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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

March 2020


What research is available on district-level enrollment priority practices for equitable access to academic programming (e.g., magnet schools)?


Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports, descriptive studies and policy overviews on district-level enrollment priority practices for equitable access to academic programing. In particular, we focused on identifying resources related to magnet school enrollment policy. For details on the databases and sources, keywords, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

Anderson, K. P. (2017). Evidence on charter school practices related to student enrollment and retention. Journal of School Choice, 11(4), 527–545. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Opponents of charter schools argue these schools ‘cream-skim’ the best students from traditional public schools and push out hard-to-educate students. This paper reviews 22 studies of enrollment issues related to student achievement, special education status, English proficiency, and student discipline in US charter schools. Of the 22 studies, nine use student level data to rigorously test for evidence of strategic enrollment. While the charter sector as a whole tends to serve fewer special education students and English language learners, there is much within-sector variation. Overall, there is very little evidence of systematic ‘cream-skimming’ or ‘push-out’ in US charter schools.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Arcia, E. (2006). Comparison of the enrollment percentages of magnet and non-magnet schools in a large urban school district. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 14(33), 1–16. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Are magnet schools in a position to meet diversity ideals? As districts are declared unitary and released from court ordered desegregation, many are framing their commitments to fairness and equity in terms of diversity—i.e., comparable rates of participation and comparable educational outcomes in all segments the student population. In this study, the enrollment statistics for magnet and contiguous non-magnet public schools in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, a large, urban district that had been released from court ordered desegregation, were compared to each other and to district enrollment averages at two time points: the year the district was declared unitary and four years hence. Findings indicated that within four years of being declared unitary, the gains that the magnet schools had made with regards to Black/non-Black desegregation had eroded substantially. Also, in the four year span, magnet schools had not made significant strides in meeting the diversity ideals adopted by the district at being released from supervision by the court. These findings highlight the difficulty of attaining diversity in student enrollment characteristics when quotas are not used and suggest that recruitment and enrollment policies must be crafted with care if districts are to achieve diversity goals.”

Ayscue, J. B. (2013). Settle for segregation or strive for diversity? A defining moment for Maryland’s public schools. Los Angeles, CA: Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Maryland, as one of 17 states that had de jure segregation, has an intense history of school segregation. Following the 1954 Brown decision, school districts across the state employed various methods to desegregate their schools, including mandatory busing in Prince George’s County, magnet schools in Montgomery County, and a freedom of choice plan in Baltimore. Although the districts made some progress in desegregating their schools, after plans that had the explicit goal of decreasing segregation ended, many of the schools in Maryland again reached high levels of segregation. This report investigates trends in school segregation in Maryland over the last two decades by examining concentration, exposure, and evenness measures by both race and class. After exploring the overall enrollment patterns and segregation trends at the state level, this report turns to the Baltimore-Washington CMSA to analyze similar measures of segregation. Given the trends presented in this report, it is likely that segregation will continue to intensify if nothing is done to address it. Having already reached high levels of segregation for the state’s students of color, it is necessary that Maryland now take steps to reverse these trends by being proactive in addressing the segregated nature of its public schools.”

Ayscue, J., Levy, R., Siegel-Hawley, G., & Woodward, B. (2017). Choices worth making: Creating, sustaining and expanding diverse magnet schools. Los Angeles, CA: Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The purpose of this manual is to support school districts and schools in developing diverse and equitable magnet programs. It is intended to help stakeholders during the planning phases of developing new magnet schools or during the revision or expansion of existing magnet schools. The manual focuses on: (1) Why districts should consider intentionally diverse magnets; (2) Evidence for intentionally diverse magnets; (3) The background of magnet schools; (4) Developing a diverse and equitable magnet school; (5) First door strategies to enroll a diverse student body; (6) Second door strategies to facilitate successful integration of diverse student groups; (7) Sustaining a magnet school; and (8) How to build political will for diverse and equitable magnet schools.”

Ayscue, J. B., & Siegel-Hawley, G. (2019). Magnets and school turnarounds: Revisiting policies for promoting equitable, diverse schools. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 27(72). Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This case study examines how magnet school and school turnaround processes can work together to promote desegregation and improvement. Based on cross-case analysis of three magnet schools undergoing turnarounds, this study draws on data from the 2010 federal Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant and qualitative fieldwork through observations, interviews, and focus groups. In academically struggling schools with high concentrations of students of color and low-income students, successful magnet turnarounds involve changes across many aspects of the schools. While the local context is essential for shaping the magnet turnaround process, these three schools reveal common ways in which participants viewed their schools as successful turnarounds, the elements that supported success, and the challenges that magnets undergoing a turnaround are likely to face. Participants’ perceptions of a successful turnaround were based on increasing family interest and increasing racial and economic diversity, as well as improvements in curriculum and instruction, school culture, and academic achievement. This study helps broaden our definition of a school turnaround beyond higher test scores and reminds us of the origins of the concept, which revolved around desegregation. Lessons from the sites suggest that rather than closing underperforming or under-enrolled schools, districts should consider magnet schools as a turnaround approach.”

Ayscue, J. B., Siegel-Hawley, G., Kucsera, J., & Woodward, B. (2018). School segregation and resegregation in Charlotte and Raleigh, 1989-2010. Educational Policy, 32(1), 3–54. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Desegregated schools are linked to educational and social advantages whereas myriad harms are connected to segregated schools, yet the emphasis on school desegregation has recently receded in two North Carolina city-suburban school districts historically touted for their far-reaching efforts: Charlotte and Raleigh. In this article, we use cross-case analysis to explore segregation outcomes associated with policy changes by analyzing enrollment and segregation trends from 1989 to 2010 in metro Charlotte and metro Raleigh. Both Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake County school systems are experiencing a growing share of intensely segregated schools, decreasing exposure of Black and Latino students to White students, disproportionately large exposure of Black and Latino students to poor students, and an increase in segregated charters. Segregation in the districts surrounding Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake County is less extreme. An understanding of how policies have contributed to segregation patterns in both metros informs future education reform efforts.”

Betts, J., Kitmitto, S., Levin, J., Bos, J., & Eaton, M. (2015). What happens when schools become magnet schools? A longitudinal study of diversity and achievement. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Magnet schools hold a prominent place in the history of education reforms in the United States. Best known for offering unique programs or curricula to attract students from outside a school’s neighborhood, many magnet schools started off as neighborhood public schools but converted with the goals of increasing student diversity and achievement. These goals remain important to policymakers and educators today, so there is interest in understanding what happens to converting schools, including those funded under the U.S. Department of Education’s Magnet School Assistance Program (MSAP). This report describes the results of a descriptive study of 21 MSAP-supported elementary schools. The study collected data on these schools for several years before and after their magnet conversion, to see how their student body composition and academic achievement changed over time. The group of schools contained 17 that converted to become what might be called ‘traditional’ magnet schools and another 4 that converted to become ‘destination’ magnet schools. Key findings on the schools using the two conversion approaches include: (1) When measured against district changes, both types of magnet schools experienced some changes in diversity in the expected direction; (2) Achievement in the traditional magnet schools was higher after conversion, outpacing district changes in English language arts (ELA) but not in mathematics; achievement in destination magnet schools did not change, while their districts improved over the conversion period; and (3) There is not evidence that magnet conversion itself played a role in the study schools’ diversity or achievement, with the exception of the decline in the concentration of minority students in traditional magnet schools.”

Burgoyne-Allen, P., O’Keefe, B., & Schiess, J. O. (2019). Intersection ahead: School transportation, school integration, and school choice. Sudbury, MA: Bellwether Education Partners. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This brief examines school integration and school choice through the lens of school transportation. It first provides a brief history of the role transportation has played in integration and choice policies. It then dives into three examples of initiatives that combine choice and integration, and the challenges they pose for transportation, including: (1) Magnet schools, which bring students together across neighborhoods or districts, introducing challenges for equitable and efficient transportation services; (2) Diverse-by-design charter schools, which commit to student diversity in their mission or design, but face transportation barriers around funding, economies of scale, and logistics common to other charter schools; and (3) Controlled choice district enrollment, which allows families to rank school choices while adjusting for school diversity in some way, and tries to make travel times and routes to school manageable for families and for buses. Often school transportation systems are an afterthought in policy conversations around complex topics like integration and choice, to the detriment of students and district budgets alike. Through smart policy choices and planning, it is possible for states, districts, and schools to tackle this challenge and focus on equity in school transportation.”

Darling-Hammond, L., Rothman, R., & Cookson, P. W., Jr. (2017). Expanding high-quality educational options for all students. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “‘For many years, states and the federal government have been creating a range of schooling options for students, and the focus of the new administration on expanding choice is likely to accelerate this trend. Although the term ‘choice’ is often associated with privately governed charter schools or private school voucher proposals, the vast majority of schools of choice are operated by public school districts. Expansions of choice have produced many positive opportunities for children, but evidence shows that simply providing choices does not automatically provide high-quality options that are accessible to all students or improve student learning. This report examines the status of current educational options for U.S. students and what state policymakers can do to create high-quality opportunities that offer each family a system of schools worth choosing.”

Davis, J. (2013). School choice in the states: A policy landscape. Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The question of whether and how to offer students the option of attending a school other than the one assigned by their residence is a hotly debated issue with substantial implications for policymaking. Whether pursued as an effort to increase the availability of high-quality options in communities without equal access; to drive improvement through marketplace competition; or to promote individual liberty, school choice options are undoubtedly increasing across America. Yet in the midst of expansion, the body of research literature suggests that the impact of school choice programs on outcomes—such as student success, school and community composition, and system improvement—is poorly understood and can vary greatly across programs. Some research shows positive effects, while other research shows negative effects or unintended consequences. Numerous studies show no generalizable effects, suggesting that outcomes heavily depend on context and policy design. Therefore, in order to support its member chief state school officers in making critical decisions about school choice policies, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) has undertaken an effort to encourage the discussion of school choice policies across its membership. As an initial follow-up to its recent policy statement on school choice (below), CCSSO has attempted to address the often-asked question ‘What are other states doing?’ by creating an ideologically-agnostic landscape analysis of school choice policies across the states. By highlighting policy coverage and characteristics from best available data across the states and for the full spectrum of existing school choice options, the paper intends to help chiefs contextualize their policy sets within national trends. The paper does not attempt to comment on which policy sets are ‘right,’ nor does it answer questions about outcomes or consequences. Nevertheless, the policy landscape provides a knowledge base upon which subsequent inquiry can occur.”

Davis, T. M. (2014). School choice and segregation: “Tracking” racial equity in magnet schools. Education and Urban Society, 46(4), 399–433. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Three arguments regarding racial equity have arisen in the school choice debate. Choice advocates charge that choice will improve access to quality schools for disadvantaged minority students (Chubb & Moe 1990; Coons & Sugarman, 1978; Godwin & Kemerer, 2002; Viteritti, 1999). Critics argue that choice is unlikely to benefit minority students, but they are divided as to why this may be the case. Some maintain that unfettered choice leads to racial segregation (Henig, 1996; Mickelson, 2005; Saporito, 2003); others maintain that while choice may be successful in reducing segregation at the building level, choice programs may be problematic to the extent that they segregate schools at the classroom level (Wells & Crain, 1997; Wells, Holme, & Vasudeva, 2000; Wells & Roda, 2009; West, 1994). I use data from the eighth-grade wave of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study to examine these questions. Results indicate that the racial composition of magnet schools is not statistically different from regular public schools; however, magnet schools are more heterogeneous at the classroom level, but only with respect to White/Hispanic racial composition. In particular, honors classes in magnet schools are significantly more diverse than honors classes in regular public schools, but only with regard to White/Hispanic diversity.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Gross. B., & Campbell, C. (2017). A guide to unifying enrollment: The what, why, and how for those considering it. Seattle, WA: Center on Reinventing Public Education. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “As urban education landscapes grow more complex, families need help making sense of their public school options, both district and charter. To assist with this process, some cities have launched unified enrollment systems, providing a common timeline for procedures, common application materials, centralized mechanisms to match students to schools, and comprehensive information systems that explain the process and list participating schools. Roughly half a dozen cities have unified their enrollment systems and continue to refine them, with others starting to follow their lead. This guide helps city education leaders better understand the benefits and costs of a fully unified enrollment system. It outlines the questions decision-makers should ask before initiating enrollment system changes that affect families and both district and charter schools. Given that education, governance, and political landscapes vary significantly across cities, each city’s effort will begin at different points along a spectrum and will look different as it progresses. This guide was inspired by the questions commonly asked by cities considering changes to their enrollment systems and draws from CRPE research on several cities at different stages of implementation.”

Holme, J. J., Frankenberg, E., Diem, S., & Welton, A. D. (2013). School choice in suburbia: The impact of choice policies on the potential for suburban integration. Journal of School Choice, 7(2), 113–141. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The bulk of research on the implementation of school choice policies has focused on how choice has been implemented in urban school systems. As of 2007, however, suburban students comprised more than one fourth (29%) of all students engaging in some form of public school choice in the United States. This article examines the implementation of choice in suburban school districts that have been rapidly diversifying, with a focus on how school choice policy relates to—or has interacted with—levels of school segregation within the three districts under study. The findings illustrate how school choice policies, as designed and implemented in these three suburban school districts, have contributed to segregation in these contexts.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Jabbar, H., Fong, C. J., Germain, E., Li, D., Sanchez, J., Sun, W. L., et al. (2019). The competitive effects of school choice on student achievement: A systematic review. Educational Policy, 0895904819874756. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “School-choice policies are expected to generate healthy competition between schools, leading to improvements in school quality and better outcomes for students. However, the empirical literature testing this assumption yields mixed findings. This systematic review and meta-analysis tests this theory by synthesizing the empirical literature on the competitive effects of school choice on student achievement. Overall, we found small positive effects of competition on student achievement. We also found some evidence that the type of school-choice policy and student demographics moderated the effects of competition on student achievement. By examining whether school competition improves outcomes, our findings can inform decisions of state and local policymakers who have adopted or are considering adopting school-choice reforms.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Orfield, G., & Frankenberg, E. (2011). Diversity and educational gains: A plan for a changing county and its schools. Los Angeles, CA: Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This report is a response to the Jefferson County School Board’s request for an independent study of the best way to carry successfully into the future its long-term commitment to diversity in its schools. The Board’s first principle is preservation of diversity in the schools. The authors’ assignment from the board was two-fold: to build on the long-term commitment to diverse schools through a student assignment plan that provides broad family choice, and to recommend ways to improve the plan. This report is the authors’ response to that request. Their basic conclusion is that it is possible to have a higher level of diversity than is provided by the current plan, to provide choices for families much closer to home, to prevent disruption of students currently happy in their existing schools, and to accomplish this at less long-term cost than the current plan. Further recommendations relate to moving beyond school level diversity to genuinely equal opportunity within diverse schools, to more fully realizing the potential educational values of diversity and choice through staff development and accountability, and to improving the school choice process by providing better information and easier processes of exercising informed choice than are available under the current plan. The authors believe that the elementary plan can be sharply improved next fall and that review of magnets and the assignment plans for the upper grades can be accomplished the following year. They also believe that the school district needs, and is entitled to, help from housing agencies and local government, whose decisions have increased rather than minimized the challenges the school board faces. They suggest long-term improvements in enrollment management, transportation, and continuous evaluation that could provide tools to make the district more efficient and effective in important ways. From the standpoint of district parents, the authors propose to offer every family a set of choices with much better instant on-line information, a guarantee that no one will be assigned to a long bus ride, more efficient transportation, and a very serious effort to assure equal treatment for students of all backgrounds, more access to challenging academic programs, and good relations among students in the schools where they are assigned. By the second year, there would be a strengthening of magnet programs and special enrollment preference for the district’s most stably integrated communities. The great majority of parents who submitted an on-time application received their first choice of schools this year and the authors expect that that would continue. There would be a strong emphasis on transparency and accountability, including an annual report on compliance and progress toward district goals.”

Phillippo, K., Griffin, B., Dotto, B. J. D., Castro, D., & Nagi, E. (2019). School choice, youth voice: How diverse student policy actors experience high school choice policy. Educational Policy, 0895904819843589. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “School choice research is abundant, but rarely incorporates students’ experiences or perspectives. This study investigates a diverse group of students’ school choice experiences as they applied to, gained admission to and enrolled in high school in Chicago Public Schools, which offers over 130 options. Adapting Ball and colleagues’ (2012) concept of policy actor positionality, we analyzed the role of students’ developmental and social statuses in students’ school choice experiences. Students’ policy encounters were developmentally consistent, but their admissions results and subsequent academic trajectories diverged by their socioeconomic status. We discuss these findings’ developmental and equity implications for school choice policy.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems

Riel, V., Parcel, T. L., Mickelson, R. A., & Smith, S. S. (2018). Do magnet and charter schools exacerbate or ameliorate inequality?. Sociology Compass, 12(9), e12617. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “School choice typically refers to opportunities to enroll youth in public and/or private educational alternatives to traditional neighborhood public schools. While these options continue to grow in the United States under the umbrella of school choice, magnet and charter schools are the most common forms of public school choice. In this article, we review the development of school choice and the differing historical and philosophical origins of magnet and charter schools. We then summarize what we know about the extent to which these public choice options exacerbate or ameliorate two forms of inequality—academic achievement and school segregation by race and class. Research suggests that magnet schools often encourage racial and class diversity, while charters contribute to racial and socioeconomic isolation. While lowÔÇÉincome minority students may benefit academically from attending magnet schools, it is unclear whether charter schools have any effect on achievement when comparing charter school students to their counterparts in traditional public school. We expect that continued growth of magnet schools will likely promote school diversity both within and between districts, though some types of magnets may also inadvertently promote segregation. However, expansion of the charter school sector will heighten school segregation and exacerbate racial and socioeconomic isolation.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Siegel-Hawley, G., & Frankenberg, E. (2012). Reviving magnet schools: Strengthening a successful choice option (A research brief). Los Angeles, CA: Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Magnet schools make up the largest system of choice in the U.S. They were originally conceived to accomplish the twin goals of innovation and integration. Over the years, however, the integrative mission of magnet programs has somewhat receded, particularly during the second Bush Administration. Meanwhile, political and financial support has focused on the rapidly expanding charter school sector, even as research has suggested that charters are not, on average, performing better than regular public schools. This policy brief refocuses the attention on the more longstanding magnet sector. It is issued during a time of complex political and legal circumstances and seeks to understand how a variety of factors—including the ‘Parents Involved’ ruling and the transition to a U.S. Department of Education led by the Obama Administration—have influenced federally-funded magnet programs. Data from a 2011 survey of magnet school leaders indicates that magnet schools are continuing to evolve. Significant differences emerged between the two most recent magnet-funding cycles, the first overseen by the Bush Administration (in the midst of the ‘Parents Involved’ decision) and the second by Obama’s Department of Education. Respondents connected to the 2010-2013 funding cycle indicated that their magnet programs were associated with more inclusive admissions processes, a resurgence of interest in pursuing racially diverse enrollments and an increased willingness to allow out-of-district students to attend magnet programs. Respondents from all federal funding cycles reported that their magnet schools were linked to evidence of heightened academic achievement, very high levels of demand and self-sustaining programs (i.e. the magnet school or program continued to flourish after the funding cycle ended). While the respondent pool was not large, and though federally funded magnets are simply a subset of all magnet programs, the data highlight early signs of what may be an important shift towards the original goals of the magnet concept. Survey participants also underscored the ongoing popularity and success of their magnet programs. More research is, of course, needed, but all of these trends indicate that it is important to continue to provide support for the magnet school sector, and to include equalizing federal funding for magnet and charter school programs as part of a federal policy agenda focused on innovation ‘and’ equity.”

Swanson, E. (2017). Can we have it all? A review of the impacts of school choice on racial integration. Journal of School Choice, 11(4), 507–526. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This article reviews the literature evaluating the impact of school choice programs on racial integration. Evidence on the impacts of magnet schools, voluntary busing programs, open enrollment practices, charter schools, and voucher programs is reviewed. The literature is mixed on this question, finding that the impacts of choice on racial integration are highly context-specific and varies across regions and type of choice.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Tefera, A., Frankenberg, E., Siegel-Hawley, G., & Chirichigno, G. (2011). Integrating suburban schools: How to benefit from growing diversity and avoid segregation. Los Angeles, CA: Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This manual was written to help guide education stakeholders—including parents, students, school board members, community activists, administrators, policymakers and attorneys—in their efforts to promote racial diversity and avoid racial isolation in suburban school systems. Critical information on the current legal, political and policy issues that inform those efforts is provided. It first addresses the critical importance of creating diverse learning environments in racially changing suburban school districts. The manual then addresses the legal landscape governing school integration policy, in addition to outlining general principles for creating racially diverse schools. It also examines the vital role that teachers and administrators play in building successfully integrated schools and classrooms. The second half of the manual includes a number of specific examples of suburban school districts experimenting with strategies to promote integrated schools. The authors dedicate the final chapter to describing methods for building the political will in communities for voluntary integration policies. A list of further reading materials is provided at the end of each section. The appendix contains an extensive list of education and legal resources that may further assist in the reader’s voluntary integration efforts. Fact sheets on magnet schools, redistricting, social science findings about school integration, the state of segregation, and transportation are also included.”

Vasquez Heilig, J., Brewer, T. J., & Williams, Y. (2019). Choice without inclusion?: Comparing the intensity of racial segregation in charters and public schools at the local, state and national levels. Education Sciences, 9(3), 205. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “We conduct descriptive and inferential analyses of publicly available Common Core of Data (CCD) to examine segregation at the local, state, and national levels. Nationally, we find that higher percentages of charter students of every race attend intensely segregated schools. The highest levels of racial isolation are at the primary level for public and middle level for charters. We find that double segregation by race and class is higher in charter schools. Charters are more likely to be segregated, even when controlling for local ethno-racial demographics. A majority of states have at least half of Blacks and a third of Latinx in intensely segregated charters. At the city level, we find that higher percentages of urban charter students were attending intensely segregated schools.”

Wang, J., Herman, J. L., & Dockterman, D. (2018). A research synthesis of magnet school effect on student outcomes: Beyond descriptive studies. Journal of School Choice, 12(2), 157–180. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Characterized by thematic instructional programs and voluntary enrollment, magnet schools are often the result of a neighborhood schooling effort to increase racial integration and academic achievement. With the continued expansion of magnet schools, it is critical that stakeholders have a comprehensive research synthesis of their potential impact. This article reviews and aggregates findings from 18 studies that evaluate magnet schools’ influence on student outcomes. Emphasis is given to the results of lottery-based studies and those utilizing prior achievement and demographic controls. Though results across studies vary substantially, effects are generally positive, particularly for magnet secondary schools.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Wang, J., Herman, J., Fox, R., & Buchanan, N. (2017). Magnet schools: History, description, and effects. In R. A. Fox & N. K. Buchanan (Eds.), The Wiley handbook of school choice (pp. 158–179). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “The mission and reach of magnet schools has evolved in the nearly 50 years since they have been part of the educational landscape, as has the research base supporting them. The accumulated research evidence shows mixed results whether the issue be effects on desegregation or effects on student outcomes. Likewise, studies on magnet school implementation is notably absent. Considering the prominent role magnet schools play in serving many poor, minority students, defining an effective magnet school model is of great importance in the creation and sustainability of high-quality magnet schools that serve relatively higher concentrations of segregated racial minorities than regular public schools.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Wang, J., Schweig, J. D., & Herman, J. L. (2017). Is there a magnet-school effect? A multisite study of MSAP-funded magnet schools. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 22(2), 77–99. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Magnet schools are one of the largest sectors of choice schools in the United States. In this study, we explored the heterogeneity in magnet-school effects on student achievement by examining 24 magnet schools, funded under the Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP), in 5 school districts across 4 states. The magnet effects were synthesized across schools with a multilevel variance-known analysis, using the school-level effects estimated with a propensity score matched regression approach. Results indicated significant variation in magnet effects on student outcomes, with some magnet schools showing positive effects, and others showing negative effects. This variation can be explained by program implementation and magnet support.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Additional Organizations to Consult

Magnet Schools of America –

From the website: “MSA is a national nonprofit professional education association whose members are schools and school districts. The association represents and, is a resource to, magnet schools, parents, teachers, school boards, administrators, business leaders, community organizations and institutions of higher education. Our mission is providing leadership for high quality innovative programs that promote choice equity, diversity, and academic excellence for all students.”

National Coalition on School Diversity –

From the website: “The National Coalition on School Diversity (NCSD) is [a] national network supporting a diverse group of constituents to advocate for and create experiences, practices, models, and policies that promote school diversity/integration and reduce racial and economic isolation in K-12 education. The work is guided by a vision of an inclusive, multiracial society that maintains itself through just social structures.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • “Magnet schools”

  • “Magnet schools” enrollment

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2005 to present, were included in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Midwest) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.