Interest and Career Grouping
Another method for reorganizing students focuses on looking at their interests and future career expectations. Sometimes students are moved into “learning communities” within their schools to focus their education around their interests. For example, some students might be housed as a “health” learning community. Courses would incorporate themes that would benefit students who might someday go into careers dealing with health.
In other areas, magnet schools have been created to attract students with similar interests. For instance, a performing arts magnet school might provide students with greater instruction and performance opportunities. Classes are taught keeping this focus in mind.
An early precursor to the magnet school began as an experiment in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1970. The city opened four elementary schools and one high school based on different organizational structures, including an open school, a traditional school, and a continuous progress school.
The Purpose of These Reforms
The purpose of grouping students by interest is obvious. Students will have greater buy-in regarding their education if they feel that it is truly focused on their likes and desires. Obviously, they will have to learn core subjects; however, students also spend time learning information that is useful in preparing them for later life.
Further, educators do not have to use the “one-size-fits-all” method of education. They can frame their lessons around interest-building ideas related to the concerns of their students.
Challenges to Be Met
Grouping students by interest level within a school is a great challenge for educators. The idea of “schools-within-schools” has some definite physical advantages: Students get the benefits of this interest focus, but they share the same facilities.
However, challenges arise when students do not stay within their “house” or “community.” For example, there may be a performing arts community and a health sciences community at the same school, and some students who are in the health community might want to be involved in the band. This may make it difficult to determine where the band fits.
Further, if schedule conflicts prevent students from being placed in completely exclusive community classes, teachers will not be able to focus their lessons on that one interest group. As a core curriculum teacher, it can be difficult to teach a class that has students from three different communities. Students will also lose out on the original purpose of communities: placing students with similar interests together.
It can also be difficult for teachers to be part of more than one community at a school. This puts them in the situation of having to create different curricula based on the interests of students in those communities.
Magnet schools have their own share of problems. For one thing, there is concern about the equality of education. Some schools are better than others or receive more funding. And the quality of educators may not be the same.
Further, funding itself can cause problems because magnet schools, if created correctly, will not always contain the same number of students. In other words, the same number of students will not be interested in careers in health as will be interested in careers in the performing arts. Therefore, this imbalance can lead to wasteful spending and duplication of effort.