With all the different educational options out there, it can seem overwhelming to make the right educational choice for your child. As a parent, you may be asking: What type of learning environment will they excel in academically? What type of setting will facilitate growth socially? Will my child get the attention they need to succeed? Is a traditional school, or a magnet school approach, the best path for my child? How do magnet schools work?
All of these are common questions for a parent to ask themselves when deciding what’s best for their children’s future. If you are deciding between the traditional school and magnet school approach, here is some more information about magnet schools: what they are, how they work, and what makes them stand out.
What are Magnet Schools?
Before understanding how magnet schools work, it’s important to understand exactly what magnet schools are. Magnet schools are public schools that span all grade levels – from Pre-K through twelfth grade – and are open to all children statewide. For this reason, they are thought of as public schools of choice, in which students can choose to apply to a certain public school without being limited by a specific region of the state. There are over 3.5 million magnet school students throughout the nation.
Magnet schools usually focus on a specific academic theme, in efforts to develop students’ interests and passion areas. Magnet schools also focus on five specific pillars that help benefit the growing child, including:
- Diversity, bringing students together from a variety of backgrounds
- An innovative curriculum and professional development, to engage their students
- Academic excellence, with hands-on learning and student success being top priority
- High-quality instructional systems, combined with lower student-teacher ratios
- Family and community partnerships, to involve parents and the community in the child’s learning experience
How Do Magnet Schools Work?
So, how do magnet schools work and how can your child benefit? In addition to the fact that all magnet schools have the same foundational five pillars, each magnet school has a specific focus when it comes to the theme of their curriculum. For example, some magnet schools have a curriculum centered around Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), and other magnet schools may be centered around Fine and Performing Arts. Some early education magnet schools may focus on certain teaching approaches, such as Reggio Emilia.
Therefore, when trying to understand exactly how magnet schools work, it’s important to understand that magnet schools work around a dedicated subject, which helps to engage students and encourage active participation in their education. Each activity in a theme-based magnet school is designed with students in mind, offering hands-on learning experiences at every curve and fueling their curiosity. At Goodwin College’s magnet high school, for example, students have the opportunity to get out on the Connecticut River as part of their environmental studies. Younger students in our Reggio magnet school are actively engaged in their education as well, guiding their own learning experiences indoors and out, and expressing themselves through art, music, nature, play, and more.
Theme-based magnet schools can have very positive benefits for children of all ages. In fact, according to the Public School Review, students in theme-based schools surpass the levels of achievement they would have otherwise reached in their district-zoned schools. Experts also say that an integrated, theme-based curriculum is supported by scientific research on how the brain learns.
Many people are also attracted to the idea of magnet schools because they bring together students with similar interests, regardless of their backgrounds. Acceptance is determined by a lottery system. For example, at Connecticut River Academy and Riverside Magnet School, the lottery is open to all families in Connecticut, regardless of their zip code.
How Does the Magnet School Lottery System Work?
Acceptance to magnet schools is determined through a random lottery process, conducted by the State Regional School Choice Office.
To apply to Goodwin’s magnet schools in Connecticut, parents must first fill out an application through the Regional School Choice Office (RSCO). There are specific timelines for each academic year that you’ll need to pay attention to. All eligible, on-time applicants will be either offered a placement to a school, or put on a wait-list. The lottery is then conducted at random. If your child has been offered a placement, you may choose to accept or decline the offer. Should you accept, you will proceed through the registration process at the selected magnet school.
Why are Magnet Schools Different from the Traditional Schooling Approach?
While both traditional and magnet schools still have to adhere to state requirements and follow national standards, the theme-based curriculum at magnet schools is very beneficial for motivating children in the classroom. The specific theme-focused curriculums at magnet schools not only allows students to explore their interests, but it gets them prepared and excited for their futures. For example, Connecticut River Academy offers many classes that are specific to the theme of sustainability with focuses on environmental studies and manufacturing. This prepares students for not only college or post college certificate programs, but also future careers in those fields.
Goodwin College is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin College was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.