Thursday, July 28, 2011

The North End is saturated with magnet options, yet the Nashville Civic Design Center recommends another one

Except for one minor detail, this proposal by the Nashville Civic Design Center sounds sublime:

The Nashville Civic Design Center proposes a new magnet elementary school in the Lafayette neighborhood and a magnet arts school in the Sulphur Dell neighborhood. The schools would share an axial relationship, as their sites are flanked by 4th and 5th Avenues (Avenue of the Arts). These locations would provide the schools with close proximity to downtown art and science museums, as well as many other educational institutions throughout the city. Additionally, the locational advantage of the proposed schools addresses goals from the city’s Schools Strategic Plan, namely “to market and promote relevant and engaging extracurricular activities for students risk of dropout”, and to “select and use technology in developmentally appropriate ways to promote active learning, improve student engagement and individualize instruction.”

The slight detail is that the area already has several magnet schools along with its feeder school, all predominately working-class and middle-class African American and problematic for some increasingly white gentrifying neighborhoods:

Metro Schools rezoned Hope Gardens families to Buena Vista Elementary, which hasn’t met the state’s testing goals for the past two years. The changes left parents new to the city’s urban core scrambling for options, including a recent push to see a new magnet school established, which is unlikely.

District officials say there are plenty of options for parents who live in the urban core. Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary opened last year at 1625 D.B. Todd Blvd. and provides an arts integrated curriculum. Hull-Jackson Montessori Magnet and Jones Paideia Magnet also are in the area. To gain a seat at these schools, students must participate in the district’s lottery.

That hasn’t satisfied everyone.

We need to move very carefully. Framing the problems of local public education as we the consumers waiting on MNPS and NCDC to provide better product delivery systems instead of getting involved in the neighborhood schools and changing them in community-based ways seems short-sighted. For the time being the NCDC proposal is a pipe dream having less to do with educational realities for those of us who live here and more to do with the symmetrical imaginings of designers. And even if they do realize a Sulphur Dell magnet option that encourages gentrifiers to stay, other area public schools will have to rise too for the neighborhood quality of life to improve.

This discussion has been on going. I've already tried to stake out a position between disillusioned gentrifiers and the guardians of the MNPS status quo.

1 comment:

  1. I ask 2 things of my children's schools:

    (1) That they be safe
    (2) That my children get a chance to learn

    That's it.

    (1) Should be a given.

    For (2) above, I had visions of unruly kids: unready to learn, not wanting to learn, disrupting the classroom and taking up a disproportionate amount of the teacher's time. I am happy to report that hasn't been the case, although we're only in elementary school.

    I am willing to overlook or work with most other things if the two items above are satisfied: teaching methods, facilities, subjet matter, start date in early August, etc.

    I question the Chinese-takeout menu approach to Magnet schools. To me, it is just shuffling the same kids around to different places. It would be better to focus on neighborhood schools and get them right.

    You don't mention principals. What a difference a prinicipal can make.