The Ultimate Guide to Public Magnet Schools

By: National School Choice Week Team

So, you’re wondering what’s a magnet school? It’s a good question. There are more than 4,000 magnet schools across America, but many families haven’t heard about this unique type of school. 

Magnet schools are free public schools and a valuable choice for families. We’ve put together this starter guide to share a magnet school definition, answer your magnet school questions, link to resources in your state, and more. 

 

  

 

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Magnet School FAQ

 

What is a magnet school?

 

Magnet schools are free public schools operated by school districts that allow kids to focus on a specific learning track, such as STEM, medical science, or performing arts. At a magnet school, all subjects are taught through the lenses of the school’s specific track. At an arts-focused magnet school, for example, students will learn all required classes (math, English, etc.). But, those required classes may include arts-related projects or discussions, and students will take a variety of arts classes as well. Being in an environment where teachers and students share a common passion for a subject can make for a vibrant learning community.

Finding a magnet school definition can be confusing! For example, some traditional public schools have magnet programs that a subset of students opt into. While those schools aren’t magnet schools in the fullest sense, their magnet programs can still offer the benefit of focusing on a particular theme.  

 

Lincoln Elementary Magnet School students celebrate school choice

 

Can anyone attend a magnet school?

 

Students are rarely, if ever, automatically assigned to magnet schools. Instead, families can choose to apply to a magnet school and, if accepted, attend it rather than their zoned school or the school nearest them.

If there’s one near you with a theme your child is interested in, this could be an exciting option to consider! Some magnet schools do have lotteries or eligibility requirements. 

 

How do you get into a magnet school?

 

Sometimes, magnet schools are so popular that they rely on randomized lotteries to determine acceptance. If this is the case for a magnet school you’re interested in, you can submit an application to the school before its deadline. Then, you will be notified if there is space and your child has been accepted. Families with siblings already attending the school may be prioritized.

In addition, some magnet schools may have eligibility requirements. For instance, a magnet school with a music focus may require students to audition.

 

When to apply for magnet schools?

 

Unfortunately, districts have varying deadlines for magnet school applications, so you’ll have to check your local district! Often, the magnet school application window for the next school year begins as early as November.

 

How much does magnet school cost?

 

Importantly, magnet schools are public schools and thus free to attend. Like all public schools, magnet schools are funded by taxpayers. Since magnet schools are public schools, transportation is typically free and provided as well.

 

Why magnet school?  

 

Magnet schools provide an exciting opportunity for kids to learn in a place where they’re immersed in a subject they love. As Dr. Michael Lofton, founder of a magnet school in South Carolina told us, “[Students] really tend to delve a little bit deeper into study if they enjoy it more and it’s something that they want to relate to.” 

 

Magnet School Options in Your State

There are more than 4,300 magnet schools across the country serving 3.5 million children. In addition, there are thousands of magnet programs within traditional public schools nationwide. Magnet schools, theme-based schools, or magnet programs are permitted in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. In some states, as indicated on the map below, there are no freestanding magnet schools, but there are magnet programs available in traditional public schools.

Do you have magnet schools? Check out your state’s parent guide or scroll below to learn whether your state has any magnet schools. While we’ve put together a place for you to start, we also suggest checking your local district for magnet options. 

Source: Magnet Schools of America, 2019
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
 
 

Alabama:

Alabama has more than thirty magnet schools. For instance, the Mobile County Public School District (Alabama’s largest school district) offers a list of its seven magnet schools here. The district explains, “Our choice schools embody the belief that highly motivated and academically focused students have interests and talents that are better cultivated in a magnet school program. Our magnet schools have focused themes and aligned curricula in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), Fine and Performing Arts, and International Baccalaureate.” In Mobile County, students are accepted into magnet schools based on a lottery system, and must meet entrance criteria. Other Alabama districts with magnet schools include Huntsville, Montgomery, and Decatur.

Read more: U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of magnet high schools in your state (*this list may not include all magnet options in your state)

 

Alaska:

Alaska has a handful of magnet schools scattered throughout the state. Barnette Magnet School, located in the Fairbanks North Star Borough District, describes its offering this way: “Barnette’s magnet or ‘draw’ is a combination of: small exploration classes, a community-based Friday in Fairbanks Program, and quarterly all-school Exhibit Nights. These are the elements of the school that set it apart from other schools and make the Magnet School experience a rewarding one for both students and parents.”

Read more: U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of magnet high schools in your state (*this list may not include all magnet options in your state)

 

Arizona:

The Tucson Unified School District in Arizona currently lists fourteen magnet schools, including schools that focus on communication arts, dual language, STEM, Montessori, and gifted study.  

 

Arkansas:

Arkansas has several magnet schools scattered throughout the state. Districts with magnet schools include Hot Springs, Marion, and Texarkana Arkansas School District No.7.

 

California:

Depending on where you live in California, you may also be able to choose a magnet school. For the 2019-2020 school year, there are more than 500 magnet schools in California. Districts with magnet schools include ABC Unified School District, Glendale Unified School District, Los Angeles Unified School District, the Napa Valley Unified School District, Pasadena Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District, and  Vista Unified School District.

 

Colorado:

Colorado has more than 20 magnet schools throughout the state. Districts with magnet schools include Denver Public Schools, Mapleton Public Schools, and Douglas County School District.

We recently interviewed one Colorado magnet school, New Emerson School at Columbus, which you can read about here.

 

Connecticut:

Connecticut has more than 80 magnet schools that families can choose from. For a complete list of Greater Hartford area magnet schools, click here. For a complete list of magnet schools outside the Greater Hartford area, click here. You can also find frequently asked questions about Connecticut magnet schools here

 

Delaware:

Delaware has a few magnet schools scattered throughout the state; this could be a great option if there is one near you and your child learns best by focusing in on a subject they are passionate about. Cab Calloway School of the Arts in the Red Clay Consolidated School District, for instance, allows students to major in dance, digital media, vocal music, theatre arts, and more. Conrad Schools of Science, also in the Red Clay Consolidated School District, offers a life science magnet. In the Indian River School district, Southern Delaware School of the Arts seeks to facilitate student learning through the arts.

 

Florida:

Florida has more than 500 magnet schools across the state. To find out if your district has magnet programs, use the school search option on the Florida Department of Education’s website. Simply select your district and click “Go.” If there are magnet schools or magnet programs in your district, the tool will display them and list their focus (science, performing arts, medical, technology, etc.)

 

Georgia:

Georgia has more than ten magnet schools scattered throughout the state. Districts with magnet schools include Bibb County School District, Richmond County School System, and Muscogee County School District. Additionally, Clayton County Public Schools offers various magnet programs.

 

Hawaii:

Unfortunately, magnet schools are not currently an option for Hawaii families, but they may be in the future! 

 

Idaho:

Idaho has more than 20 magnet schools or schools with magnet programs.  You can view a list of these schools on the Idaho Department of Education website. Idaho’s magnet program locations include Boise, Meridian, Eagle, Hailey, Idaho Falls, Nampa, Ammon, and Coeur d’Alene.

 

Illinois: 

There are more than 100 magnet schools in Illinois. Many of these are concentrated in the Chicago Public Schools’ District; you can find a list of the district’s magnet schools here. Other districts, such as the Champaign Unit School District 4, Elgin Area Schools U-46, Rockford Public Schools and Decatur Public Schools, have magnet schools as well.

 

Indiana:

Indiana has several magnet schools families can consider. In the Indianapolis Public School district, for example, there are 17 magnet elementary and middle schools. Meanwhile, the South Bend Community School Corporation has more than 20 magnet schools or programs.

 

Iowa:

Iowa has several magnet schools scattered throughout the state. In the Cedar Rapids Community School District, for instance, there are five magnet schools, including Johnson STEAM Academy, which has been ranked as one of the best magnet schools in the United States.

 

Kansas:

Magnet schools allow kids to focus on specific themes, like science or the performing arts. As the Wichita Public School district describes, “Magnet schools are based on the premise that all students do not learn in the same ways, so if there is a unifying theme or a different organizational structure for students of similar interest, those students will learn more in all areas.” In the Wichita district, there are 17 elementary magnet school locations and seven middle, high, and K-8 magnet locations, and there are others throughout the state, such as in Hutchinson, Kansas City, and Topeka.

                                                      

Kentucky:

Kentucky has a variety of magnet schools and programs spread throughout the state, including several in Fayette County Public Schools and Jefferson County Public Schools.

 

Louisiana:

Louisiana has several magnet schools throughout the state. Some Louisiana districts with magnet schools include Caddo Parish Public Schools, Calcasieu Parish Public Schools, East Baton Rouge Parish, Iberville Parish Schools, Tangipahoa Parish School District.

 

Maine:

Magnet schools are free public schools that allow kids to focus on specific themes, like science or the performing arts. There are currently two magnet schools in Maine. Maine School of Science and Mathematics focuses on STEM and is located in Limestone, Maine. The state also has a public magnet school geared toward studying marine science, technology, transportation, and engineering: The Maine Ocean School. If you live near one of Maine’s magnet schools, your child may be able to attend the public magnet school rather than their public neighborhood school. 

 

Maryland:

Maryland has several magnet schools throughout the state; for instance, there are more than 30 magnet schools or programs in the Baltimore county area. Some of the other districts with magnet schools include Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Washington County Public Schools, and Prince George’s County Public Schools.

 

Massachusetts:

Massachusetts has just a handful of magnet schools. Contact your school district to see if there are any options near you.

 

Michigan:

Michigan has several magnet schools throughout the state. The International Academy of Macomb, for instance, is a county-wide International Baccalaureate magnet school that provides opportunities each year for its students to travel the world. The Lansing School District offers more than 10 magnet schools or programs. Other districts with magnet offerings include Michigan City Area Schools, Detroit Public Schools, Ann Arbor Public Schools, and more.

 

Minnesota:

Minnesota has more than 75 magnet schools throughout the state. For example, some of the districts with magnet schools or programs include Anoka-Hennepin School District #11, Brooklyn Center Community Schools, Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose Schools, District 196: Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, Independent School District 197, Minneapolis Public Schools, Northwest Suburban Integration District, and Osseo Area Schools ISD 279.

 

Mississippi:

Mississippi has several magnet schools for families to consider. Some of the districts with magnet schools or programs include the Cleveland School District and Jackson Public Schools.  

 

Missouri:

Missouri has several magnet schools throughout the state. For a sampling of the magnet elementary schools available in the St. Louis Public School district, click here. Kansas City Public Schools also has magnet schools.

 

Montana:

Magnet schools are permitted in Montana, though we are not currently aware of any active magnet schools.

 

Nebraska:

Nebraska has a handful of magnet schools scattered throughout the state. For instance, Omaha Public Schools has both elementary and high school magnet programs.  

 

Nevada:

A few years ago, a Las Vegas Sun article described magnet schools as “schools within schools.” In other words, they offer specialty tracks within the public school system. Nevada has several magnet schools throughout the state; for instance, there are more than 30 magnet schools or programs in the Clark County School District. Another district with magnet schools is the Washoe County School District.

 

New Hampshire:

Depending on where you live in New Hampshire, you may be able to consider a magnet school. As of 2017, Maple Street Magnet School was New Hampshire’s only magnet school. Students accepted to Maple Street Magnet School through its blind lottery can choose to attend the magnet school rather than their neighborhood school. 

 

New Jersey:

New Jersey has several magnet schools throughout the state. For instance, you can read about Montclair Public Schools’ approach to magnet schools here, Union County Vocational-Technical Schools’ offerings here, and Newark Public Schools’ seven magnet schools here. New Jersey Family recently posted this opinion piece with some additional information on New Jersey’s magnet schools. 

 

New Mexico:

New Mexico’s magnet programs include ones that focus on STEM, the International Baccalaureate program, arts curriculum, and more. Most of New Mexico’s magnet schools are concentrated in the Albuquerque Public School District. You can learn more about them here

 

New York:

New York has several magnet schools throughout the state. Districts with magnet schools or programs include NYC Community School District 30, Yonkers Public Schools, the Rochester City School District, and many more. Search your local district to find out more.

 

North Carolina:

North Carolina has several magnet schools throughout the state; For example, districts with magnet schools or programs include Cabarrus County Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Durham Public Schools, Mt. Airy City Schools, Surry County Schools, Wake County Public School System, and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

We interviewed one North Carolina magnet school, Atkins Academic and Technology High School, here

 

North Dakota:

Unfortunately, North Dakota does not currently have any magnet schools. But, these schools may be an option in the future. 

 

Ohio:

In Ohio, there are several magnet schools and programs throughout the state. For instance, you can read more about magnet schools in the Cincinnati Public Schools district here.  You can also read about Lima City Schools’ magnet schools here.

 

Oklahoma:

Oklahoma has several magnet schools and programs for you to consider. For example, districts with magnet schools or programs include Oklahoma City Public Schools , Muskogee Public Schools, Tulsa Public Schools, and more.

 

Oregon:

There are several magnet schools in Oregon. For example, you can read about Bend La Pine School District’s magnet choices here, Portland Public Schools’ choices here, and Beaverton Schools’ magnet choices here.  

 

Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania has several magnet schools throughout the state. For example, Pittsburgh Public Schools and the School District of Philadelphia both have magnet choices, among others.

 

Rhode Island:

Rhode Island has just a couple of magnet schools at present, such as Classical High School in Providence, which focuses on study of the arts, languages, and humanities.  

 

South Carolina:

South Carolina has more than thirty magnet choices throughout the state, and these might be a good option if your child learns best by focusing in on a subject they are passionate about. For instance, districts with magnet choices include Fairfield County School District, Florence County School District Three, Lexington-Richland School District Five, Richland County School District One, and Richland School District Two.

We also interviewed the head of school at one of America’s top-ranked public high schools, Academic Magnet High School, here

 

South Dakota:

South Dakota is one of four states that does not currently have any magnet schools. But, these may be an option in the future for South Dakota families!

 

Tennessee:

Tennessee has several magnet schools. For example, the Knox County School District, Metropolitan Nashville Public School District, Rutherford County School District, and Shelby County School District all offer magnet choices, among others.

 

Texas:

Texas has many magnet schools. For example, Aldine ISD, Dallas ISD, DeSoto ISD, Galveston ISD, Houston ISD, and Richardson ISD all offer magnet choices. You may also be interested in checking out U.S. News & World’s report ranking of Texas’ magnet high schools here. Please note that the list may not be exhaustive and you should check with your local district about options near you.

 

Utah:

Utah currently has just a few magnet schools or programs. The Ogden School District’s public schools have some magnet programs which you can read about here. Also, Salt Lake City School District offers some magnet extended learning programs, which you can find here.

 

Vermont:

Currently, Vermont has at least two magnet schools. Sustainability Academy focuses on social, environmental, and economic justice for communities. Integrated Arts Academy, meanwhile, focuses on music, drama, movement, and visual arts. Both of these magnet choices are in the Burlington Vermont School District.

 

Virginia:

Virginia has several magnet school options, including the well-ranked Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. School districts with magnet schools include Fairfax County Public Schools, Newport News Public Schools, York County School Division, Hampton City Schools, and more.

 

Washington:

Washington has several magnet schools and programs throughout the state. For instance, any Lake Washington School District student entering 9th grade for the upcoming school year is welcome to apply to Tesla STEM High School. Look to your local district to see if there are any magnet choices available to you.

 

West Virginia:

West Virginia has a handful of magnet schools in the state. You can read about some of the magnet choices in the Kanawha County Schools here.  

 

Wisconsin:

Wisconsin has several magnet choices scattered throughout the state. You can view some of these magnet program on the state’s Department of Education website.

 

Wyoming:

Wyoming does not currently have any magnet schools in operation, but this may be an option in the future! 

 

Shareable Facts about Magnet Schools

magnet school definition infographic

Click here to download and share the graphic.

 

True Stories from Public Magnet Schools

Read exclusive interviews we did with public magnet schools across America: 

SHHS Exercise Science

 

How to “trick” students into learning more

 

 

 

This high school is in the middle of a medical center

 

 

 

At this Georgia school, a panda mascot helps students find happiness

 

 

Academic Magnet HS celebrates NSCW

 

Service, fun, and results at America’s top-ranked public high school

 

 

 

The information in this guide to magnet school is designed to help families who are considering magnet schools in their decision-making process. Our mission is to provide families with the information they need about all the school options available – traditional public, public charter, public magnet, private, online, and at home – so they can choose the right fit for their child. For more guides about choosing other types of schools, click here.

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