7th & 8th Grade Magnet Program helps students excel, sees growth from students

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. — After completing their second school year, the staff at H.D. Karns Innovations Academy’s 7th & 8th Grade Magnet Program have seen a positive outcome from their students, with both reading and math scores improving.

The program was developed after Geary County School USD 475 leadership saw nationwide studies that showed students struggling in the seventh and eighth grade predominantly also struggled in the ninth grade, which ultimately led to an increasing dropout rate in the tenth grade.

“For a lot of our students who have maybe struggled with the traditional classroom where you have twenty or more kids in a class, they’re really given an opportunity to get more individualized instruction,” said Gina Wagers, reading intervention teacher for the Magnet Program. “It’s really geared towards helping them improve in those areas that they feel are maybe weakest, or that they need the most improvement on, to be considered on grade level with their peers.”

Jayla Huston, an eighth-grader in the Magnet Program, said last year she struggled with school due to the impacts of COVID-19. She and her parents decided to enroll Huston in the Magnet Program.

“It’s kind of awesome that I get to be in an area where it’s less stressful for me and I’m less shy now,” Huston said. “It’s a cool environment to be in with the teachers who help you out more often.”

The Magnet Program uses a hands-on approach to learning to further engage the students.

“Kids not only learn better, but they retain what they’ve learned,” said Tom Wesoloski, principal of the H.D. Karns Innovations Academy.

Many of the classrooms are set up in a lab format to ensure collaboration between the students and their educators.

“If we were to do a volcano experiment, they would have all of the materials and stuff for us to do it, and then everyone would have a group and we’d all do it. Everyone would have a step involved in it,” said Michael Altieri, a seventh-grader in the Magnet Program. “It feels on, just like an activity that you’re into.”

Altieri has seen his academic scores improve within his last year of being in the Magnet Program.

“It’s really rewarding seeing that these students really fall in love with learning again, and really find that they can be successful in school and that it is a place where they can achieve and then go beyond that and really just reach for more,” Wagers said. “It’s exciting to see what they’ll do beyond our program and high school.”

Huston’s struggles have since improved, and she’s looking forward to moving onto the ninth grade.

“I’m feeling pretty excited to be able to move on to the high school because I learned some pretty good stuff and pretty good information to know for next year,” Huston said.

For more information about the 7th & 8th Grade Magnet Program, or to apply your student, please click here.

For inquiries, please contact Lindley Lund, Marketing and Media Specialist for Geary County Schools USD 475, at lindleylund@usd475.org.