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Magnet Schools and the Quest for Equity

  • Author(s): Adams, Nicole
  • Advisor(s): Van Vooren, Carol
  • et al.
Abstract

This mixed methods case study explores the role of magnet schools as a vehicle to promote integration and increase educational opportunity for historically underserved students in the U.S. public education system. Magnet schools were introduced in the 1970s and remain the most popular school choice option. Critics of magnet-based school choice contend that it exacerbates racial and social stratification, while proponents argue that it provides parents with the freedom to choose the school they believe offers their child the best education. The literature reveals two key facets associated with parent choice, factors and processes (Smrekar & Honey, 2015; Bell, 2009). This study explored the factors the research indicates have a major impact on parent choice and used bounded rationality and social capital theories to examine ways of understanding the decision-making process. The research indicates that parents identify academics to be the most significant school characteristic taken into consideration and reveals that race and school demographics may play more of an integral role than previously acknowledged (Smrekar & Honey, 2015). Moreover, the literature demonstrates that the selection process is complex and largely dependent on the context of the school and district (Smrekar & Honey, 2015). Key findings of this study were in alignment with the current literature. This study also included a review of magnet school admissions criteria and utilized critical race theory as a lens through which to examine and identify certain elements of district policies and practices that promoted equity and diversity.

Keywords: school choice, magnet schools, parent choice, admissions criteria, social capital, parental networks

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