Magnet Schools in
As parents voices grow
louder with dissatisfaction of the public school system as
it exist today, government concerns have taken certain
steps to "reinvent the wheel" so to speak. Magnet
schools and charter schools are two of the options that we
have been presented with. The US Department of
Education's definition is as follows:
... the term "magnet school" means a public elementary
school, public secondary school, public elementary
education center, or public secondary education center
that offers a special curriculum capable of attracting
substantial numbers of students of different racial
following links are provided to help parents answer the
questions they have about Magnet Schools, their structure,
and what they offer our children as an option to
traditional public schools.
Information Source to Locate District Schools
What Are Magnet Schools?
Magnets have their roots in the concept of district-wide
specialty schools. Magnets offer special curricula, such
as math-science or performing arts programs, or special
instructional approaches, such as academic achievement
through application of Gardner's learning styles.
During the late 1970's, school districts began to employ
magnet schools as a means of desegregating school
systems. Magnets were intended to provide incentives for
parents to remain in the public school system and to
send their children to integrated schools. Often, magnet
programs were placed in racially isolated schools or
neighborhoods to encourage students of other races to
enroll in those schools. If sufficient numbers of white
and minority students enrolled in schools outside of
their neighborhoods, districts could promote school
desegregation without resorting to mandatory measures.
At the same time, by introducing innovative curricula
and instructional approaches, magnets could strengthen
the educational program in those schools, contributing
to overall improvements in educational quality.
Magnet schools today have three
They provide a distinctive
curriculum or instructional approach;
They attract students from outside
an assigned neighborhood attendance zone;
They have diversity as an explicit
Goals for Magnet
The districts magnet schools have
Promote and Maintain Diversity.
Provide a unique or specialized
curriculum or educational approach; and
achievement for all students participating in the magnet
Commission of the States:
(excerpt) To facilitate public school desegregation,
many states and school districts have created magnet
schools, which provide specialized curriculums and
instructional approaches to attract students from a variety
of neighborhoods in a metropolitan area. Often, enrollment
for magnet schools is regulated to ensure schools remain
racially balanced; enrollment is controlled in a variety of
ways, including admissions criteria, first-come,
first-served applications, lotteries and/or percentage
set-asides for neighborhood residents.
One of the strengths of magnet schools is
their ability to establish a unique focus such as gifted and
talented, math and science or basic-skills programs. In
addition, principals of some magnets are given more autonomy
over certain decisions, including recruiting teachers. For
example, principals of certain magnets may interview anyone
in the school district’s teacher pool for an open position
and are allowed to disregard seniority in making their
Although magnet programs are often
established to meet federal requirements for desegregating
public schools, there is usually local involvement in the
actual design of magnet programs. Parents, teachers and
others are able to assess the needs of their communities and
design specific magnet programs to serve these needs.
Operating costs for magnets are funded by federal grants,
state grants, local school board contributions, corporate
contributions and, in some cases, tuition paid by parents.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a magnet school?
Magnet schools are public schools that provide specialized
curriculums and instructional approaches to attract students
from a variety of neighborhoods in a metropolitan area.
Often, enrollment for magnet schools is regulated to ensure
schools remain racially balanced; enrollment is controlled
in a variety of ways, including admissions criteria,
first-come, first-served applications, lotteries and/or
percentage set-asides for neighborhood residents.
Have magnet schools facilitated the desegregation of
Much of the research on magnet schools suggests they have
facilitated the desegregation of public schools. For
example, an evaluation of magnet schools in three school
districts compared the characteristics of students in
magnets with those attending neighborhood schools in their
respective school districts and found that magnet schools
have encouraged racial desegregation. In one, the St. Louis
School District, the proportion of African-American students
in magnet schools was 58%, compared with the average in
traditional schools of 78%.
Who attends magnet schools?
While magnet schools are more racially balanced than their
traditional counterparts, students who attend magnet schools
are less likely to be eligible for free or reduced-price
lunch programs and are more likely to live in two-parent
households, with parents who are employed and have earned
college or graduate degrees, as compared with students who
don’t attend magnet schools. These findings apply to the
white, African-American and Latino students who attend
What are the achievement levels of students who attend
magnet schools as compared to students at nonmagnet schools?
For the most part, research shows that the achievement
levels of students who attend magnet schools are greater
than the achievement of students who attend traditional
schools. For example, a nationwide study found that students
in magnet schools significantly outperformed their peers
attending nonmagnets in social studies, science and reading.
Also, a study of the magnet school program in the St. Louis
School District found that students at magnet schools
achieve higher scores on state assessments in math, reading,
science and social studies than a comparable sample of
students in neighborhood schools.