WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Wiley Middle School will be Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools’ newest magnet program starting in the 2014-15 school year.
Wiley began piloting a STEAM program — a curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering, arts and math — with its entire sixth grade last year.
School officials said it was well-received and re-energized students, teachers and parents.
“What we found was that students were so excited and engaged that the seventh- and eighth-grade groups came on board,” said Kim Marion, interim program manager for magnet schools. “By the end of the year, we had almost the entire school (on the STEAM program).”
The district’s Board of Education gave Wiley approval to apply for a federal grant to become the district’s next magnet school in February.
Wiley did not receive that grant.
The program was so popular at Wiley, though, that the school went ahead with developing a magnet proposal. The proposal was presented to the board Tuesday night and approved.
Students from across the county can begin applying when the magnet application period opens in January.
“We hear your dedication,” Jane Goins, board chair, told Wiley officials Tuesday night after the unanimous vote to approve the program.
Marion said Wiley fits into the growing continuum of magnet programs across the district.
It will be a natural fit to draw students from Diggs-Latham Elementary, the arts magnet elementary, and Brunson Elementary, the STEM magnet.
Wiley students will have the option to continue the special focus at Reynolds, the arts magnet high school, or at Atkins, the STEM magnet at that level.
Wiley was identified by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction as a ‘focus school’ because of its large achievement gap between groups of students.
On end-of-grade assessments, the school’s white minority far outperformed other groups over multiple years.
Nearly 80 percent of students qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches, making it a Title I school. Administrators are hopeful the magnet program will help improve the school.
“Wiley is in one of those situations where we want to turn it around,” Marion said. “There’s a lot to be proud of in what’s happened in this one year.”
Principal Sean Gaillard attributes the STEAM curriculum and the buy-in it created in the school community for part of the dramatic gains in student learning over the last year.
In 2012, Wiley did not meet its expected growth target, measured by how much students learn from one year to the next. In 2013, after the first year of STEAM, the school exceeded its expected growth.
“It has been a tremendous turn-around,” Gaillard said. “I’m very proud of our growth. I’m very proud of our teachers.”
Other underperforming or under-attended schools have also implemented magnet programs with varying degrees of success.
In 2013, 10 of the 17 magnet schools that receive growth scores met or exceeded expected growth. Marion said those results — an improvement over the previous year — show that the programs are working.