE News
CMS officials release new numbers on magnet student applications and SES numbers for these programs

Those choices include a new technology school for elementary students and a program for students interested in education careers.

As for diversifying magnet program enrollment in terms of socioeconomic status, SES, the change was minimal. Assistant Superintendent Akeishia Craven-Howell, who oversaw changes to the student assignment plan, says most income balancing occurred in the lower grades and at new schools.

“I saw a balancing out across low, medium and high at Blythe and Cotswold Elementary. Charlotte Teachers Early College, which is a new full magnet, that’s where all of the seats are in the lottery and we have an increased opportunity to impact diversity,” Craven-Howell said.

Blythe in Huntersville and Cotswold in southeast Charlotte are elementary international baccalaureate schools but the changes were not that large. According to CMS data, Blythe will have an even number of low and high income students, 83 but the majority will still be middle income. More than half of the students at Cotswold will still be high income, with both low and medium income students accounting for just over 20 percent.

But at most schools, such as Harding High in west Charlotte, the numbers were pretty much unchanged. It’s a struggling partial IB magnet, with 71 percent low income students. During community meetings last year, parents told CMS officials those numbers would have to change for the school to improve.

These aren’t hard and fast numbers. The district will only know who shows up when school starts. 

Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.