Magnet Program FAQ’s
Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Magnet school?

Magnet schools are public schools that offer a thematic approach to teaching and learning that is designed to attract a diverse student population. The Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) was established to help school districts increase diversity in elementary or secondary schools through unique educational programming designed to attract families to make an active choice to enroll their children. Magnet programs support and supplement the curriculum by providing a common lens through which children master knowledge.

 

What’s the advantage of being a Magnet school?

Van Sickle Computer LabOne of the main advantages of being on the receiving end of a magnet grant is the ability to support teaching and learning in Magnet schools through a significant infusion of funds.  Many schools invest in technology and much needed materials and supplies in specialized content areas such as science labs, fine arts materials, etc.  The Magnet program has hired Magnet Resource Teachers for each of the magnet schools funded over the past 18 years who work as school-based curriculum integration specialists and who plan professional development opportunities for staff, who receive the contract hourly rate to participate on a voluntary basis.  Magnet funds have been used to support theme-based before and/or after school or summer programs, to send staff to conferences and observe other schools with similar themes, to bring in specialists/consultants to help lift the magnet theme.

 

What’s in it for students?

Students learn best by doing and magnet schools are designed to enable them to make critical connections between school and real life through meaningful and SlideShow3relevant courses of study. Interdisciplinary teaching enables students to make connections across content areas and allows them to more fully grasp the connections between learning and the world beyond school, be that higher education or the world of work. School experiences are supported by community, business and college/university partners who help students be more prepared to enter higher education or the local workforce ready to make a significant impact.

In Magnet schools, teachers seek to find organic ways to integrate the Magnet theme into lessons or their content areas though the delivery of interdisciplinary lessons.  Most of Springfield’s Magnet schools focus on project-based learning and provide students with authentic learning experiences that take place outside of school. This way of delivering instruction to students, who must be able to succeed in the 21st Century, provides them with new and marketable skills that make them successful in school, college and beyond.

 

What’s in it for teachers?

AstronautStaffSpringfield’s Magnet schools invest in teachers through theme specific, in-depth training that puts in their hands the latest tools available to help students learn the requisite skills for success in the 21st Century. We help teachers develop the expertise in a variety of areas that are supported through significant and varied teacher-training offerings.  For example, we have contracted with nationally known organizations such as Research for Better Teaching, Expeditionary Learning, International Baccalaureate Organization, Montessori, the College Board, and the National Academy Foundation among others to help support teachers learn new methods to reach our ever-changing student population.  We offer teachers the opportunity to visit other schools that are implementing similar themes so they can see what Magnet schools look like in action and to help create collaborative learning communities across city and state lines.

Magnet funds have been used to upgrade technology, provide science labs, art and music materials and resources, to create after-school and summer programs.  Magnet funds have also provided artists-in-residence, consultants in a variety of areas from learning in and through the arts to how to develop interdisciplinary lessons and units to classroom management skills.

 

What’s the difference between a Magnet and a Charter school?

Magnet schools are public schools operated under the auspices of the local school board.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are granted authority to operate by the State.  They receive a per-pupil allotment as all other schools in the state receive but have some autonomies in how they operate.  Some charter schools are run as not-for-profit schools in collaboration with local school districts, generally known as Horace-Mann Charter Schools.

Some charter schools are operated by professional educational organizations, such as SABIS International Charter School in Springfield.  SABIS receives per-pupil funding from the state, therefore must take the same state-mandated tests, but they are able to develop and deliver their own curriculum and schedule, they are able to hire and fire their own staff (to date there is no teacher’s union for charter school teachers) and can determine how to prioritize their spending.

Magnet Schools are public schools that receive state funds on per-pupil basis SciTechjust as all public schools do, but also receive supplementary federal funds to implement a unique theme or curricular focus, such as visual and performing arts, Montessori, Expeditionary Learning, International Baccalaureate, etc.  Magnet schools are subject to the same academic demands and expectations as all other public schools, are governed by the guidelines established by the School Committee for all other public schools in the city, must meet all state and district mandates for testing, graduation, attendance etc.

 

How do I enroll my child in a Magnet School?  Are there admissions requirements?

There are no admissions requirements for students to enroll in any of our Magnet Schools, other than they be an active student in the Springfield Public Schools (visit:  www.sps.springfield.ma.us/PIC for more information on what is needed for registering for SPS).  If your child is currently enrolled in SPS and has a Student ID number, you may sign up for a Magnet School during the designated enrollment periods (see below for more information).  During these enrollment periods, parents may go to the main webpage of the Springfield Public Schools (www.sps.springfield.ma.us) to cast their “Magnet Ballot.”

 

How do I cast a Magnet Ballot?

HSST iPad in Math ClassStudents wishing to select a Magnet school may make a selection during the Magnet Balloting Period (12/2/13 to 1/10/14)  do so online.  Parents/guardians are first required to certify they are authorized to make the selection for the student; next you will be asked to enter your child’s Student ID number and Date of Birth (DOB).

A Drop Down menu will appear based on the grade your child is in (Elementary or Middle) and you will be able to make up to 4 selections for Elementary School (Brookings, Gerena, Kensington, or Zanetti) and 5 selections for Middle School (Chestnut, Duggan, Renaissance, STEM Middle Academy or Van Sickle).

Important Note:
If you have any questions about which school to select first, please seek out the answers to your questions first and go back and finalize your selection before the last day of the Magnet Balloting period. You should be very certain of your choices since you will NOT have an opportunity to change them after you complete the ballot. 

 

Who is eligible to cast a Magnet Ballot?

Students must have an SPS Student ID number and be “active” in the database.  Students not currently enrolled in SPS must do so first at the Parent Information Center and obtain a Student ID number.  This number is your ticket in!

 

Where do I go to cast a Magnet Ballot?

Signing up for a Magnet School takes place online during the Magnet Enrollment Period. For the 2014-15 school year  all grades PreK (for Gerena or Zanetti Montessori) through 12 will take place from December 2, 2013 through January 10, 2014.  You may sign up anytime from any computer anywhere.

 

What happens after I cast my Magnet Ballot?

After you complete your ballot you will be provided with a confirmation number;  we recommend that you print out and keep this number in a safe place since it is your assurance that you have completed a ballot during the Magnet Ballot Period.

Your Magnet Ballot will be saved on a SPS “server” and retained until the end of the Magnet Ballot Period.  At that time, all Ballots will be entered into the randomized computer lottery.  As each ballot is uploaded from the server it is provided with a random number.  The computer is programmed to sort the ballots based on school, your selection number (1st, 2nd, 3rd choice, etc.) and the number of available seats.

Example:
If you have selected 4 schools (Brookings, Kensington, Gerena and Zanetti) the computer will scan your ballot, see that you have selected Brookings as your first choice and if there are seats available at your first choice school (Brookings in this instance) your child will be assigned there.  The computer will then scan for the next ballot in which Brookings is the first choice, and assign that student there and so on until all of the available seats at Brookings are filled.

 

What if my child does not get his/her first choice?

Once the computer has gone through all of the 1st choice selections and made assignments based on the number of seats available at each grade in that school, the remainder of the students who applied for that school but did not receive it (meaning there were more students wanting to go there than there are seats available), students will automatically be placed on the waiting list for his/her 1st choice school only.

The computer will then go back and look at all of the 2nd choice selections for each school and grade and fill those seats if any remain open after going through the 1st choice selections.

Example:
You selected Brookings as your 1st choice.  Brookings only had 25 seats available and it was able to fill all of its available seats based on the number of parents who selected the school as their first choice. No more seats remain at Brookings, which means that anyone who selected the school as their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. choice will not be able to get in, nor will they automatically be placed on the waiting list. Your child’s ballot (based on random number assigned by the computer) was number 28 for Brookings, therefore your child will be number 3 on the waiting list for Brookings.

Your second choice was Kensington, which has 30 openings (for example).  During the 1st round of assignments, 26 parents selected Kensington as their first choice and all of those students were assigned to the school and there are 4 seats remaining (at your child’s grade level). The computer uses the same process as in the first round of assignments – checking the number of seats at each grade and filling in based on how many students selected Kensington as their 2nd choice.  Your child’s random-numbered ballot was the 3rd received for Kensington and since there were 4 seats available, he or she will be assigned to the school.

This process continues until all of the seats are filled at each Magnet school.

 

I made 4 selections and didn’t get any of my choices.  How did that happen?

GirlCardsAs you can see in the examples above, students are placed based on their preference (1st, 2nd, 3rd choice, etc.) and the number of available seats at any grade level.  If there are fewer 1st choice applicants choosing a particular school than seats available, everyone is assigned there, meaning if there are 30 seats and 26 apply, they all get in and there is no need to run a lottery.  When there are more applicants than seats available, the lottery kicks in.

Many schools fill up on the first assignment round, which may mean that many parents selected a school as their 1st choice first that you put as your 2nd choice school.  If the seats are already filled by the time the computer makes its assignments for 2nd choice selections there are no longer seats available, so your 2nd choice will not be honored.

In some cases there may be seats available at a school you selected as your 3rd choice (meaning that not all of the seats were filled in assignment rounds 1 and 2) so your child could be assigned to that school, however the lower the preference for a particular school (3rd, 4th choice, etc.) the less likely it is that there are unfilled seats. In most cases the available seats are filled during the first two assignment rounds. For this reason it is essential that you know from the outset which school(s) you are interested in applying for since the chances are they will be filled in the first two assignment rounds.

 

Is the number of seats the only factor that determines if a student is assigned to one of his/her schools of choice?

No. There are other considerations that can impact a student’s assignment, for example if your child needs particular educational services (Special Education services that are available only in select schools, a language program that is only offered in a few schools, etc.) he or she may be assigned to a different school than the schools you selected.  These assignments are made by the appropriate departments within SPS after careful review and consideration of what services will best meet your child’s needs.

 

When will I hear if my child got into the Magnet school I want?

After the lottery process is completed and the assignments noted above are completed, families will be notified in writing by the last week in March.

Important Note:
Since student assignment letters are mailed to your home of record, please make sure that the Parent Information Center has your up-to-date address.  This will avoid confusion at the beginning of the school year.

 

I went through the Magnet Ballot process but changed my mind and want to switch my choices.  Can I do that?

Unfortunately, no.  Once a ballot has been cast the computer program will not allow you to enter another ballot for that student.  This is the reason we urge parents to get as much information as possible about the schools you are interested in having your child attend before you make your selections.  Information is available online in the Magnet Schools of Choice Books (go to www.springfield.magnet.com) or on the websites of individual schools.  You may also want to call the schools you are interested in and make arrangements to tour the school to get a feel for the learning environment and determine which school offers the best match for your child.

 

Additional information on Magnet Schools is available by calling Kathe Harbour at 413-787-7478 or by calling Magnet Program Director, Josh Bogin at 413-787-7752.

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