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Non Magnet Schools Try To Let More People Pay Attention To The Advanced Research

This is in time and the Carter Duval County busy school.

Duval county school choice Expo opened on Saturday, Carter, coordinator and British International Diploma Edward H. White teachers have been recruited to post a letter, hundreds of students and parents in the school play event in Jacksonville. If it is Tuesday or Thursday, the chance is with Carter White's diploma students or parents.

It’s not always an easy sell.

Most parents think all the bright kids attend magnet schools like Stanton College Preparatory or Paxon School for Advanced Studies. Ed White, a C-rated school, may not be on their radar, Carter says.

“It’s very hard for Ed White to compete with Paxon or Stanton because our reputation is not as pure or as sterling,” he said. “But we have wonderful programs here. We’re trying to tell people we have high-caliber education in their own neighborhood. It’s right here.”

Carter is one of many educators at Duval high schools vying for students this year.

Most Duval high schools offer at least one advanced program, such as IB, Advanced Placement, Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE), or dual enrollment college classes.

Many schools, like Ed White, will have booths and signs at the expo, an event that last year drew 15,000 parents and students.

District leaders made it part of principals’ jobs to market their schools and maintain or increase enrollment, even as competition intensifies with charter schools and private schools.

“At the Choice Expo we should be promoting the success stories of our students,” Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said, “so that parents don’t overlook a school like Ed White.”

Few people know that one of Ed White’s IB graduates last year, Melanie Ho, earned a full scholarship to Princeton University, or that many of its other grads won scholarships from major Florida universities.

Carter uses today’s social media tools to tell the stories. He blogs and posts on Twitter and Facebook often.

He tweeted recently, “OMGERD!!!! TWO IB kids apply to #FSU and TWO GET IN! Having a proud Papa moment and trying to keep it together.”

Carter said he hopes to attract 100 students to the IB program, which takes two years to complete. Students take IB courses during junior and senior years and must pass annual exams to qualify for an internationally respected diploma and receive college credit.

Christy Thacker, an IB coordinator at Terry Parker High, said Carter is a striver. Whereas other schools have full-time IB coordinators, Carter has split time with teaching. Also Ed White has had leadership changes and negative publicity in recent years, Thacker said.

“I don’t have to work as hard as he does,” she said. “As a parent, when you see a story about a gun at the school or a shooting at a bus stop, you immediately think, ‘I’m not sending my kids there.’ … But the same things happen at all schools.”

IB programs are expensive for schools, Thacker added. Each school pays an annual fee, $10,820 this year, plus the costs of each student’s registration ($160) and each test ($110 per subject). There also are teacher training and other costs, she said.

Schools like Terry Parker and Fletcher have enough students in their accelerated programs for the programs to pay for themselves, Vitti said, but programs like the IB program at Ed White or the AICE program at Raines High struggle and must be subsidized with district dollars.

“My commitment is to sustain these programs, though it’s not easy budgetarily,” Vitti said.

“I think a lot of people at first glance say, ‘They don’t have many kids in the program; why are we funding it?’ But it’s important to maintain an acceleration program at every high school so students will always have advanced learning opportunities through their own neighborhood schools. I don’t want to create a scenario where students feel they have to leave their neighborhood school.”

That position has fans.

“I applaud Dr. Vitti for setting a fire under the schools to get them to compete” said Sally Hague, a retired Duval administrator. “There are smart kids out there beyond Stanton and Paxon, and they need to be challenged.”

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