Magnetic Refresh: The Updated AMHS Admissions Process

Points for Charleston County!

CCSD+Headquarters+at+75+Calhoun+St.
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Magnetic Refresh: The Updated AMHS Admissions Process

CCSD Headquarters at 75 Calhoun St.

CCSD Headquarters at 75 Calhoun St.

CCSD Headquarters at 75 Calhoun St.

CCSD Headquarters at 75 Calhoun St.

The Rundown

A few weeks back, in the dark ages that were the 2010s, I assisted on a comprehensive piece detailing the proposed changes and buzz surrounding the application/admission process for our very own Academic Magnet High School. Shortly afterward, the Charleston County School District board voted to install many of these proposals for the next batch of freshmen Raptors, whose application will open in the coming weeks. At the December 16, 2019, board meeting, the trustees approved the following resolutions:

  • 30% of Grade 9 seats will be “designated” for 8th-grade students who “meet the admissions criteria and also are zoned for a middle school located in Charleston County that has a poverty index of 80% or higher.” The middle schools that meet this criteria are:
    • Simmons-Pinckney Middle, Morningside Middle, Northwoods Middle, Baptist Hill Middle, Military Magnet Middle, St. James-Santee Middle, Charleston Development Academy, Jerry Zucker Middle, and Deer Park Middle
  • An additional point on the application rubric for any student matriculating from an accredited middle school within Charleston County, be that public, private, or home-school
  • All of the applicants not covered in the first point will be ranked by rubric score  to fill the remaining seats
  • Students with the same score will be put in a lottery to fill seats if there are not enough for all at that level
  • Those without seats will be placed on a waitlist through the tenth day of school in August
  • The “Top Two” program to admit the top two students from each CCSD school (provided they meet entrance criteria) will continue
  • The ACE (Advancing Charleston Excellence) “Bridge” program will be refined to continue support to high achieving middle school students from underrepresented groups at AMHS

It must be noted that this resolution passed unanimously. Despite a lot of push back during the month+ deliberation process, especially from the community on both sides, all members of the school board approved the points in December.

Analysis

Though my instinct as a stakeholder in this situation is to assert my own opinion, I will try my best to speak in the most neutral terms here. The first thing that jumps out is the 30% number for the schools with CCSD’s most impoverished communities. Though thirty percent is exactly what Dr. Postelwait discussed in her meeting on campus in November, she also maintained that for at least the next few years, these schools will provide well below three of every ten Raptors due to both a lack of qualified applicants and the time it would take to drum up interest. Likewise, the point for Charleston County residents directly translates from the Superintendent’s presentation, though it to was met with much push-back from parents and stakeholders interested in the best education for the most qualified students, regardless of address. The remainder of the points are fairly calm. Though some may argue against the lottery, there will undoubtedly be ties and random selection is the best option to break them save a complete overhaul of the rubric. All in all, the modifications do not change the process significantly. Academic Magnet should see an uptick in students coming from some of the more underrepresented parts of the county at the expense of losing some out-of-county students.

What to Watch For

The CCSD school choice application should be coming soon. The website was last updated on November 4th, but January or February is said to be a target date to open the portal. In the meantime, as of my last conversation with administration, the AMHS components are coming together. The letter of recommendation will likely have a lesser (but still impactful) bearing on the applicant rubric, while the writing sample may soon be accompanied by a supplemental math test.  When all is said and done, AMHS will welcome one of our largest classes yet in mid-August of this year while the final class to come in under former principal Judith Peterson will exit in June.