Document Type

Research Report

Original Publication Date


Date of Submission

June 2016


The purpose of the review is to consider the fairness of admissions processes related to magnet schools and specialty centers. Are criteria appropriate? Is there an under-representation of minority/low socioeconomic groups in such schools and programs? If so, what built-in and unforeseen bias exists in the admissions process? Finally, are there examples of programs that are overcoming these admissions-related problems and, if so, what can be learned from them?

There is some conceptual muddle as to whether magnet schools and specialty centers “work.” In order to know what is meant by “work”, relevant terms must be clarified and aims must be clearly articulated. A rough definition of magnet schools/specialty centers is needed to serve as a point of departure. Thus, for the sake of the early part of this literature review, magnet schools/specialty centers can be thought of as public schools or programs featuring a particular theme or focus, where students can choose to attend (making this decision along with their families). With the central terms very crudely and temporarily clarified, we can now turn to aims. There are two main aims evident in literature on magnet schools/specialty centers, namely that of racial integration and academic achievement. It seems that we have stumbled onto another battlefield in the long running educational war of equity vs. excellence, with racial integration representing equity and academic achievement standing in for excellence.

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