Magnet schools find a renewed embrace in cities

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Nearly five decades ago, as racial tension raged in cities, magnet schools were introduced here and elsewhere as an alternative to court-ordered busing in the hope that specialized theme schools would slow white flight and offer options to racial minorities zoned for low-performing schools.

Magnet schools never quite delivered on that desegregation promise, and in the past couple of decades they have largely fallen off the radar. But in this multiracial city — and, increasingly, in other urban districts including Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Newark and Washington — public school leaders are refocusing on the idea as traditional public schools come under increasing pressure from charter schools and vouchers for private schools.

The number of children in Miami-Dade County attending magnet programs — which admit students from anywhere in the district and focus on themes like art, law or technology — has grown by 35 percent in the past four years. These children now account for about one in six students in the district.

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