Magnet Schools (page 2)
A magnet school is a public school that offers something different from traditional public schools. This difference may involve specialized curriculum, instruction, or both. Magnet schools may bring together academically gifted students, students with an expressed interest in a specific curricular area, or perhaps students with distinct career aspirations. Because students in a magnet school share aptitude and/or interests, they tend to be more homogeneous. In some cases, magnet schools represent overt tracking. The major growth in magnet schools occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. The courts approved them as acceptable methods of desegregation in 1975. By the mid-1990s, there were more than 1.2 million students in magnet schools across America (Yu & Taylor, 1997). During the 1970s, districts devised magnet plans to draw students from the suburbs into urban areas to create racially mixed populations. Magnet schools were, and still are, viewed as forces for integration that don’t require mandatory student reassignment or forced busing (Smrekar & Goldring, 1999).
Magnet schools are considered by many to be vehicles for improving scholastic standards, providing a broad range of curricular choices, and allowing students to concentrate on distinct interests and talents. School districts generally have their own distinct magnet programs and entrance requirements. Some magnet schools require proof of academic achievement and aptitude through high scores on standardized tests. Once admitted, students must maintain high achievement levels to remain in the school. Some magnet schools require auditions in areas such as music, theater, and dance. Their programs then provide talented students in these areas with opportunities to enhance their skills and to use them in performance. Some middle schools declare a curricular focus such as math and science. They increase their resources and teacher expertise and invite students with interest in, and/or aptitude for, the chosen focus to apply. Still other magnet schools declare a focus on, for instance, military or career preparation. Interested students are asked to apply, and attendance is determined by lottery.
Magnet schools are more likely to have greater monetary and staff resources. They cost more to operate (Maranto, Milliman, Hess, & Gresham, 1999). So although magnet schools are part of public education, they are inherently unequal to non-magnet schools in what they can offer students. They often compete with private and charter schools to draw students and parents who are looking for alternatives.
© ______ 2005, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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