The Magnet School Craze In America - Nu Leadership Series


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“ Every failure is a blessing in disguise, providing it teaches some needed lesson one could not have learned without it. Most so-called Failures are only temporary defeats. ”

Napoleon Hill

As the new millennium begins, America remains the Land of Opportunity to many across the globe. However, America continues to be haunted by the past. Is this American opportunity equal for all? The 1968 Kerner Commission Report, a presidential panel on race relations, concluded that America was “moving towards two societies, one Black, one White, separate and unequal. " (, 1998) In 1998, a follow-up study by the Eisenhower Foundation declared the situation had worsened. It further stated the economic and racial breach had widened, with America's neighborhoods and schools re-segregating; child poverty was up over 20% since the 1980's, a situation that disproportionately affected minorities (, 1998).

The Civil Rights Movement provided the thrust toward a more integrated and effective education for all Americans. However, no one said that it was meant to last. Today, society views education as “separate but equal. ” Proponents of “the land of opportunity” jargon would argue it is the best of times for all American children. On the contrary, it is difficult to ignore the inferior quality of education in urban areas without addressing the increasing trend of a segregated education system for people of color and poor children.

Magnet schools, as a part of a federal school desegregation solution, became a hot commodity during the 1990s. The approach was simple: draw White students to predominately Black schools in the inner city by offering well-funded themed schools, such as performing arts or science and technology, which combined innovative learning with an integrated school. Today, there are more than 3,000 magnet or theme-based schools (Rossell, 2003).

Magnet schools differ in how they implement their programs. Some offer a magnet program to all students in the school that is called a whole school (WS) format while the program within a school (PWS) format offers magnet curricula to some but not all of the students in the school (Department of Education [DOE], 2003). Pegged as a way to integrate urban schools and curb White students from leaving, magnet schools have failed their original mission. Currently, the enrollment of magnet schools includes a high proportion of minority students (73% on average) and students living in poverty (60% on average). Given this reality, magnet schools must change their strategies or accept the fact that they are not meeting the intent of their original mission. Time will time if they select either.


Department of Education (2003). Evaluation of the magnet schools assistance program, 1998 Grantees, Office of the Under Secretary. (1998). A Nation Divided. The NewsHour with Jim Lehler Transcript. Received on April 4, 2007, from

Rossell, C. (2002). The desegregation efficiency of magnet schools. Boston University, pp. 1-24.

Daryl D. Green has published over 100 articles in the field of decision-making (personal and organizational), leadership, and organizational behavior. Mr. Green is also the author of four books, including More than a Conqueror: Achieving Personal Fulfillment in Government Service. Do you want to improve your life? Do you want to make better decisions? If you answer “yes, " then go to the ‘master decision-making’ website at


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