A "specialty" school tagged onto a normal public school to allow gifted students to concentrate their studies in a particular area, as well as in a positive atmosphere with like-minded teens.

Magnet schools seem to exist at every grade level.

I believe the term "magnet" school comes from the school being attached to a normal school. This allows small(~100 student) magnet programs to exist by utilizing the normal high school's elective classes. Magnet school kids only differ from the regular kids in their main courses(English, Social Studies, Math, Science). They go to gym, art, comp sci, etc. alongside kids from the regular school they're part of.

Magnet programs attract students from an entire county here in the U.S. I have a 20-minute drive to my school despite the fact that another high school is within walking distance of my house. Some of my classmates live up to an hour from school.

One problem this causes is how do you get kids from all over the county to and from school each day? We have significantly fewer bus stops across the county, many of them located at other high schools or libraries. My school may be a 20-minute drive, but the bus took around 45 minutes to get the four or five stops in my area.

What if you have an after school class, club, sport, or other extra-curricular activity? To make that possible the magnet school buses don't leave until 4:30, two and a half hours after school actually lets out. A huge percentage drive or get rides because of this.
I have to say I enjoyed hanging out at the library after school, or playing M:TG in the commons with the other losers. But it obviously gets annoying at times.

While the math and science magnet school I attended had suspiciously few geeks, the students in the program were all nerdy enough that there was absolutely no (serious) teasing or singling out within the magnet school. Everyone was nice to everyone, even to the losers.

Its amazing how much faster classes go when the students are actually interested in learning.

We have no class rank or valedictorian. When you're being compared to the county's top 100 students "top 5%" means a lot more, and "bottom 20%" could still place you in the top 20% of the parent school.

As for feelings between us Math/Sci magnet school kids and the regular kids at our "parent" school Clover Hill:
Everyone gets along just fine. Like I said we have suprisingly few geeks and uber geeks in our magnet school; Its hard for the "normal" kids to make fun of math/sci when several of their friends are in the program. There is a lot of gentle ribbing among friends, but no serious issues.

From fifth through eighth grade I attended Fitler Academics Plus School in Philadelphia, PA. This is a magnet school that teaches grades one through eight. We did not have a gifted program, I had to go to another school once a week for that.

At that time I had never heard of any magnet high schools (I don't think I've heard of any since either).

Fitler was a public school in a bad neighborhood. However, none of the neighborhood kids could attend without going through the same application process as the rest of us. This may be where the term 'magnet school' originates, as children were drawn in from all parts of the city.

Things that were not allowed at Fitler:

On days when we had an assembly, all of the girls had to wear dresses and the boys had to wear suits.

The most important thing that I learned at Fitler:

Magnet schools are of either two types: one that is predetermined and one that has evolved. The predetermined magnet schools are usually schools designated by the school board to harbor the more gifted students since their present school lacks the facilities or faculties to prepare these above average children.

The public schools that evolved into magnet high schools are typically public schools that excel highly in academics with a lot of pressure to compete and achieve higher marks along with already having a compliment of accelerated classes and faculty to support the students.

Since these schools score highly on standardized testing and SAT scores with a student body full of talented people, it's theorized that if your kid can go to an environment like this he'll more likely be able to get into Harvard or such.

The attraction (hence being called magnet schools) to these schools are so high that people are willing to pay extra premium just so they can buy a house near the school for four years, or at least within the school district.

The idea that going to a magnet school will be better is of course subjective. Being amongst some smart kids is both a blessing and a curse. Having healthy competition is one thing but believing that some kids can do well in these type of schools is completely dreamed up by the parents since most colleges only take top 1% or top 5% of the class and so even if your kid has the chance being in a top school s/he has little chance of actually enrolling elsewhere.

The stereotype is that magnet schools are surrounded by middle to upper-middle class households who are rich enough to afford living next to the school and to provide other support for the child such as SAT preparation and after school classes.

The converse of magnet schools are feeder schools, where the students at these feeder high school perform so poorly that even mediocre kids can look like they're excelling on paper. Again, this is subjective thinking from parents who believe that if their ultra-smart kid can be placed into these less academically inclined schools they won't have to do much to be top 1%, but that theory fails if you don't have adequate grades, SAT scores, extra-curricular activities and other "personality" factor to back up your application to college.

The stereotype is that magnet schools are usually schools who traditionally were built to meet the needs of a more WASP-like community but was quickly over-run by immigrant families from elsewhere or out of the country. Traditionally schools with a higher percentage of Asian students have successfully inflated their test scores enough to draw people in. Feeder schools are typically stereotyped to be for either African-Americans or Hispanic-Americans.

Again, this is just the stereotype and it might or might not be true but the theory is holding itself up at least here in California.

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