On May 9, with very little fanfare, the LAUSD school board approved the creation of 35 new magnets for the 2018-19 school year.
That is a huge jump.
The district added only 14 new magnets in 2016, and 13 in 2017. Adding 35 magnets substantially increases the magnet student spots. It will open approximately 7,778 magnet spots over the upcoming years.
This subject is very personal to me, and I will admit my personal bias. I went to LAUSD magnet schools from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Now, I am a magnet teacher in LAUSD. I have great things to say about the magnet program.
But I am just curious who my new neighbors are.
Interestingly, there are clusters of new magnets in several spots. Winnetka is getting 4 new magnets, North Hollywood/Valley Glen is getting 3, Highland Park is getting 3. This suggests that schools might have been looking around and say “Hey – if they get a magnet, we should probably get a magnet, too” in order to stay competitive.
Local Districts South and Central are getting the most new magnet seats, while East and West have the fewest new seats. This is not to say that West or East has less magnets – just that they aren’t opening up new ones.
Every magnet also has a theme – a guiding emphasis that brings the school together. When it comes to the theme for these new magnets, the trend toward STEM, STEAM, DREAMS continues (Yes, DREAMS may be the greatest acronym of all time – Design, Research, Engineering, Arts, Math and Science).
Public Service comes in a close second, but only because many of the Public Service Magnets are actually STEM schools in disguise – Medicine and Health foci get lumped in with Public Service, and not STEM.
But will adding all these magnets have a substantial change on student outcomes? There are arguments to be made for either side. Magnets have consistently outperformed their residential school, but as a recent commenter on my blog pointed out, that may be due to a selection bias.
To put my own opinion in here, I don’t really care if there is a selection bias. Here’s why:
We need to go back to basics when we talk about magnets. Magnets are an integration program. They are designed to encourage parents of different backgrounds to send their kids to school together. It is opt-in bussing. And when parents opt-in to bussing, of course there is a selection bias. That is kind of the point – to find those parents who are progressive enough to say “yeah, its cool if my student gets exposed to other cultures that I may not be familiar with.”
So when people ask me my thoughts on magnets, I generally turn it back around and say, “what are your thoughts on integration and bussing?” If you can opt-in to that conversation, then these 35 schools might be the right place for you.