Thursday, December 22, 2011

Magnet Schools For Hillsboro?

At a recent curriculum committee meeting, we were given a presentation on STEM education (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) at Hillsboro schools. I was happy to hear that there is a lot of focus on this area recently, no doubt heavily influenced by money coming in from local companies like Intel.

One especially interesting point was that some of the elementary schools are going to become STEM showcase schools, with specific focus on science and technology. This may mean that Hillsboro is finally thinking about mimicking our successful neighbors in Beaverton (, and instituting magnet schools to provide another option for students.

As you probably have inferred from 342892 of my other blog posts, I'm a big fan of offering different options for different children. It is beyond question that students vary in interests, ability, and learning style, and I think there is a lot to be said for offering many unique choices rather than cookie-cutter neighborhood schools. Especially in the sciences and math, students who are with a group of others who share their interest can advance significantly beyond their peers.

You may detect that I also have some personal feelings on this topic: way back in the ancient days of the 1980s, I was attending a New Jersey public school, and was rather annoyed that by senior year I had no more math classes to take. If I had been in a magnet school that concentrated others with similar interests in science and math from neighboring areas, we probably would have had critical mass to offer a class beyond calculus. 

As usual, we need to watch this closely. I see both notes of caution and positive developments.
  • When I asked point-blank if these STEM-focus schools would be magnet schools, district officials gave verbose and circuitous answers that left all options open, instead of a simple "yes". So it means that these schools might just be provided to selected neighborhoods, with out-of-neighborhood transfers being possible but involving lots of procedure and paperwork, rather than true magnet schools.
  • On the plus side, In the September board minutes (, I see a discussion of the "Instructional Options Plan". There is a lot of potential there, including discussion of the STEM schools as well as international and online options.
I'll keep watching the board minutes for further updates. Be sure to tell me if you have more info on these efforts!


  1. I'm originally from South Florida, born & raised. Broward County schools there has a series of magnet programs scattered amongst certain 'shady' schools. The school that housed one of the Pre-Med and Pre-Engineering Magnet programs was just outside downtown Fort Lauderdale - in a shady part of town with a local student body of low-income low-achievement kids. Then their were the magnet students, like myself, our school buses ride were 45 min to an hour outside of Fort Lauderdale. We brought our middle-income high-achievement selfs to add a good mix to these shady schools. But we got the benefit of great programs where AP courses were encouraged and College-Prep was Job 1. I'm a product of their successful program, not to mention their Bright Futures scholarships too.

  2. Great to hear about your experience! As the 4th largest district in OR, I see no reason why we shouldn't have a solid system of magnet schools here as well.

  3. Erik, long time.

    How happy should I be that my kindergartener's school has just 1st and 4th grade starting to do STEAM, and just a few faculty have taken training and starting to implement ? It is a small private school, relatively young. Noticeably behind ?

  4. (school is in SF Bay Area, california not Hillsboro, OR)

  5. It all depends on the quality of the programs- be sure to talk to your children regularly about what they're learning!