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Is a Magnet School Right for Your Family?

What is a magnet school?

A magnet school is a public school that offers a particular academic focus alongside the standard curriculum. Whereas students enroll in traditional public schools based on where they live, magnet schools are open to all students within a school district or designated metro area, regardless of address. Magnet schools are part of the public school system and are accountable to the same entities — the school board and the state — and are held to the same standards as traditional public schools.

And there’s probably one in your area.

According to Magnet Schools of America, there are 4,340 magnet schools educating 3.5 million+ students nationwide.

How are magnet schools different from traditional public schools?

Magnet schools exist within the public school system, however, magnets typically focus on a specialized curriculum. Students who attend magnet schools do so with a focus on that program. Common magnet programs include STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), performing arts, International Baccalaureate, Career and Technical Education (CTE) and world languages.

Montessori, which is a method of education that’s more tailored to the individual learning styles of a child, is also a popular magnet program. However, some Montessori schools are private, not magnet, so it’s important to be sure what type of school it is before enrolling.

What are the top reasons to choose a magnet school?

1. They’re free
One of the main reasons many families choose magnet schools is that they’re free. As previously mentioned, they’re still within the public school system, which some families prefer to be a part of.

2. Academics
A magnet school may be more highly-rated or have better programs to offer than one’s neighborhood public school.

3. Diversity
Magnet schools also tend to be more diverse than some traditional public or private schools. That’s due in part to the fact that they admit students from all over the city, as well as the fact that some make an effort to enroll students with varying backgrounds. It’s also the result of the fact that magnet schools were founded in part to end segregation in schools, though there’s debate as to whether that mission is upheld today.

4. A leg up
In many cases, students move on from magnet schools not only with the same generalized skills as other students their age, but with a specialized skill, such as the ability to speak another language or with computer science skills, or as a better-trained dancer or singer.

Search for magnet schools in your area now.

What are some challenges associated with attending a magnet school?

Because a magnet school may not be in your neighborhood, that may make for a longer or more complicated commute. Additionally, as is the case for some private or charter school families, friends of students may be across town, meaning a longer commute to play dates as well.

How do students enroll in a magnet school?

Many magnet schools admit students via a lottery. Still, some may require an interview or entrance exam, and those with performing arts programs may require an audition. Additionally, some magnet programs reserve slots for students of a certain demographic, or from certain neighborhoods or areas within a region. Check with the magnet school you’re interested in to see what is required for enrollment.

Magnet School Performance

Magnet school performance varies widely not only from city to city, but even within the same public school system. Based on their Niche Grade, we compared the performance of different types of schools in New York City to get a sample of magnet school performance.

new york city charter schools

Here you can see that only a small percentage (not quite 7 percent, per Niche’s data) of magnet schools in New York City get a rating within the A range. The highest percentage of magnet schools in New York City — 40 percent — get a C+ rating.

Compare that, however, to Los Angeles. Magnet schools in L.A .also vary in their ratings, but many of them — 31 percent — get a rating within the A range.

Los Angeles Charter Schools

How do I know if a magnet school is right for my child?

One magnet school available in your area may not match your child’s interests or strengths, while another may be a perfect fit. Use Niche’s search tool to find magnet schools in your area, see their ratings and read reviews by real families who attend.

Continue your research:

What Is a Charter School?

What’s the Difference Between Charter Schools And Magnet Schools?

Find the Best Magnet Schools in Your Area!

Author: Ali Trachta

Ali is the former Content Writer/Editor at Niche. She's a content strategist and award-winning writer, as well as a former editor at LA Weekly and NEXTpittsburgh. As a mom of one who's lived and worked all across the country, she's glad to have once again found her niche in her hometown of Pittsburgh.