Cedar Rapids adds third magnet schools, teachers notice better student behavior

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- It's a twist on teaching, and it's spreading.

A Magnet School is meant to balance out poverty rates by providing unique classes and programs that attract students from different backgrounds.

In Cedar Rapids, two of the magnet schools have already seen a shift in poverty rates.

Before becoming a Magnet school, Johnson STEAM Academy had 84 percent of students qualify for Free and Reduced lunch. This year it's 75 percent.

Kenwood Leadership Academy's first year as a magnet it added more than 100 students to it's population. And the school says it's free reduced lunch rate dropped from 68 percent to 67 percent.

During Roosevelt Middle School's pilot option program for eighth graders 75 percent fewer students were sent to the office for bad behavior.

But there isn't any test data yet to show students at magnet schools are doing better.

The goal at Kenwood Leadership Academy is right in the name.

Second grader Elli Puckett's says she's becoming a better leader here and her mom agrees.

"My child remembers what she does at school," Tisha Sell said.

Tisha Sell says Elli is more responsible, and that transfers to her home life.

"She remembers homework, brushing teeth, every day things I don't have to hassle her," Sell said.

And Elli loves school.

"We have our packet and we have our opinion. And so we're writing about our opinion and we have a paragraph to write. I like the opinion writing cause I like sharing what my opinion writings," Elli said.

"Switching our paradigm to empower our students by helping them en-store ownership in their learning and not controlling them," Principal David Brandon said.

At Kenwood, students are part of the learning process, setting their own goals along with the teachers. Principal David Brandon says most students are exceeding those goals.

""92 percent of our parents show satisfaction and increased ownership in their students and learning and outlook of their future."

Instead of leadership, Johnson STEAM Academy is hands-on, focused on putting Science Technology Engineering Art and Math directly into student's hands.

STEAM Lab is creative time for students. For twins Alona and Maya Lahart, it's their favorite part of school.

"STEAM lab we get to build different things and they're not always the same. And today we're working on a parachute."

"It just seems like they get things, the whole process of it, instead of just memorization," Becky Lahart said.

The Laharts' parents sent them to Johnson to gain real-life skills. And for teachers to challenge them academically.

Their parents say the twins are doing much better in math this year.
Even more important to the family, the girls know how to ask for help and use resources.

"We don't just work in one way or one type of person. And they really do that through curriculum," Becky Lahart said.

Magnet schools accept first students that live within the school's boundary zone. Any remaining openings are selected through a randomized lottery system.

Roosevelt just extended its lottery through June 2nd. The school there says it has room for 30 more students, because of high demand.