Cincinnati's magnet schools: Of campfires and enrollment apps

Guest Blogger

What should you do to give your child the best education possible? If you're a parent in Cincinnati, Ohio, the answer may be to take a camping trip. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that this past weekend, hopeful parents once again took their places outside the city's magnet schools in what has become a yearly ritual associated with the district's first-come, first-served enrollment policy. In order to secure a spot near the front of the line, parents began pitching their tents last Thursday, the article says, even though applications would not be accepted until today, the official start of magnet school enrollment in Cincinnati.

The campers were generally comprised of parents looking to avoid both the tuition costs of a private school and the poor quality of ?D? and ?F? rated schools, which accounted for over 40 percent of Cincinnati's district and charter schools in the 2009-2010 school year. The line was especially long outside Fairview Clifton German Language School, where one parent intimated, ?The alternative is a failing school, which is not acceptable.?

Although many of the district's magnet schools, like Fairview, are high-performing, another recent Enquirer article raised doubts about student achievement in magnet schools that focus on foreign language instruction. In fact, the article reported that the state gives two of Cincinnati's three such schools a ?D? rating.

Most of the city's magnet schools are doing well, though, as the example of Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School illustrates. Ten years ago, the school had a 21 percent graduation rate and an ?F? rating from the state. But in 2001, the district began an effort to turn Taft into a magnet school, the result of which has been a 95 percent graduation rate and an ?A? rating from the state.

Camping out in schoolyards may be tedious, but to parents concerned about their children's education, it's worth it.? As one parent says, ?I'd be out here for two weeks if I had to. It's my son's education and there's nothing more important.?

- Nick Joch

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