Wake County magnet schools offer students exposure to multiple learning pathways
WRAL.com. Robert Brittain. January 15, 2020.
Magnet schools offer students a variety of immersive, unique, hands-on learning experiences. While both magnet and traditional schools offer the same core subjects of language arts, math, science and social studies, magnet schools differ from traditional schools by offering a specific theme or learning perspective across all areas of instruction.

In the Wake County Public School System, the magnet school program offers four primary themes – or learning pathways -- that include: Gifted and Talented, International Baccalaureate, Leadership and Technology, and Language Immersion / Global Studies.

The Gifted and Talented program is currently Wake County's oldest and most popular student learning pathway.

Lisa Thompson, the director of magnet themes and curriculum for WCPSS, explained the Gifted and Talented pathway is rooted in the belief every student has gifts and talents to be valued and nurtured.

"That's why no academic criteria or testing is required to apply for the program. We believe that all students have existing talents that they can build upon, as well as new talents that are waiting to be discovered," she said.

Thompson continued, "In our Gifted and Talented pathway, students are offered a wide variety of electives that are standards-based and that have been specially designed to enhance the core curriculum. The elective approach allows our Gifted and Talented magnet school students to learn through exploration and experimentation during their elementary and middle school years.

"Then, by the time our Gifted and Talented students arrive in high school, they have an idea of where their strengths lie and where they would like to focus. So, our students can continue to learn at a higher level in the discipline of their choice."

Thompson added that giving students a voice in their academic programming helps them to be more nimble in their approach to learning.

"By having the ability to move from learning topic to learning topic from quarter to quarter, it fosters adaptive learning," Thompson said. "This adaptability helps our students to learn to advocate for themselves and to make vocational choices down the road."

Leadership and Technology is another popular WCPSS magnet school pathway.

Jodee Gupton, senior administrator for WCPSS's Office of Magnet Themes and Curriculum, said the primary difference between Leadership and Technology magnet schools and Gifted and Talented magnet schools is that Leadership schools do not offer electives. Instead, the Leadership and Technology theme is implemented all day, every day across all subjects.

"Our Leadership schools are based on Steven Covey's principles of 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.'" Gupton explained. "All students learn and practice the seven habits daily as ways to live and to organize their lives. Students practice leadership through academic and personal goal setting. Those goals range from an academic goal like improving reading comprehension to a personal goal such as training for a soccer team."

Gupton emphasized that no special aptitude or skills are required to apply for a Leadership and Technology magnet school either.

"Parents need not have in mind that their child is going to be a CEO in order to apply. That's not the point of a Leadership magnet school," Gupton said. "Instead, the key is for Leadership students to gain confidence, to practice collaboration and to grow in their communication skills – because these skills remain timeless in our ever-changing world."

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