Education on 6: Closer Look at South Florida Magnet Programs

It’s deadline time. The last day to apply for one of the 380 magnet school programs in Miami-Dade County Public Schools is Monday, Jan. 15. Whatever your child’s interests may be, chances are there’s a program which caters to it, from elementary to middle school to high school.

There are magnet programs in performing arts, visual arts, health care, fashion design, architecture, engineering, law enforcement, and the list goes on.

There are also all-magnet specialty schools, such as Design and Architecture Senior High, the New World School of the Arts, and one of the newer kids on the block, iTECH Thomas Edison Educational Center. It’s a high school devoted to STEM fields, with an additional course in business.

iTECH Edison is techie heaven. We watched the robotics students putting their spherical robots through their paces. The kids learn to program them, and they also build larger robots, part of the school’s iCode Academy. With less than 300 students, everyone gets hands-on experience and one-on-one attention from teachers.

“You have a small building, family atmosphere, where we all believe our students are the priority, we make sure that our students not only graduate with a high school diploma but they leave here with some type of industry certification,” said Lashinda Moore, the school’s principal.

While one class was programming robots, another was learning to code in Javascript, the first step toward designing their own video games.

Every student at iTECH joins one of three academies. Ever heard of geospatial information systems? GSI is one of the academies, and part of the course involves using drones to conduct real-time surveying exercises, just like they do in the real world.

“Students leave with the ability to map out any area that a municipality or a planning or a zoning industry would need,” Moore explains.

The kids in the Enterprise Resource Planning academy are learning all about the stock market and how to invest in it. The class has two live stock tickers, so students are working with real data every day.

“Financial literacy is huge, I took a business class in high school and all we did was type, so we’re looking to get away from that, teaching them how to do taxes, everything, and they come out ready for the real world because when they graduate, it’s go time,” said Jake Huwe, the business class teacher.

The students also learn business law, personal finance, and entrepreneurship. They’re required to come up with a business plan to run a fictional enterprise.

Every magnet program, regardless of the subject area, provides an opportunity for discovery.

“Some students realize that going through magnet programs, that this really is not for them, this is not the career, so they no longer have to wait until college to test out whether this thing is for them,” Moore said.

Of course, some students find their niche, the subject they’re going to pursue further in college, the classes that motivate them to excel in school.

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