This paper explores the concept of public magnet schools. Research included in this paper explains what a magnet school is as well as what the purpose of having them is. A brief history of magnet schools in the United States is provided through Magnet Schools of America. There are also a variety of types of magnet schools as well as misconceptions about magnet schools that will be addressed by evidence from research. There is also data about the performance of magnet schools, the steps to how a school becomes a magnet school, and the effects of magnet schools in the state of North Carolina.
Keywords: magnet schools, public schools, North Carolina
Impact of Magnet Schools
With rising standards and high criticism of traditional public schools, many people are in search of alternatives. When one thinks of these types of alternatives, one automatically thinks of private schools and charter schools. However, magnet schools are an option that has been around for many years. This paper will examine some of the aspects of magnet schools: their history, success rate, impact within the state of North Carolina, as well as the federal guidelines in which they must follow.
Magnet schools are a type of public school that can provide families with a choice of special schools without having to pay for private schools and without having to leave the normal public school system. Magnet schools began to open up in areas across the United States as a response to opposition of racial desegregation. These schools gave people the opportunity to choose different schools while providing a continuous education. The first type of school to open and offer a magnet-type program was McCarver School in Tacoma, Washington in 1968. This school is currently operating today; it is currently operating under the magnet theme known as IB Primary Years (“What are magnet schools?,” 2013).
According to “What are Magnet Schools?” by Magnet Schools of America (2013), magnet schools really began to take off as a protest to racial desegregation in public schools during the 1960s. Many types of options began to appear as a form of protest against integrating public schools. The concept of magnet schools began to appear as a means to counteract this by giving people choice within the public school systems.
Magnet Schools of America’s section, “What Are Magnet Schools?” stated that:
In 1974, the late, great Mario Fantini… said that all meaningful reform of education was tied to the movement toward public schools of choice. Twenty-four years later, his statement still rings true. Although school systems operate all over the world, what we really need today is a system of schools - unique schools. Magnet schools are based on the premise that all students do not learn in the same ways, that if we find a unifying theme or a different organizational structure for students of similar interest, those students will learn more in all areas. In other words, if a magnet school voluntarily attracts students and teachers, it will succeed because, more than for any other reason, those in attendance want to be there. They will have chosen that school. When a parent chooses a school for his or her young child, that school is more likely to succeed for that child than would one to which that child was assigned.
Success and Statistics
According to the research of Gamoran, students who had been part of a study in magnet schools performed similarly and in some instances better than students with similar backgrounds who attended private schools. In some cases, students from the magnet schools performed better than those who attended private schools. In the same study, both students from private schools and students from magnet schools performed higher than students who were from traditional public schools (1996).
The figure below represents the results from the research conducted by Gamoran. This particular graph represents student performance from public magnet schools, religious private schools, and non-religious private schools. Based on the results from this particular part of the study, Math was the only area in which students from public magnet schools did not perform higher than their peers who attended a religious private school;