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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 in a variety of ways to ensure schools remain racially balanced, usually through the use of admissions criteria, first-come, first-served applications, lotteries and/or percentage set-asides for neighborhood residents.

Have magnet schools facilitated the desegregation of public schools?

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 nonmagnet schools of 78%.

Who attends magnet schools?

While magnet schools are more racially balanced than their nonmagnet 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 donít attend magnet schools. These findings apply to the white, African-American and Latino students who attend magnet schools.

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 nonmagnet 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.


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