What are Magnet Schools?
Magnet schools are free public elementary and secondary schools of choice that are operated by school districts or a consortium of districts. Magnet schools have a focused theme and aligned curricula in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), Fine and Performing Arts, International Baccalaureate, International Studies, MicroSociety, Career and Technology, World Languages (immersion and non-immersion) and many others. Magnet schools are typically more “hands on – minds on” and use an approach to learning that is inquiry or performance/project based. They use state, district, or Common Core standards in all subject areas, however, they are taught within the overall theme of the school.
Most magnet schools do not have entrance criteria, but rather, embody the belief that all students have interests and talents that families and educators believe are better cultivated in a magnet school. They often use a random computer-based lottery system for admission. There are also “Talented & Gifted” magnet schools that may utilize student assessment data and teacher or parent recommendations for selection.
Diversity is an important element of a magnet school. Since student interest in a theme is the only eligiblity criteria to attend a magnet school, students from a wide array of backgrounds attend magnet schools. As a result, promote higher level cognitive and social learning. Magnet schools make the extra effort to create a sense of classroom and school community and cultivate school spirit. Curriculum is also clear and transparent for families so they can more fully engage in the learning of their students.
Magnet schools serve all students including English learners as well as students receiving Special Education services. Transportation is typically also provided for no cost to families.
What are the Benefits of Magnet Schools?
Magnet schools generally attract a wide-range of students based on their interest in a school theme. As a result, magnet schools typically have a diverse body of students from various socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. Specific benefits of magnet schools include: improved academic achievement, diverse student enrollments, reduced discipline problems, increased cultural competence of students, increased student attendance rates, higher graduation rates, greater teacher satisfaction and reduced teacher turn-over, innovative curricula, specialized teaching staff, and increased parent engagement and satisfaction. Magnet schools boast more parental and community involvement, more personalization through theme-based education, and specialized programs that create a shared sense of community that leads to a safer environment for learning. Teachers are licensed in the areas they teach, and are “highly specialized” through specific theme-based training and professional development.