Magnet schools have been around for many years in the United States, and have evolved immensely since they first came to be. Magnet school programs first developed roots in the 1960s as a way to desegregate publics schools and push for educational equality across all races. Since then, magnet schools have continued to reform traditional public education, by creating unique environments where children of all backgrounds can learn, grow and succeed.
Although magnet schools have changed and evolved over the years, the foundations of inclusion and academic success still remain an important standard of magnet schools across the country today. In fact, all magnet schools are founded on five important pillars, designed to stand as a compass for each unique magnet school program. These pillars include academic excellence, diversity in the classroom, innovative curriculum and professional development, high quality instructional systems, and family and community involvement. These pillars serve as a guide and standard for which all magnet schools operate.
But what exactly goes into a magnet school, and what goes into a great one? Magnet high schools are tuition-free public schools that are considered “schools of choice” for students and families. Most traditional public schools bring together children in a zoned geographic area, but a magnet school program brings together children from a variety of different racial, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds – regardless of their district or zip code.
Although most magnet schools are tuition-free and open to the public, acceptance into a magnet school program depends on the demand of that specific school. If the demand is high and there are not enough teachers or resources, many schools rely on a lottery system to determine acceptance. For example, students applying to Connecticut River Academy and Riverside Magnet School in Greater Hartford, CT will enroll in a random lottery process conducted by the state’s Regional School Choice Office (RSCO). You can learn more about the application process here.
While all magnet schools have to adhere to a core academic curriculum of mathematics, science, language arts and geography, each magnet school program has a specific, unique theme, with many classes centered around that theme. For example, some schools focus on Fine and Performing Arts, while others focus on Technology or the Sciences. Students’ course schedules are designed with these unique themes in mind, whether that means classes in theater, or classes in environmental science.
The high school magnet program at Goodwin College, Connecticut River Academy (CTRA), has a Sustainability theme – teaching students how to make decisions that will ensure the well-being of all aspects of life and society. This sustainability focus includes two specific areas of study: advanced manufacturing and environmental science. CTRA offers classes in both areas of study, where students have the opportunity to experience first-hand how to create and ensure a sustainable environment through advanced technology and research. Similar to Connecticut River Academy, each magnet school program curriculum is designed to focus on their school’s specific theme and academic focus.
To reinforce these curricula themes, each magnet school program aims to create an innovative learning environment that takes a hands-on approach to learning and discovery. Most magnet school classrooms and labs are equipped with state-of-the-art technology and resources for students to utilize. Much of the learning also takes places outside of the confines classroom, where students can enrich their education by attending field trips or workshops related to their themes.
Family and community play a big role in magnet school programs, as well, with one of the founding pillars of magnet schools being “Family and Community Partnerships.” The systems of support that family and the community offer children is important to a child’s overall success. A magnet school’s caring environment encourages parents to take an active role in their children’s education by reinforcing the school’s educational themes outside of the classroom. This provides students with a real-world view of the world and their future. Magnet school programs also welcome family members to participate in school activities, such as volunteering in an after school program or joining a parent book club. At Riverside Magnet School, a Reggio Emilia inspired magnet school, parent involvement is an integral part of the educational experience.
While every magnet school program is unique, they all share commonalities in terms of the benefits they offer growing children and teens. Magnet schools are an outstanding choice for families looking for an innovative educational environment that prioritizes academic excellence, student success, and inclusion above all else. If you are interested in learning more about one of our magnet school programs in Connecticut, please attend an upcoming parent information session at Goodwin College or call 800-889-3282 to learn more.