Grantee Corner  |  Fiscal Year 2016 MSAP Grantees

The Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) at the U.S. Department of Education recently awarded funds to nine local education agencies (LEAs) under the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 MSAP grant competition. These nine LEAs are implementing innovative, thematic magnet programs in 38 schools. The LEAs are located in five states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota, and New York.

These LEAs and their MSAP schools will focus on creating diverse learning environments that are integrated both by race/ethnicity and by socioeconomic status. Within these diverse environments, the schools also seek to increase academic achievement of all students by developing theme-based curricula that tie student learning to the real world and build lifelong skills.

Like the 2013 cohort, the 2016 grant competition included a priority for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), so each grant project includes at least one STEM school. Some schools include the arts in STEM to make STEAM, or reading and the arts to make STREAM, while others focus on specific aspects of STEM such as engineering, environmental science, or computer science. Other themes include leadership, multimedia, communication, and International Baccalaureate.

In Florida’s Palm Beach County, schools will infuse International Baccalaureate with STEM to create rigorous, student-centered curricula that have been proven to increase student achievement.

Also in Florida, Polk County Public Schools’ MSAP project will develop a curriculum aligned to the needs of industry and higher education; anchored in standards; and focused on design, critical thinking, and problem solving. The project will create key partnerships to build high-demand programs that attract students from all racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds and engage students in authentic STEM experiences. In addition, the project will provide professional development to create a cadre of teachers and administrators who can sustain STEM reforms across the district.

Independent School District 196 in Minnesota will engage students in rigorous and focused STEM curriculum, which will include field experiences to work directly with STEM professionals, outdoor learning investigations, and innovative lab spaces for students to collaborate and creatively design and prototype their ideas.

Four consortia of Community School Districts (CSDs) in New York City have been funded: 14 and 32, 21 and 22, 27 and 29, and 25 and 30. All the MSAP project schools in CSDs 14 and 32 will implement project-based learning (PBL). Through the PBL teaching method, students will gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge. CSDs 21 and 22 will provide each student with a rigorous educational experience through a theme that is unique to and draws on the strengths of the individual school communities and that is mapped to city, state, and national standards. Research-based strategies will be embedded into teaching and learning that promote student achievement and career readiness. CSDs 27 and 29 will embed strategies such as project-based learning and cultural competency. The schools will also use state-of-the-art technology to connect students to each other and to peers and mentors around the globe. The MSAP schools in CSDs 25 and 30 will have a variety of themes, and the district will provide professional development to help magnet school teachers improve curriculum, instruction, and magnet theme development and integration.

In San Diego Unified School District in California, the MSAP schools will implement quality, integrated theme-based instruction; advance systemic reforms through a rigorous and sustained professional development initiative; and increase parent and community engagement. Emphasis will be placed on increasing interaction among students of different backgrounds through the development of dialogic learning environments that move students from tolerating different perspectives to truly respecting, valuing, and learning from the differences.

Finally, New Haven Public Schools in Connecticut will reduce minority group isolation by drawing students from the city’s suburbs. The MSAP schools will attract these students by providing access to rigorous, engaging coursework in STEM and building strong community partnerships that offer experiential STEM learning.

Over the next 3 years, these LEAs will create exciting, diverse magnet programs that educate students in innovative and research-driven ways. Each district will be featured in detail in a separate feature of the Grantee Corner as the magnet programs are implemented this school year.