The Original Magnet School
The J. Graham Brown School, the Original Magnet School, is a district-wide magnet school for students who thrive in a Self Directed Learning environment. Brown enrolls approximately 700 students in grades K through 12. Brown is recognized by the Kentucky Department of Education as a Distinguished school at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.
For detailed information about Self Directed Learning at Brown, click here: Self Directed Learning Framework
Our Academic Performance
Brown High School ranks as the #1 high school in JCPS and #1 in Kentucky! We scored at the Distinguished level, had a graduation rate of 100%, and had gains in 4 out of 6 content areas!
Brown Middle School is ranked as the #1 middle school in JCPS and #12 in Kentucky! We scored again at the Distinguished level and had improvement in 4 of 5 tested areas.
Brown Elementary School is ranked as the #2 elementary school in JCPS and #22 in Kentucky! We are rated as Distinguished, and had improvement in 3 of 5 areas.
J. Graham Brown School students have "reasoned minds and educated hearts" of self-directed life-long learners.
Students are critical, open-minded, and creative thinkers who are willing to take risks and are eager for new knowledge.
Students are compassionate, tolerant, and respectful human beings who value cultural diversity and contribute to the community.
The mission of the J. Graham Brown School community is to cultivate critical thinking and foster independence, empathy, and intrinsic motivation within a culturally responsive learning environment.
Brown School Students . . .
Are interested in pursuing the most rigorous academic program available to prepare them for liberal arts study in college. They are developing a strong work ethic.
- Are willing to take risks and stretch their comfort levels when pursuing academic study. They want to learn to challenge themselves, work hard, and self-regulate their own study.
- Prefer a smaller learning community where relationships are developed over time with all community members. They want to be known by their teachers, administrators, and fellow students.
- Want to work in an environment where students support one another in academic, activities, and athletics. They support each other to be better in all things and challenge each other to grow and excel, thus maximizing everyone's potential.
- Prefer a school culture where differences are recognized and unique talents of individual are appreciated.
- Are comfortable around people who are different from themselves. They are secure in their own place in the world and are not uncomfortable with differences found in others.
- Know they are in a college-ready environment and are supportive of this focus in the educational program.
- May be average ability students with the desire to achieve at high levels, or gifted students wanting to be challenged. They are ready to learn how to be better students. They are willing to learn how to take on rigor as students and thrive in this environment.
- Are developing habits of self-direction. They practice self-regulation in completing tasks and do not have to be monitored closely for their study. They can complete homework assignments and long-term projects with little supervision and reminders. Their parents understand and value learning beyond the school day. Parents have an intrinsic value of homework to strengthen student skills.
- Value relationships with adults and are comfortable with teachers that challenge them to be the best they can be.
- Like to be a participant in activities and athletics, and not merely an observer.
- Are comfortable knowing everyone and being known by everyone in the school community.
In 1972, the J. Graham Brown School opened its doors to students, making it the first magnet school in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, after a year of careful planning by an illustrious task force and its founding director, Martha Ellison. Originally opening in the Brown Hotel with classes held in ballrooms and meetings spaces, the school served students in grades three through twelve. The school was later moved to the Brown Educational Center, and then in the early 1980's to its current location at the corner of 1st Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard. It has remained a truly urban school, located in the heart of downtown Louisville, KY.
Martha became the first principal of Brown, and under her leadership Brown strived to establish a learning environment that was considered radical for its time. Our school's original working papers set forth unique and unorthodox goals. Academic goals included teaching students how to think, learn, and adjust to change; stressing critical and creative thinking; challenging and extending student capacities; and stressing academic and personal growth. The school climate aimed to enable rather than stifle, encourage students interactions with peers and adults in a positive manner, and promote high expectations for academic success. School characteristics included cooperative efforts of the school community, open channels of communication, encouragement of students to assume responsibility for their behavior, respect for cultural diversity, and a high community profile. Now, in our 45th year, we still strive for these goals.
Through the passage of time, and the refinement of our public educational system, many of those radical goals set forth by Brown School in its early years can be found within the mainstream of public education. This, coupled with the onset of school accountability movements, helped the Brown School mature into a unique liberal arts educational program, providing a rigorous curriculum that prepares its students for the challenge of college and the obligations of citizenship in our global society. Our small learning community provides Brown students from kindergarten to twelfth grade the unique opportunity to learn and grow where all students are known by their Brown School family. Often, students are working together across grade levels of the school within the classrooms and hallways of our less formal learning environment.
As students matriculate from grade to grade, our self-directed learning environment places more responsibility on the student for their academic, social, and emotional decisions. By the time students graduate, they are not only college ready but they are truly prepared to self regulate themselves in college and beyond. The J. Graham Brown School is a "college readiness only" environment, so all students are expected to maintain grade level academic progress and successfully thrive in an academically stressful environment. All of this is accomplished in a learning environment that nurtures confidence and trust. This unique liberal arts experience is one that helps each individual make a personal connection to the world around them as well as the academic arena in which they study. At the J. Graham Brown School, we are forging "reasoned minds and educated hearts"!
What is the J. Graham Brown School? The J. Graham Brown School is the district's oldest magnet school, beginning in 1972. It is a unique learning community that serves students in grades K-12. Brown provides a self-directed learning, with a classic liberal arts focus, delivered in a small informal learning community. Brown does not provide a career readiness program, so all students must be on grade level. The curriculum is a college preparatory experience and is patterned to maximize the talents and interests of the individual student.
What is self-directed learning? Brown's self-directed learning environment sets the stage for students with that learning style to flourish. Self-directed learning is very different from Montessori, as it encourages students to choose non-preferred learning activities that are difficult and intellectually challenging. However, students in both programs must demonstrate the ability to work independently and possess the ability to focus without teacher redirection. Our program is undergirded by focused development in the areas of independence, empathy, and initiative. For more information about self-directed learning, click HERE.
Do Brown School students get to learn at their own pace? No. Student learning is at a minimum pace with the curriculum maps provided by JCPS. In most classes at Brown, learning is accelerated or goes much deeper than that in the JCPS curriculum maps. Any student not demonstrating proficiency on grade level curriculum may be required to attend after-school tutoring, participate in additional online remediation while at home, and enroll in during-school remediation classes in lieu of additional electives.
Does Brown have a uniform policy? No, Brown students do not wear uniforms. The Brown School community values the individuality of all students. A standard dress code does exist and can be found in the Student Dress Policy. Students are expected to refrain from wearing any clothing that would be demeaning to others, disruptive to the education process, or is considered indecent or vulgar in nature.
Is school bus transportation provided to Brown students? No, the JCPS district does not provide bus service to the Brown School. Students and parents are responsible for getting students to and from school on time. TARC tickets are provided to students who need them.
Can students living outside Jefferson County attend Brown? No, all Brown School students must be Jefferson County residents.
What are Brown's school hours? School begins at 8:00 AM and dismisses at 2:40 PM. Students may be dropped off as early as 7:30 AM and must be picked up by 3:00 PM unless participating in a supervised after-school activity or enrolled in the YMCA CEP program.
Does Brown offer the Advance Program or Advanced Placement? Yes. Brown offers the Advance Program beginning in 4th grade. For high school students, a catalog of Advanced Placement courses are offered. Students may also take college and dual-credit classes at local universities and online.
Can Brown High School students take college classes? Yes. Brown High students have numerous opportunities to take college credit and dual-credit courses. Juniors and seniors can walk from Brown to JCTC and take dual-credit classes. Juniors and seniors can also drive or ride TARC to the University of Louisville to take dual-credit classes. Brown also has a unique partnership with Western Kentucky University; students, as early as their sophomore year, can enroll in dual-credit classes that either meet face-to-face on the Brown campus or can take classes online. Most of these opportunities cost as little as $52 a credit hour, which is about a 90% discount over normal tuition. Some students may be able to take advantage of Kentucky's Dual Credit Scholarship and could take classes for free.
Is Brown for everyone? Not necessarily. No school is a perfect fit for every individual. A Brown School student should be one who prefers a smaller learning community where everyone is known. Students should possess the interest and ability to learn independently and be self-directed in their studies. They should value inquiry and enjoy being challenged by other points of view and opinions. They should be students who are serious about finding their academic passions and care about doing well in all they experience.
Do you accept "second choice" or late applications? Yes and no. Our admissions committee reviews second choice and late applications for prospective high school enrollment. We do not review second choice and late applications for prospective elementary and middle school enrollment.
Do students really call teachers by their first names? Mostly. There are many teachers and staff members at the Brown School who go by first names. There are also teachers who prefer going by last names. Our philosophy is that respect is much more than the names by which we are called. We encourage everyone to be called by the names with which they are comfortable.
Is the student population diverse? Yes, Brown School students come from all parts of the school district and represent a variety of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. Geographic diversity is valued and is a consideration in the admissions process.
Are there athletics and activities at Brown? Yes. Brown does offer a wide variety of athletic and extra-curricular activities. Currently, there are 39 athletic teams and 44 co-curricular activities across elementary, middle, and high. Visit our Athletics page and Student Activities page for more information.
Is Brown a public school? Yes. We are one of many public schools within Jefferson County Public Schools.
Our Shared Values
An informal and nonthreatening environment of diversity will create an atmosphere of mutual respect in which students, parents, and staff will work together.
Each individual will be encouraged and allowed to freely yet responsibly express him or herself, confident that he or she will be accepted as capable and unique.
- Difference and diversity will act as bridges rather than barriers to communication.
- A healthy honest self-concept will promote in students a desire to learn more about self and the environment.
- Self-discipline will be nurtured as an essential part of the learning process.
- The adult community will maintain high expectations and respect for the achievement of each student's personal best.
- Creativity, innovation, and flexibility will be regarded as necessary elements of education by the entire community.
- Every individual will have a responsibility to contribute back to the greater natural and social community from his or her Brown School experience.