Innovations in Education: Creating Successful Magnet School Programs
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I am pleased to introduce the fourth publication in the Innovations in Education series: Creating Successful Magnet Schools Programs. This series, published by my Department's Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), identifies concrete, real-world examples of innovations in six important areas: public school choice, supplemental educational services, charter schools, magnet schools, alternative teacher certification, and routes to school leadership.

Some might argue that magnet schools hardly qualify as innovations. After all, they have been around for almost 40 years, when they were first introduced as a vehicle to increase racial integration and reduce minority group isolation in our schools. For a long time, they were the dominant form of public school choice in America. In many communities, magnets are the highest-performing schools in the system. From our perspective, while magnet schools continue to help schools address the purposes for which they were originally designed, they have taken on a new and promising dimension under No Child Left Behind: to provide additional options to children whose current schools are in need of improvement, and to serve as laboratories of successful educational practice.

As is the case with the implementation of any education reform initiative, no one is doing everything 100 percent right and no one has "all the answers." Within these pages, we have identified six school districts whose successful magnet programs offer a range of contexts, experiences, and perspectives that we hope will be helpful to others. The districts featured include two whose experience in implementing magnet schools spans more than a quarter century and one whose magnet schools experience began four short years ago. While all of these school districts have received support through the federal Magnet Schools Assistance Program at one time or another, all have also demonstrated a capacity to sustain their schools after the federal funding ended. While working to decrease minority group isolation and offer innovative programs to children and parents, they have kept their primary focus on the ultimate goal of increasing student achievement. And perhaps most importantly, they have developed a way of doing business that allows them to continuously improve over the years.

While these districts should not be seen as "models," and while the case study methodology used herein does not provide the type of information about cause-and-effect that scientifically based research does, we do hope that other school districts can learn from the examples in this book. The common sense "promising practices" described in these chapters can help districts take their magnet school programs to the next level.

This booklet also fulfills the Congressional mandate within Section 5310(c) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as reauthorized by No Child Left Behind, to "collect and disseminate to the general public information on successful magnet school programs."

I congratulate the districts highlighted in this book, and express my strong hope that other districts will be able to learn from their experiences and emulate their successes.

Rod Paige, U.S. Secretary of Education

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Last Modified: 08/08/2006