Grantee Corner | Program Sustainability
Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) grantees must sustain their magnet programs after their grants end. These stories from three grantees show how MSAP schools are building program sustainability to ensure the continuation of rigorous, innovative instruction.
Houston Independent School District
Since Houston Independent School District (HISD) started its MSAP grant, the Project Director and Grant Manager have continually worked with the schools and other district departments to build sustainable magnet programs. Early in Year One of the grant, each school developed a realistic and practical sustainability plan that has been frequently monitored and reviewed. Each school’s plan includes elements such as strong internal program systems, a clear understanding of the budget, community awareness, and resource development. In addition, the plans carefully consider potential challenges and how to locate and leverage resources to overcome them. Key assumptions of each school’s sustainability plan are as follows:
- MSAP funds are to cover startup costs.
- Current budget appropriations will be used for normal operating expenses.
- Schools will bolster revenue by significantly increasing enrollment.
- HISD will use its infrastructure and policies to sustain the magnet programs.
Finally, HISD has identified supplemental funding sources (e.g., grants, higher education institutions, and business partners) to provide ongoing support of each magnet program.
As an example, the Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan (BCMAR) magnet middle school is a health science magnet and an affiliate of Baylor College of Medicine (BCM). With MSAP support, BCMAR and BCM have developed a scope and sequence for each course and a library of sample lessons and resources. These curriculum resources will facilitate the training of any new science teachers after the grant ends to ensure continuity of high-quality instruction. The school also has a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) specialist who is a BCM faculty member and will continue to ensure students have external, real-world experiences such as interaction with health science industry professionals. BCMAR sustains strong support from the school’s Parent Teacher Organization through the BCMAR parent center and events like Coffee With the Principal, Shared Decisionmaking Committee meetings, and Parent Involvement Day. The school plans to offer additional opportunities such as a Tech Cafe and educational seminars, which will be supported through HISD’s Family and Community Engagement organization. BCMAR also will continue to train parents to help their students in the school’s science fair through a partnership with the University of Houston, and in BCMAR’s Harvest Lab (an educational garden) through Urban Harvest and other local garden training opportunities. Sustaining all of these opportunities for students will help HISD act on its commitment to provide Houston families with the best choice in urban education.
The Partners for Equity & Achievement in eastern Connecticut’s Education (PEACE) project at LEARN, which includes five partners serving five interdistrict and two intradistrict magnet schools, has been working on sustainability for a little more than 2 years.
To begin sustainability planning, schools focus on developing mutually beneficial relationships with students, families, and the community. The schools also explore various school- and district-based financial resources and work with their finance offices to identify sources that could be distributed differently. The seven PEACE schools have begun to look at alternative funding sources by recognizing each school’s unique attributes and identifying its value to the community. LEARN also identified seven levers that help to ensure sustainability based on the organization’s 25 years of experience with magnet schools:
- Pillars of magnet schools, as identified and defined by Magnet Schools of America, align with the federal purpose of magnet schools: diversity, innovative curriculum and professional development, academic excellence, high-quality instructional systems, and family and community partnerships.
- Demonstrate fidelity to the school’s implementation plan and feedback received from evaluators. For example, schools write addendums to their annual implementation plans to identify areas of focus and improvement following each site visit from the evaluators.
- Build capacity across all disciplines and employees through a balance of systemic reform professional learning and magnet-focused professional learning, and an annual, collaborative, curriculum development academy.
- Relationships are focused and directed to the school goals, theme, and vision.
- Staff members employ collaboration, peer modeling, and peer observation.
- Maintain a focus on finance by spending time annually to help the district finance director keep the magnet priorities evident in decisionmaking.
- Work on creating and continually delivering value by renewing the theme, addressing the needs of all students with enrichment and supports as needed, and tracking and responding to feedback from students and families.
LEARN’s philosophy holds that longevity depends on keeping schools student-focused, continuing to do the right work of magnets, and staying rooted in the seven levers of sustainability.
Los Angeles Unified School District
All the MSAP schools in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) have partnered with businesses, community organizations, and higher education institutions to create and sustain their science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) curriculums. Each school has developed sustainable, committed partners to help prepare students to become 21st century critical thinkers.
Wright Middle School STEAM Magnet has established a collaborative relationship with the Loyola Marymount University School of Education to increase the depth of inquiry in instruction. The school will also continue its relationship with the University’s Family of Schools program to advance STEM experiences for students. In addition, students will help with sustainability: the magnet school’s Audio, Recording, and Technology Club has produced two professional music singles and will compile a full CD to raise funds to support the sustainability of the sound engineering program.
Irving STEAM Magnet has established numerous community partnerships that provide time and resources to sustain the program. One partner, a network of STEAM professionals that includes renowned astrophysicist, professor, and TED Talk alumnus Aomawa Shields, connects student learning to real-world experiences and college and career opportunities. Collaborations with Project Lead the Way, the Buck Institute, and Google support the implementation of magnet curriculum and STEAM-themed projects and events. New partnerships with Harmony Project and U Create Youth Workshops promise to further extend learning for students. The school has offered student research opportunities through the GLOBE program and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
LAUSD USC Cinematic Arts and Engineering Magnet will continue to collaborate with partners that provide hands-on, real-world experiences for students. Efforts continue to develop new partnerships, and teachers have taken the initiative to write and win their own grants for continuous growth of their programs. The school has also developed a plan to host its own robotics competitions to build recognition of the school.
Sun Valley Magnet School is continuing its current partnerships and working on acquiring new partners, while writing two new technology and art integration grant proposals to sustain its programs. As enrollment grows and higher grades are integrated, the school will add additional magnet theme elective classes and STEAM Advanced Placement opportunities to ensure continued interest in and support for the magnet program. More than 95 percent of the school faculty has been trained in project-based learning and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), so they can sustain the use of these strategies in their instruction.