Tear down this wall?

LBJ high school in Austin, Texas, is no longer one school. This year, it was separated into two: the Liberal Arts and Science Academy (LASA), a former magnet program that enrolls higher-achieving students, is upstairs, and the traditional LBJ is downstairs. (After splitting, the schools now receive Gates money.) The Austin American-Statesman reports that the change indicates a shifting philosophy in the city's magnet programs, which are growing less concerned with integration than with "keeping middle- and upper-class students in public schools." One wonders, though, why such youngsters can receive the top-notch educations they desire only in a separate area. Challenging classes will remain challenging regardless of where they're positioned in a school building; doesn't putting up a physical divide--for no apparent educational reason--seem unwise? Magnet programs are a fine strategy for offering rigorous classes, increasing school diversity in a voluntary way, and luring high-achievers into public education. Might isolating such magnet programs only detract from their effectiveness?

"Separation anxiety at LBJ and magnet program?," by Laura Heinauer, Austin American-Stateman, October 25, 2007