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Magnet schools continue to flourish in Florida

The number of magnet schools continues to grow in Florida. The Sunshine State leads the nation with 536.

The U.S. Department of Education released new statistics showing Florida with 32 more magnet schools than the state of California. Michigan comes in third with 386 magnet schools. As a percentage of public schools, Florida also comes out on top, trailed by Michigan. The statistics in the report show the different types of public schools in the United States.

Magnet schools are more ethnically and racially diverse than traditional public schools and they enroll a larger percentage of low-income students. The school’s curriculum centers on specific educational themes such as the performing arts and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

“I think what is important to recognize with magnet schools, especially when you consider Florida, is they are a form of public school choice that are being used to meet the demand of the communities they serve,” said John Laughner, legislative communication manager for the Magnet Schools of America. “They continue to be a form of school choice that is designed to promote school integration.”

The Magnet Schools of America released a report this year, noting that there are 4,340 magnet schools in the United States serving 3.5 million students.

The report stated that 60 percent of students in magnet schools are performing higher in math than those at the district level, and that magnet schools report higher graduation rates than traditional public schools.

Duval County has 67 magnet schools, including 12 of its 19 district-run high schools. At least 18 percent of students attend a magnet school, according to Gary Bryan, Duval County Public Schools Magnet Programs coordinator.

The Paxon School for Advanced Studies is an elite college-prep magnet. Andrew Jackson High School offers specialty programs in health sciences, sports medicine and aviation. Asa P. Randolph High School offers vo-tech themes from criminal justice to cosmetology to carpentry.

Bryan said the purpose of magnet schools is to provide that unique or specialized curriculum — and ultimately to promote or maintain diversity.

“We hope that it will improve achievement because the child is investing in a theme that they really want to be in,” Bryan said. “We continue to make certain that we have specialized teachers in our magnet programs. We believe in school choice across the gamut.”

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BY Livi Stanford

Livi Stanford is former associate editor of redefinED. She spent her earlier professional career working at newspapers in Kansas, Massachusetts and Florida. Prior to her work at Step Up For Students, she covered the Lake County School Board, County Commission and local legislative delegation for the Daily Commercial in Leesburg. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.