What is a Magnet School?

Navigating your way through all the educational choices for your child (and choosing the right school) takes a lot of research. You may have seen that magnet schools are one option many parents find to be quite attractive. From their roots in the civil rights movement as a desegregation tool, to the highly-specialized curriculums we see championed today, magnet schools are governed differently from public, private, and charter schools. But what is a magnet school, exactly? Why do parents choose a magnet school education for their children? What about magnet schools makes them stand out? To start, it has a lot to do with their founding principles.

Magnet schools are free, public schools that exist at all grade levels Pre-K through twelfth. They are all built upon five pillars and strive towards very similar goals. Though all magnet schools are distinguished by a specific curricular focus that defines their educational missions, their themes can vary greatly from school to school. Because of this, magnet schools attract different populations by way of student interest: they reach specific types of learners and draw students with similar interests from all different backgrounds, resulting in a diverse student body.

In fact, this is the first pillar of magnet schools: diversity. Reviving Magnet Schools, published by The Civil Rights Project in 2012, states, “Magnet schools make up the largest system of choice in the U.S. They were originally conceived to accomplish the twin goals of innovation and integration.” The authors’ findings revealed that in more recent years, magnet schools maintained their integrity through inclusive admissions processes and an interest in pursuing racially diverse enrollment. Magnet schools today continue to model cultural inclusivity and operate with empathy and respect.

The second pillar of magnet schools governs the right for varying specialties, through innovative curriculum and professional development. Magnet schools may adopt themes such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), Fine and Performing Arts, International Studies and Language Learning, and more. Best teaching practices are implemented to complement a school’s theme, and those practices uphold high standards for student success. Magnet school teachers are typically licensed in their areas of expertise, and their training is enhanced with theme-specific professional development. As stated in Why Theme-based Curricula Work for Early Childhood News, a magnet school’s theme-based approach is supported by research on how the brain learns and ultimately, a thematic education is linked to heightened levels of learning in children.

Magnet schools provide academic excellence with dexterity; by flexing to each students’ personal needs, they encourage individual growth. Additionally, magnet schools pride themselves in hiring well-educated staff with high-quality instructional systems. With these pillars, magnet school students benefit from a hands-on, inquiry-based education. There are no entry criteria for magnet schools; at a magnet school, all students have interests and talents awaiting their potential. Most often, a lottery system places students in magnet school programs.

The Public School Review reports that a theme-based, magnet school education helps students surpass the levels of achievement that they would have reached at their district-zoned public school. This proves that enrolling your child in the local magnet school lottery is definitely worth the chance.

Magnet schools partner with parents in the community to provide rich experiences for students. In fact, family and community partnerships is the final pillar of magnet schools, and is demonstrated by the development of a support system for each and every child. A bridge between children’s homes and school experiences is an important key to continued classroom engagement. By building community beyond the home and into the neighborhood, magnet schools promote safe environments for children and contribute to widespread adult investment in student success.

By now, you may have a greater understanding of the pillars and principles that define magnet schools. You may even feel ready to find that perfect magnet school for your child. For parents in the greater Hartford area, you can start your child’s magnet school journey right at Goodwin College: Riverside Magnet School is a Reggio magnet school for Pre-K to elementary-age children and Connecticut River Academy is an early college high school program for grades 9 through 12.

Click here to learn how to apply to our magnet schools.