Magnet Schools of America Newsletter
December 2017
Season's Greetings! 

On behalf of Magnet Schools of America (MSA), I would like to extend my best wishes to all for a healthy and happy holiday season. As you are making your list and checking it twice and contemplating your new year's resolutions, I hope that you will include Magnet Schools of America in your plans for 2018. 

We have exciting opportunities in store for the coming months. First, our annual policy conference will be held in Washington, DC February 7-9, 2018 where you will learn about current policies and their impact on education. You will also have the opportunity to visit your congressional representatives on the "Hill" to inform them of the wonderful educational benefits magnet schools and programs provide for students in your home districts and states. 

Next is our annual national conference which will be held in Chicago (my kind of town!!!) April 25-29, 2018. There you will be able to network with colleagues from across the country, tour the outstanding magnet schools and programs offered by Chicago Public Schools, hear inspirational keynote speakers, attend exciting and innovative breakout sessions and enjoy the ambiance of one of our great cultural cities of the US. The food, sites and cultural offerings in Chicago are among the best in the world. Plan on joining us for these two outstanding, informative and exciting events!

Once again, please take time over the next few weeks to reflect on the past year, relax, rejuvenate and prepare for a wonderful 2018!

Warm regards, 
Sara Wheeler,  President, MSA

National Policy Training Conference 

Register  now for MSA' annual National Policy Training Conference February 7-9, 2018 in Washington, DC. Meet us where policy and the classroom intersect! 

The conference will include  powerful keynote presentations, panel discussions and workshops, Capitol Hill meetings, and networking opportunities.

Featured Session:

The Every Student Succeeds Act Meets the Standards of Excellence
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides flexibility to states for measuring student achievement and holding schools accountable for their performance. Each state will setup their own accountability systems and will be given the freedom to use different approaches to achieve their goals.

Special Presenter - Get an insider's perspective from Jhone Ebert, Senior Deputy Commissioner for Education Policy  for the New York Department of Education. Ms. Ebert led her state's ESSA design team and will explain key takeaways from the law and share how magnet leaders can prepare for implementation. 

During this session, also learn how the Five Pillars of Magnet Schools and the Standards of Excellence align with ESSA and how the national certification process can facilitate school improvement and help your schools meet state required performance benchmarks.

Conference Location:

The National Policy Training Conference will be held at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Washington, DC. Be sure to make your room reservation by January 15, 2018 to take advantage of the conference group rate.

Event Registration:

Register for the conference by the Early Bird deadline January 11, 2018 and save. Don't forget, members of Magnet Schools of America receive a discount!


The Policy Training Conference is supported by:  

Conversation from the Classroom
Laying a Foundation for Success
t Kenwood Leadership Academy

Kenwood learners had the opportunity to share the 7 Habits from their leader binders with a Chinese delegation of educators visiting to learn about
American education systems.
This month, we had the opportunity to talk with Jillian Schulte, Magnet Coordinator and 21st Century Learning Specialist for the Kenwood Leadership Academy, which is part of the Cedar Rapids Community School District in Iowa. The purpose of the conversation was to learn about the district's new leadership magnet school that is based on Steven Covey's Leader in Me program. Below are the excerpts of our conversation.

MSA: Can you share  the background of the Cedar Rapids magnet program and how it got started?

Schulte: The Cedar Rapids Community School District is in the third year of developing its magnet program that includes three schools with two more on the horizon. In the fall of 2015, it opened its first elementary magnet school, the Johnson STEAM Academy and in the fall of 2016, it opened the Kenwood Leadership Academy. Prior to becoming magnets, both were formally identified as schools in need of improvement. After the Johnson STEAM academy was launched, the district's school improvement advisory committee decided to explore the idea of creating another magnet school after observing the success of its first magnet school and recognizing that parents in the community appreciate having school choice. The concept of Kenwood Leadership Academy was developed organically. At the time, the school's staff were already interested in leadership principles and the Leader in Me program after hearing about it at a local symposium and researching the program through a book study.

MSA: Why did the Cedar Rapids Community School District decide to launch a magnet program? Was it to help foster school diversity or was it to instill innovation?

Schulte: The district began the magnet program for both of those reasons. It really wanted to pay attention and stay abreast of progressive and innovative approaches to education as well as provide students with integrated learning experiences. It is also to make sure that we are meeting the needs of our learners so that they will stay in the district. Cedar Rapids is facing declining enrollment because students are choosing to open-enroll into suburban school districts that surround the city. As the magnet program flourishes, the district is beginning to see students from parochial schools and those that have open-enrolled out of the district return. We have even had a few students choose to open-enroll into the district from the suburbs because of the magnet program.
Learners reflected on the power words in our mission: see, inspire, and empower. They defined these words individually and collectively.
MSA: Can you share part
of Kenwood's journey of becoming 
a leadership magnet?

Shulte: Kenwood is in the second year of implementing its leadership magnet theme. We are focusing a lot of our attention to aligning the Leader in Me principles with our academic content with an innovative approach to learning, whether it is a blended approach, Makerspace experiences, or project-based learning. That is one of my roles as the magnet coordinator, to help co-create these experiences with our teachers. They don't occur every day, but leadership habits and concepts are evident on a daily basis. They are expressed in leader binders that students use to track their learning and record their personal goals, academic goals, and community contributions.  Keep Reading...
It's not easy sustaining a
fully-articulated STEM Program

With new and innovative educational products emerging every day, it is becoming increasingly difficult for school administrators to develop or sustain school-wide STEM programming that engages all students of all abilities and ages.  
Creative Learning Systems  offers a turn-key STEM solution, called a SmartLab. With one call and one partner, you can leverage over 75 educational providers and over 300 articulated learning engagements for grades K-12 and be the STEM Leader in your community! 

Students  will learn to be responsible for their own learning, collaborate with others, continually self-assess their work, present to their peers, adapt and problem-solve as they work through their projects.  

No more stacks of requisition paperwork and no more rolodex of customer support numbers. In a Smartlab, students are  responsible for their own learning. They learn team collaboration, self-assessment, presentation skills, and problem-solving as they work through their projects.
Watch this  short video  to see the hands-on, minds-on experience a SmartLab provides your students. If you want to learn more or see a SmartLab in action, contact Don Bascle at  or 321-626-5250.

Snapshot of Magnet Schools

This month MSA announced the release of a 
new report, "A Snapshot of Magnet Schools in America." It shares the exciting news that there are now more magnet schools than ever before. 

We worked with the research team at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, who developed a set of criteria that could be measured and consistently applied across all states to get an up-to-date and accurate tally of magnet schools across the United States.  

We are proud to announce their findings: There are more than 4,340 magnet schools educating nearly 3.5 million students across 46 states and the District of Columbia.

The report ( also includes statistics about magnet school admissions, enrollment, performance and success stories. Please take a look and share it with members of your community! 

Money for Magnets

Money bag with dollar sign and money tree growing out of top isolated on white NewSchools Venture Fund is accepting applications from teams of educators and entrepreneurs with bold ideas for reimagining pre-K-12 learning. The fund will award grants totaling up to $8 million for programs focused on creating innovative district and charter schools; building technology tools to better support student learning; and/or cultivating pipelines of diverse leaders in education. 

Funding will range between $50,000 and $200,000 and include participation in a cohort experience to help teams refine their designs and prepare for launch within the next one to two years. Initial submissions are due by January 12, 2018.

The Toshiba America Foundation is accepting applications from middle- and high-school teachers who are passionate about making science and mathematics more engaging for their students. Grant proposals for amounts of up to $5,000 are accepted on a rolling basis.

American Electric Power is accepting applications from pre-K-12 teachers for classroom projects during the 2018-19 school year.

Through the Teacher Vision grant program, AEP will award mini-grants of up to $500 for projects with an academic focus and a goal to improve student achievement. Priority will be given to projects that promote science, mathematics, technology, electrical safety, the balanced study of energy and the environment, and energy efficiency.

To be eligible, applicants must be a pre-K-12 teacher who lives or teaches in an AEP service area or in a community with a major AEP facility. 
Application Deadline: February 23, 2018

The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation is accepting applications from public schools and public libraries anywhere in the U.S for its mini-grants program. Grants of up to $500 will be awarded to help educators create special activities outside the standard curriculum and make time to encourage their students. Application Deadline: March 31, 2018

Magnets Making News 

"Chicago Public Schools students are leading the country in academic gains, and these new STEM Magnet and classical schools will help continue to grow that record progress," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. 

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" may be one of the most common questions asked of children. Magnet programs have emerged as a popular way to help them figure it out.

" It's  been huge," said Caroline Sharp, Oliver Magnet school drama teacher. "It's been a game changer because we started in a little portable with 25 kids. The next year we applied for a Disney grant and got it, and it changed everything. We had 150 kids try out that year! It has been like that ever since."

The new magnet programs at Belaire High and their feeder schools are part of a big expansion of the school system's popular magnet program. The School Board has approved eight new magnet programs since May, bringing the number of schools with such specialized offerings up to 25.

Brag About Your School: Parkway Middle School of the Arts

"It's a hidden treasure," said the school's principal, Bradford Mattair, in full agreement with our assessment. The school sits in the heart of Broward County, but it's in a quiet residential neighborhood, a bit off the beaten path. The performing arts community, however, knows all about Parkway Middle. 

"The idea that you would intentionally build a student body that is reflective of the region, that's a new thing in Richmond," said Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, an education professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who recently co-authored a report on school and housing segregation.

The Flame Challenge is an annual contest organized by actor Alan Alda and his foundation to inspire scientists to explain complex ideas in terms that a bright 11-year-old might understand.

They're only in their second year as a STEM school, but their new focus is making a big impact in the classroom, not just in a  lab or  in science and math classrooms, but all classes. 

Using the school's focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math across the curriculum, students employed engineering and scientific tools - defining the problem, asking questions and doing research - to determine the symptoms and remedy for a fictitious, mysterious disease that made students, teachers and staff sick. 

* Do you have exciting news to share about the magnet schools in your community? Please send them to:


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Schools Students Want. Schools Students Need. 

MISSION: Providing leadership for high quality innovative
instructional programs that promote choice, equity, diversity, and academic excellence  for all students.

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Holiday Wishes!
On behalf of Magnet Schools of America we would like to wish you a wonderful
holiday season!

Please note:

Our office will be closed from December 25-
January 1.

Join the Board

Magnet Schools of America is accepting applications 
and letters of interest for appointment to the Board of Directors for June 2018 - May 2020. 

The open positions include:

Appointed Specialized Directors: 3 openings

Interested candidates must be members of MSA and are requested to email a letter of interest to Todd Mann, Executive Director, Magnet Schools of America by Friday, January 5, 2018, 5pm EASTERN.


We would like to  commend one of  our members,  
Dr. Mary Sieu of the  ABC Unified School District in Cerritos, CA.

She was selected as one of four finalists for the National Superintendent of the Year Award by AASA, The School Superintendents Association. 

This is the 31st year the award will be given to 
a highly distinguished d istrict leader. 

Job Opening

Baltimore County Public Schools is seeking a  Specialist who will 
build professional support networks among school leaders and staff in 
support of a Magnet Schools Assistance Program 
(MSAP) grant.

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