Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of applying for certification? 

When you apply for certification, you are looking at your school through the “lens of excellence.” You will be self-evaluating, providing documentation, and in some cases, writing SMART Goals in the areas that need improvement. You are asking that your school be rated as one of the “best of the best” magnet schools in the nation. Such a designation will be invaluable to your marketing and ability to seek support for your school. 

How long will it take to address all of the standards? 

The process allows for approximately nine months to complete toward certification. If the work is not complete within that time, you may ask for an additional school year extension at a small fee to complete your work.

What is the cost of the application for certification? 

The cost is $1395.00 per school. (If you hire a coach to assist your school, that is an additional cost.) 

Will there be a district rate or does each school pay separately? 

At this time, there is no district rate. Each school must apply separately and pay the individual school fee. 

What is due at the time of application? 

In addition to completing the application form, you must submit the fee of $1395 (via check, credit card, or purchase order). If you select to pay with a check or purchase order, payment must be received in the National Office within 10 business days of submission. 

Make check payable to:

Magnet Schools of America 
1909 K Street, NW Suite C-140
Washington, DC 20006 

A Supervisor Signature page upload is also required at the time of application (you may obtain this from our website ahead of time). Your application will be numbered in the order that it is received. 

When will we be trained on the online platform to address the standards? 

Upon your acceptance within the program, you will receive dates and times for your online training sessions. 

Who can help us with the online platform including login and technical details?

The Certification Help Desk email,, can assist you with log in needs and technical details.  Rubicon Atlas, the platform provider, is also available to assist your needs.

Who can assist us if we need help addressing the standards? 

For specific help in addressing the Standards, the National Institute of Magnet School Leadership (NIMSL) will, upon your request, help you in selecting the appropriate professional development or assist you with questions in this area. Any specific professional development and/or coaching will be provided at an additional fee to the school. (All such fees will be provided at a very reasonable rate.) 

How long after the close of the application year will it take for the evaluation of our work to be completed? 

All applications will be scored on a rubric by trained readers/evaluators within 60 days after the closing date. 

What if we don’t finish addressing the standards by the end of the application year? Can we get an extension? 

A one school year extension can be granted by the Director of NIMSL. The extension fee is $195 per school. 

If we are not certified, will our information be stored in the system if we choose to reapply? 

The system is not set up to archive information; therefore, each application will require that you re-submit your information. Districts are encouraged to archive their information. 

If we don’t reach certification, can we get a refund? No refunds will be given. We encourage you to use the information you have learned to improve your school and to reapply in a subsequent year. 

Should we also apply for the merit awards? 

We strongly encourage all of our schools to apply for any recognition opportunities that Magnet Schools of America offers to their members. 

Are there different levels of certification? 

There are two certification ratings: Certified National Demonstration Magnet School (exceeds the criteria) and Certified National Magnet School (meets the criteria). 

How long is certification valid? 

Your certification will be valid for four school years. At that time, you may reapply to continue or improve your rating. We encourage schools to strive for the top designation of MSA Certified National Demonstration School. 

How do we recertify?

In order to recertify, you would work with extended indicators allowing your school to demonstrate maintenance or growth in all areas of Certified and Demonstration levels. 

What kind of evidence do we need to provide?

You should have most of the information at your fingertips. There is no need to create more work other than in the areas of a SMART Goal or professional development if needed. There is skill in providing appropriate evidence and avoiding the “wheel barrow” approach of including too much information. Evidence and documentation that is succinct and to the point will be discussed at length during informational webinars which will be recorded and posted on the certification page of our website.

What if we have questions about the process or the evidence? 

Your questions will be directed to the Certification Help Desk email,, that was set up specifically for this process.

How will we be recognized if we are certified? 

Your school and district will be notified via official letter from the Director of NIMSL and recognized at the National Conference (see below). 

If we are certified, will we be recognized at the National Conference on Magnet Schools? 

At the conference, you will be presented as a National Certified Magnet School and receive your Seal of Recognition. You will stand before your peers from across the country as one of the “best of the best” magnet schools. 

Are these standards just for certification or can we use them for school improvement?

MSA’s Standards of Excellence are based on the Five Pillars of magnet schools. These Pillars and Standards are available to all of our member schools, but you will not have access to the indicators until you are officially accepted into the certification process. (NIMSL does offer other training and coaching. Click here for more information.) 

How many years do I need to be a magnet school before applying? 

All schools are at different developmental levels of their program, but as a rule of thumb, three years. Schools that are in their third year may apply as they will be completing the process in their fourth year.  During this time frame, you will have the data, documentation, and evidence needed for a complete application. With complete information, you will be able to tell the success story of your school.