Historical Dictionary of School Segregation and Desegregation: The American Experience

By Jeffrey A. Raffel | Go to book overview
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MAGNET SCHOOL. A school, or program within a school, with the following characteristics: (1) a special curricular theme or method of instruction, for example, a science and technology high school or a Montessori program, (2) a role in a voluntary plan* to desegregate the schools in a school district, (3) some choice of school by student and parent, and (4) access by students beyond the neighborhood attendance zone. Magnet schools are developed to attract students to a school that they would otherwise not attend. Generally they are established to attract white students to formerly black schools.

Magnet schools have spread rapidly in central-city school districts since the early 1970s because they offer a voluntary approach to school desegregation, provide a variety of educational and curricular options to students, often focus on outcomes and careers, and indicate a renewed concern about educational quality. Magnet schools have been viewed as an important means to retain and attract middle-class students to city schools. Since middle-class families living in cities and dissatisfied with city schools generally can move to the suburbs or send their children to nonpublic schools, cities have tried to provide alternative schools within their own borders to keep their middle-class students or even attract new ones.

Magnet schools are primarily found in city school systems. Magnet schools exist across the nation from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Houston, Texas, to San Diego, California. Some suburban school districts, for example, Prince George's County, Maryland, have also adopted magnet-school plans. Montgomery Blair High School in adjoining Montgomery County, with an enriched math, science, and computer program, was designed to attract whites and Asians into

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