What are Magnet Schools?
The concept of magnet schools emerged in the United States during the 1960s as part of efforts to address issues of racial segregation in public schools. The term “magnet” was used to describe these schools because they were intended to attract students from different neighborhoods or districts, drawing them based on the appeal of specialized programs or academic themes.
Magnet schools were introduced as an alternative approach to achieving racial balance and providing high-quality education. By offering unique educational programs, these schools aimed to entice students of diverse backgrounds to enroll voluntarily, thereby promoting integration without relying solely on forced busing or redrawing school boundaries.
Today there are many magnet school specializations, including schools focused on performing arts, gifted students, technology, art, and many other fields. I work at a school that is a STEAM Magnet. This means that our school is tasked with being more focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math.
With a broad focus, how does a STEAM Magnet stand out?
Standing out from other schools is difficult, but we continuously try.
For the past couple of years, our school has been able to teach lessons on sustainable gardening due to a grant we received to buy hydroponic systems for our classrooms.
The reality is that all schools are as good as the efforts of their students, parents, and teachers.
Our Magnet school has very involved parents. This can be seen by looking at the leadership for the school’s (PTO) Parent Teacher Organization. In the past 10 years, most of the PTO presidents have been parents of Magnet students, even though Magnet students only make up 40% of the population on our campus.
How are students selected for the Magnet?
Student selection really depends on the type of Magnet you are applying to. A Gifted Magnet will have different criteria than a regular Magnet.
Our school is a regular STEAM Magnet. When you apply, your name goes on a list. In our computer system, we are shown different waitlists of students. The names on the lists are ranked automatically. As we enroll students from the top of the lists, the system adjusts and tells us how many more students we can enroll from each waiting list.
After the school has filled all of its available enrollment places for the Magnet, the lists stay active until around norm day, which is usually about a month into the school year.
What is Norm Day?
Norm Day is usually the fifth Friday of the school year for the Los Angeles Unified School District. It is the day the district uses for its official count of students to allocate resources.
Do I have to apply again each year?
You do not need to apply again once your student is accepted and enrolled in a Magnet school. You only need to apply when you are attempting to go to a new Magnet school. If your child was not accepted into your Magnet School choice, you may choose to apply again when applications are accepted for the next school year. This will often be sometime after the start of the current school year.
How do I apply?
For LAUSD, Magnet applications are made through the LAUSD Magnet Choices Website. Echoices.lausd.net
Everything I have explained here is based on my understanding of Magnet schools. The magnet process could be different in your area. I could be mistaken about some of the processes and information can change. Thus, it is a good idea to look for information from your district’s Magnet website or contact your district’s Magnet office.