What is a Magnet School

Magnet schools are growing in number within the US and the world at large, with thousands of students vying for a few limited seats. Is it worth the consideration?
The term magnet school is used in the US more than any other nation in the world. These schools are public schools that have a specialized curriculum. Other countries that have similar kinds of schools, refer to them by different names; for example in Britain such schools are called ’specialist schools’. Generally, if a child doesn’t attend a magnet school, then that would mean he / she attends what is known as a home school (not to be confused with (homeschooling). It is also known as one’s base or zone school.

What is a Magnet School?

Children normally go to schools which are in their zone, as defined by school boards, but when it comes to magnet schools, students are drawn from outside their respective zoned boundaries. Perhaps this ability to attract bright students from across boundaries is the reason why these schools are called magnet schools, so to speak. These schools offer specialized courses which regular parochial schools do not, and hence attract parents and children, thereby increasing the diversity of students on the campus.

This is the reason why they are the most sought after schools in the US. They have their own set of rules and instructions that are tougher and more stringent than those of other public schools. They receive their funding from state, local, or federal funds, with a slew of grants that are also provided. Not all magnet schools are well financed, where many take a hit from not so generous funding sources.

Inception of Magnet Schools

Magnet schools emerged in the United States in the 1960s as a way to deal with the racial and academic segregation in society. They intended to attract students from all races, communities, and geographical areas without any discrimination, and that is why, the metaphor ‘magnet school’ was coined. Their main purpose was to:

Encourage students from across different traditional school zones to enroll in theirs.
Provide specially-tailored programs and educational opportunities, such that students and parents would be tempted to join the school.

The main aim was to create a school that would attract even meritorious students from poor and minority groups, rather than forcing them to join and to therefore promote academic and racial desegregation. Over the last few years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of students applying to these schools, but due to limited seats, these schools are now filtering the process by conducting tests and admitting only 10-20% of students who apply, namely those who score well in tests.

by Souraph Gupta.

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