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Here's why you should consider a magnet school for your child

Posted February 4, 2020 5:00 a.m. EST
Updated February 4, 2020 11:37 a.m. EST

"Magnet schools give students an opportunity to explore a new interest or to cultivate an existing interest," said Tamani Anderson Powell, the director of marketing and communications for the Office of Magnet and Curriculum Enhancement with the Wake County Public School System. (Photo Courtesy of Wake County Public School System)

This article was written for our sponsor, Wake County Public School System.

As you begin to shop for schools for your pre-kindergarten-age child, the options can seem never ending and overwhelming. When it comes to the benefits that an elementary school can provide, consider a magnet school and all that it can offer your child both socially and academically.

The Drawing Power of Magnet Schools

Working much like a physical magnet, magnet schools draw students from an entire county or a defined geographical area rather than accepting only those students who live in geographical proximity to a school, as traditional public schools do. By attracting students from a wider geographical area, magnet schools typically have a more culturally and socioeconomically diverse student body than traditional schools.

So, what gives magnet schools their unique ability to attract students from a larger geographical footprint?

Tamani Anderson Powell, the director of marketing and communications for the Office of Magnet and Curriculum Enhancement with the Wake County Public School System, said the key difference between a magnet school and a traditional school lies in the way the curriculum or the instruction is presented.

The Theme is "The Thing!"

"In magnet schools, students still study the core subjects of language arts, social studies, science and math. But they do so through a unique lens, perspective or theme," Anderson Powell explained. "For whatever theme or teaching methodology that's followed at a particular magnet school, all teachers participate in ongoing professional development around the delivery of the theme and the theme is executed school-wide."

Anderson Powell said WCPSS currently offers four primary magnet school pathways: Gifted and Talented, International Baccalaureate, Leadership and Technology, and Language Immersion / Global Studies. Then, beneath each pathway, there are typically five to eight related learning themes.

"Magnet schools give students an opportunity to explore a new interest or to cultivate an existing interest," Anderson Powell added. "So, no pre-knowledge of a specific pathway or theme is necessary. Instead, I simply encourage parents to look at their child's interests and to select a magnet school that will match – and grow – those interests."

The Benefits of a Magnet School Education

"When I consider the student benefits of attending a magnet school, the school's academic theme always tops the list," Anderson Powell said. "I want to make sure that the theme is a good academic fit for each student, so that it will encourage the student to learn and to grow."

She added, "The second key benefit of attending a magnet school is the student's exposure to and interaction with a diverse student population. Being exposed to cultural and socioeconomic diversity expands the way that our students think and it challenges them to view opportunities and challenges from a variety of perspectives. The diversity of a magnet school really helps to enhance a child's world view.

"Magnet schools offer some really amazing educational programs for students."

Each year more than half of the WCPSS magnet schools earn awards of excellence from the Magnet Schools of America, serving as a testament to the quality of the county's magnet school education.

Hey Mom and Dad, Seeing is Believing!

So, how do you begin the process of selecting a magnet school for your child?

Anderson Powell said parents can begin the process online by using the WCPSS 'Magnet Explorer' tool, which provides details about the learning theme for each magnet school. Then, after narrowing down the options online, she encourages parents to tour their top two or three magnet school choices and see what they have to offer.

When touring magnet elementary schools, Anderson Powell encourages parents to remember magnet schools are designed to be a 13-year learning experience.

"Our hope is that a child will enter a learning pathway in kindergarten and then follow that pathway from elementary school to middle school and then high school," she said. "That way, there's a continuity of both the child's academic and social learning."

Anderson Powell added the common link across all magnet school pathways is they offer a hands-on, project-based approach to learning.

"The goal of a magnet school education is to create well-rounded students who can think creatively and solve problems analytically," she said. "My daughter has attended a magnet school since kindergarten, and she's now in sixth grade. When I see the opportunities that are available for magnet school students like my daughter, I think 'Wow ... how might I have been a different person – maybe even a better thinker — if I had been given the opportunity to learn through the lens of a magnet school?'"

This article was written for our sponsor, Wake County Public School System.

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