Access and programs in magnet schools: A complex puzzle

Margaret Gubitosa Garofalo, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to examine the design and early implementation of a magnet school model in an urban district with a focus on access and programs. Magnet schools were created to increase student interest and motivation and expand educational programs for school improvement. Admission/selection procedures, dissemination of information and parental involvement in program choices were reviewed. Equity, effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction were the lens used to determine if magnet schools are working for central office, principals, teachers, and parents. Qualitative methodology was employed and the research was done in six selected K-5 schools. Interviews with central office personnel, principals, teachers, and parents were the basis for data collection and analysis. Findings illustrate how visionary leadership, coupled with widespread inclusiveness of all constituents, appeared to increase motivation and creativity for principals and teachers. Parents, principals, and teachers were all choosers by design. Well-defined policies were incorporated to inform parents about admission procedures and programs and to evaluate and modify magnet schools. A "first come-first served" policy was employed to increase equity of access and special needs students were given priority placement. Standardized time blocks for core curriculum were required to increase program equity. Attitudinal changes about magnet schools, student behavior, abilities of special needs students, and professional efficacy were apparent. Most informants showed increased satisfaction and were refocused, recommitted, and revitalized. Several conclusions were drawn about magnet schools as a vehicle for school reform. A magnet model may achieve more equity of access when interest is the only criterion and applications are screened solely by submission date. Additionally, the inclusion and priority placement of special needs students further increase equity of access. Furthermore, increase of program equity is possible when core curriculum remains standard and enriched through themes. The change to magnet schools is more likely to gain support and acceptance when all constituents are included early in design and implementation. Perhaps the most significant conclusion is that, through leadership that supports choice for all, the magnet model has the potential of revitalizing a district beset with problems.

Subject Area

School administration|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Garofalo, Margaret Gubitosa, "Access and programs in magnet schools: A complex puzzle" (1997). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9809002.