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Magnet Schools – A Closer Look

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Last month we answered some common questions about charter schools. This month we’re following up with a deeper look at magnet schools. In the late 1960s, magnet schools emerged as a solution to the segregation that still existed in large urban school districts. These schools were intended to attract students from different school zones by offering an alternative educational environment. The goal was to have families voluntarily desegregate their children through school choice, rather than busing. During the past several decades, magnet schools have evolved within the public school landscape. We put together a basic Q & A:

What’s a magnet school?
Magnet schools are public elementary and secondary schools that are operated by one or more school districts. These schools charge no tuition and are funded by tax dollars. Transportation is usually provided. Magnet schools enroll students from different school zones, which enhances diversity and contributes to desegregation. This is accomplished by using a lottery system and other recruitment strategies.

How does the curriculum differ?
All magnet schools follow the Five Pillars that are determined by the Magnet Schools of America:
1. Diversity
2. Innovative Curriculum and Professional Development
3. Academic Excellence
4. High Quality Instructional Systems
5. Family and Community Partnerships

Along with the Five Pillars foundation, magnet schools each have a focused theme. Examples include STEM, Montessori, Fine and Performing Arts, World Languages, International Studies, Career and Technical Education (CTE) and World Languages. State or district standards (such as Common Core) are used, however they are taught within the overall theme of the school.

How many US students are enrolled?
There are around 2,700 magnets in the US, with an estimated 1.5 million students enrolled.

Do they perform as well as traditional public schools?
Research examining magnet school performance has produced mixed results. Studies out of California and Texas, for example, have shown that magnet students in those states have higher levels of academic achievement. Other studies have found no differences between magnet and non-magnet student performance.

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