Las Vegas Sun

July 29, 2014

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letter to the editor:

Comparing magnet and public schools

I am frustrated by how the obvious is overlooked in articles and letters to the editor about magnet and charter schools.

Although I agree with Rep. Joe Heck that there are many career technical education programs in the Clark County School District we should be proud of, I take exception at his comparing data of our magnet schools with our regular public schools.

Of course students who choose magnet schools do better than those in traditional schools. Regardless of the focus of the magnet school, whether it is CTE or performing arts, the students who choose these schools are driven and motivated, as are their parents, who are willing and able to deal with transportation issues and other inconveniences of attending a school out of the neighborhood.

Research shows that motivation, home life and socioeconomic status are the most important factors in a student’s performance, more important even than school climate and the quality of the teacher in the classroom. When these students are surrounded by peers with similar ambitions, they are bound to thrive, as probably they would have regardless of where they attended school.

It is invalid to compare test scores and graduation rates of neighborhood high schools to magnets or charters which, even when they operate under a lottery system, do not have the same proportion of discipline, disability, motivation and language problems other public schools deal with.

I am a strong supporter of public schools, and I think that whatever lessons can be learned in charters or magnet schools, whether it is more technology or smaller class sizes, ought to be shared with all of our children.

The answer does not lie in creating more magnet schools or allowing more charter schools, especially those for-profit chains, to operate in our district.

A good public education is the right of every American child as well as the foundation of our democracy, and we owe it to the children in our district to make sure every school provides that.

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