Purposes: To provide financial assistance to eligible local education agencies (LEAs) to support l) the elimination, reduction, or prevention of minority group isolation in elementary and secondary schools with substantial proportions of minority students; and 2) courses of instruction within magnet schools that will substantially strengthen the knowledge of academic subjects and marketable vocational skills of students attending these schools.
The Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) supports more than 400 magnet schools each year, about 16 percent of the nation's estimated 2,400 magnet schools. The number of magnet schools in general has more than doubled over the past decade, from about 1,000 in 1981-82 (II77I.3) to 2,400 in 1991-92 (III.1). Of districts receiving MSAP funding, 39 percent77 used that funding to start new magnet school programs, and an additional 39 percent used it to add new magnet schools to their programs (other districts used their MSAP grants for progr77am enhancement and improvement). Magnet school programs were more extensive in districts that received Federal funding, with 30 percent of schools in funded districts being ma77gnets, compared to 21 percent of schools in non-funded districts. Most MSAP grantees 77(87 percent) continue to maintain their magnet school programs, although with some reductions in teachers and supplies, after their Federal funding ended (III.1).
MSAP funds are targeted primarily to large urban school districts with high proportions of minority and low-income students. Large urban school districts enroll 25 percent of the nation's students, but they receive 82 percent of all MSAP funds. Predominantly minority districts (where more than 50 percent of students are minority) enroll 30 percent of all students but receive 76 percent of MSAP funds. High-poverty school districts (where more than 50 percent of students receive free or reduced price lunches) enroll 19 percent of all students but receive 53 percent of MSAP funds. Districts receiving MSAP funds are also more likely to be large urban, predominantly minority, and high-poverty districts than are magnet districts generally (III.1).
MSAP-supported magnet schools were more likely to be whole-school dedicated magnets, where every student in the school has applied to participate in the magnet program (37 percent) than were non-funded magnets (25 percent); MSAP-funded magnet programs were less likely to be programs-within-schools (37 percent) than were other magnets (51 percent) (III.1). Critics have charged that some programs-within-schools may segregate students of different social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds by keeping students in the magnet program separate from other students in the school; whole-school approaches may be more likely to maximize contact among all groups of students in the school.
School districts may use MSAP funds for 1) planning and promoting activities directly related to the expansion, continuation, or enhancement of academic programs and services offered at magnet schools; 2) purchasing books, materials, and equipment (including computers) and paying for the maintenance and operation of such equipment in magnet school programs that is necessary for the conduct of the magnet programs and directly related to improving the knowledge of math, science, history, English, foreign languages, art, or music, or improving vocational skills; and 3) paying the salaries of licensed or certified elementary and secondary school teachers in magnet schools.
The most frequently reported uses of MSAP funds were purchasing special equipment (100 percent of grantees) and special materials (97 percent), staff development (95 percent), hiring teachers (93 percent), outreach (85 percent), and planning (73 percent) (III.1).
MSAP-funded districts have more extensive outreach efforts designed to encourage and facilitate student participation in magnet programs than do other magnet districts. MSAP-funded districts are more likely to make group presentations, mail information to all parents in the district, and to provide transportation to enable students to tour the magnet schools (III.1).
In FY 1993, there were 57 awards to LEAs in 25 States. Grants ranged from $287,012 to $3,599,943 (III.2).
A 1989 report (III.4) that synthesized research findings [including the 1983 study (III.3)] on educational outcomes of magnet schools in 12 large urban districts presented evidence that magnet high schools advance student learning. Studies comparing average test scores for magnet and nonmagnet schools showed that magnet schools were associated with improved student outcomes, when prior achievement and student background were taken into account. The strongest effects on achievement were in specific subjects and the size of the magnet effects vary by school and by grade (III.4).