Magnet school

Magnet school
DeBakey High School for Health Professions in Houston, Texas is a magnet school specializing in medical sciences

In education in the United States, magnet schools are public schools with specialized courses or curricula. "Magnet" refers to how the schools draw students from across the normal boundaries defined by authorities (usually school boards) as school zones that feed into certain schools.

There are magnet schools at the elementary school, middle school, and high school levels. In the United States, where education is decentralized, some magnet schools are established by school districts and draw only from the district, while others (such as the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science, Las Vegas Academy, Clark High School Academy of Finance, Academy for Mathematics, Science, and Applied Technology, Maine School of Science and Mathematics, and Commonwealth Governor's Schools in Virginia) are set up by state governments and may draw from multiple districts. Other magnet programs are within comprehensive schools, as is the case with several "schools within a school." In large urban areas, several magnet schools with different specializations may be combined into a single "center," such as Skyline High School in Dallas.

Other countries have similar types of schools, such as specialist schools in Britain or Anatolian high schools in Turkey. Schools like this also operate in Australia. The majority of these are academically selective, for examples of these in New South Wales see academically selective high schools. The two other types are built around elite sporting programs, with the other type being agricultural, which are schools intended to pass on skills specific to agricultural business such as farming or animal breeding.



These 2nd graders from Buchanan Math Science Magnet School in Los Angeles, California, work on an art project. They studied the environment on the Planet Mars, then designed a Martian community.

Magnet schools emerged in the United States in the 1960s.[1] as one means of remedying racial segregation in public schools, and they were written into law in Sec. 5301 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Authorization.[2] Demographic trends following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision revealed a pattern later characterized as white flight, the hypersegregation of African Americans and European Americans, as the latter moved to the suburbs.[3][4]

At first, districts tried using involuntary plans which involved court-ordered attendance, the busing of children far from their homes, and building closer schools to achieve the required balance. Subsequently, voluntary school integration plans were developed. One approach educators within the public school system came up with was open schools. During the Open Schools movement of the 1970s, several ideas designed to influence public education were put into practice, including Schools without Walls, Schools within a School, Multicultural Schools, Continuation Schools, Learning Centers, Fundamental Schools, and Magnet Schools.[5] "These schools were characterized by parent, student, and teacher choice, autonomy in learning and pace, non-competitive evaluation, and a child centered approach."[5][6] Magnet schools have been the most successful of the ideas that originated from the Open Schools movement. It was expounded in 1971 by educator Nolan Estes, superintendent of Dallas Independent School District.[7] The Magnet Schools Assistance Program was developed in the early 1980s as a way to encourage schools to address de facto racial segregation. Funds were given to school districts that implemented either voluntary desegregation plans or court orders to reduce racial isolation.[8]

Districts started embracing the magnet school models in the hope that their geographically open admissions would end racial segregation in "good" schools, and decrease de facto segregation of schools in poorer areas. To encourage the voluntary desegregation, districts started developing magnet schools to draw students to specialized schools all across their districts. Each magnet school would have a specialized curriculum that would draw students based on their interests. One of the goals of magnet schools is to eliminate, reduce, and prevent minority group isolation while providing the students with a stronger knowledge of academic subjects and vocational skills.[9] Magnet schools still continue to be models for school improvement plans and provide students with opportunities to succeed in a diverse learning environment.[10]

Within a few years, in locations such as Richmond, Virginia, additional magnet school programs for children with special talents were developed at facilities in locations that parents would have otherwise found undesirable. This effort to both attract voluntary enrollment and achieve the desired racial balance met with considerable success, and helped improve the acceptance of farther distances, hardships with transportation for extracurricular activities, and the separation of siblings. Even as districts such as Richmond were released from desegregation court orders, the parental selection of magnet school programs has continued to create more racially diverse schools than would have otherwise been possible. With a wide range of magnet schools available, a suitable program could be found for more children than only the "bright" ones for whom the earliest efforts were directed.

In our school, it's college prep for everybody; it doesn't matter if you're black or white.

—Steve Perry, Principal of Capital Prep Magnet School.[11]

Some 21st century magnet schools have de-emphasized the racial integration aspects, such as Capital Prep Magnet School, a high school in Hartford, Connecticut.[11] Capital Prep, a year-round school where more than 80% of its students are black and Latino, boasts a near-0% dropout rate; 100% of its 2009 senior class was sent to a four-year college.[11] According to the school's principal, the goal is to prepare all of its students for college.

Enrollment and curricula

The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston specializes in performing and visual arts, including theater and dance

Some magnet schools have a competitive entrance process, requiring an entrance examination, interview, or audition. Other magnet schools select all students who apply or use a lottery system, or a system combining some elements of competitive entrance and a lottery.

Most magnet schools concentrate on a particular discipline or area of study, while others (such as International Baccalaureate schools) have a more general focus. Magnet programs may focus on academics (mathematics, natural sciences, and engineering; humanities; social sciences; fine or performing arts) or may focus on technical/vocational/agricultural education.

The Paideia philosophy is one used by magnet schools in the United States. “The Paideia philosophy celebrates the fundamental notion that to be fully educated is a lifelong adventure that only begins with an individual's formal schooling”.[12] The philosopher Mortimer Adler founded this philosophy in 1984. The Three Columns of Instruction are used to teach Paideia students: 1) didactic instruction of factual information; 2) intellectual coaching of skills; and 3) seminar discussion of ideas, concepts, and value”.[12]

See also

School.svg Schools portal


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Charles T. Clotfelter. After Brown: The Rise and Retreat of School Desegregation. Princeton University Press, 2004.
  4. ^ Diane Ravitch. The Troubled Crusade: American Education, 1945-1980. Basic Books, 1984.
  5. ^ a b Lange, C. M. & Sletten, S. J. (2002, February). Alternative education: A brief history and research synthesis (Project FORUM). Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Directors of Special Education. Retrieved March 2, 2009, from
  6. ^ Lange and Sletten (2002), p. 4
  7. ^ "Super Highs Sought: Estes Unveils Plan for Specialty Schools." The Dallas Morning News, 29 August 1971.
  8. ^ Magnet Schools of America (2007). Magnet schools in America: A brief history. Retrieved February 20, 2009, from
  9. ^ U.S. Department of Education. Magnet school assistance. Retrieved February 27, 2009,
  10. ^ Magnet Schools of America. About MSA. Retrieved February 27, 2009,
  11. ^ a b c "Principal's tough love, high expectations gets kids into college". CNN. July 22, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-23. 
  12. ^ a b Roberts, T. (2006). The National Paideia Center. Retrieved March 2, 2009, from

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • magnet school — magnet schools N COUNT A magnet school is a state funded school, usually in a poor area, which is given extra resources in order to attract new pupils from other areas and help improve the school s performance. [JOURNALISM] …   English dictionary

  • magnet school — magnet .school n AmE a school that has more classes in a particular subject than usual, and so attracts students from a wide area …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • magnet school — magnet ,school noun count AMERICAN a school that provides special courses in a particular subject such as music or technology in order to attract students from outside its local area …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • magnet school — ☆ magnet school n. a public school which offers innovative courses, specialized training, etc. in order to attract students from a broad urban area and thereby help to bring about desegregation …   English World dictionary

  • Magnet School — Magnetschulen sind Schulen, die sich durch einen speziellen Schwerpunkt in ihrem Curriculum oder ein besonderes pädagogisches Konzept, sowie durch einen erweiterten Einzugsbereich mit freier Schulwahl aus auszeichnen. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • magnet school — noun : a public school with superior facilities and often a specialized curriculum designed to attract pupils from throughout a city or school district * * * noun, pl ⋯ schools [count] chiefly US : a school that has courses in special subjects… …   Useful english dictionary

  • magnet school — noun Date: 1968 a school with superior facilities and staff and often a specialized curriculum designed to attract pupils from throughout a city or school district …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • magnet school — a public school with special programs and instruction that are not available elsewhere in a school district and that are specially designed to draw students from throughout a district, esp. to aid in desegregation. [1965 70, Amer.] * * * …   Universalium

  • magnet school — noun A public school with specialized courses. Syn: focus school …   Wiktionary

  • magnet school — mag′net school n. edu a public school with a specialized program designed to draw students from throughout a community • Etymology: 1965–70 …   From formal English to slang

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