What Is A Magnet School, Anyway? Here's What You Need To Know

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what is a magnet school
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What’s that adage about having children and parenting? Small kids, small problems. Big kids, big problems. It seems parents barely have time to process a baby’s milestones like rolling over and smiling before preschool age, and kindergarten checklists are top of mind. Not to mention the more significant decision of whether to send your little one to private or public school.

There’s more to schooling than just public schools and private schools — like magnet schools, for instance. These schools function almost as a middle ground between public and private schools. They’re free like a public school but may offer a better education for your child (depending on the school and its specialization). Some public schools even have a magnet school within them to provide a different, guided curriculum for students looking to narrow in on a particular focus. So what is a magnet school? Here’s a primer with parents scratching their heads.

What is the difference between a magnet school and a public school?

The critical difference between a public school and a magnet school is what the schools offer as a curriculum. A run-of-the-mill public school will offer various subjects that students need to graduate and prepare for college. These will run the gamut from the arts to sciences and everything in between. A magnet school, on the other hand, has a specialized curriculum. For example, a magnet school may focus on arts or sciences, which means more classes in that specific field and a more targeted curriculum for students.

Magnet schools, like public schools, are free to attend, but they get different funding from grants, donations, and other sources to maintain the curriculum and environment. Because magnet schools have a greater need for specialized teachers and more challenging courses, they require more money. These schools do, though, still essentially abide by government-set structure just like public schools. Students who go to these schools are just getting a more targeted education to prepare for college.

Many magnet schools also have a specialized admissions process depending on their area of concentration. A school focused on the arts might require an audition or art submissions. Another one focused on math and science will offer an entrance exam for all prospective students, offering the admissions committee insight into whether the student is ready for more challenging courses.

On the other hand, charter schools are an offshoot of magnet schools that don’t strictly adhere to traditional formats. They’re all a bit different, so if you’re considering a charter school in your area, it’s well worth looking into the structure, educators, and curriculum. They’re often targeted toward a specialized education, as well, but may go about school in a nontraditional way because they’re not tied to standard regulations.

Magnet schools also allow teachers, parents, and students to work together to create a diverse curriculum that works best for the child. They are called magnet schools because they work to attract students who don’t want to be hindered by rigid school boards or zoning. A child’s zone doesn’t restrict them from applying to the school they want — they can attend any magnet school in the district.

Are there benefits to attending a magnet school?

The most significant benefit of attending a magnet school is getting a specialized education. Because these schools provide more in-depth learning on specific topics, your child can better prepare for higher education in a particular field. For example, for performing arts magnet schools, your child might spend half of the school day on fine arts classes, better preparing them to go to college for fine arts. It’s the same for a magnet that focuses on STEM. As a result, your child can go into higher education or a technical school well equipped for further learning on these topics.

Do colleges like magnet schools?

Colleges look for myriad things when admitting a potential student, such as how well-rounded the student is and what their grades look like. Some magnet schools may be top-rated, but it’s up to the student to do their best and take advantage of what the school offers. In magnet schools, learning is often catered to the student, so getting good marks is obtainable. These schools are typically also filled with extracurriculars your child can join and add to their application.

Can anyone go to a magnet school?

The beauty of a magnet school is that it is free since these schools are public. However, they will likely require an application to attend, and many grant admission through a lottery system. Each school might handle admission differently, though, so it’s worth looking into any schools in your area.

What are the cons of magnet schools?

Magnet schools can be valuable institutions for some students, but, like any school, they can have drawbacks. Here are a few things to consider before placing your child in a magnet school.

  • Sometimes there isn’t school bus transportation for students. This puts the responsibility on the families to get their kids to and from school.
  • Some children may have to travel far to attend school. The long commute could have adverse effects on students.
  • Children with lower grades or behavioral issues may not get into the program.

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