Magnet School Outcomes

Authored by: Julian R. Betts , Chenzi Cao

Handbook of Research on School Choice

Print publication date:  June  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9780815381464
eBook ISBN: 9781351210447
Adobe ISBN:


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Magnet schools are an important form of public school choice in the United States, representing 5.2 percent of public school enrollment in 2014–2015. Magnet schools are intended to integrate school districts by attracting students from around each district. To do this, magnet schools typically offer some form of curricular and pedagogical innovation relative to traditional public schools. This chapter studies the relation between attending a magnet school and math and reading achievement. Using a random-effects meta-analysis, it finds considerable variation in the estimated effects of magnet schools across studies, only a small part of which can be attributed to statistical noise. Overall, the meta-analysis reveals positive and statistically significant effects of magnet schools on reading and math achievement. The reading effect is a predicted gain of 0.036 standard deviations in achievement per year attended, corresponding to a 1.2–1.4 percentile point increase in a student’s achievement rank. For math, the estimated effects are smaller, with annual predicted gains of 0.026 standard deviations, corresponding to a 0.8–1.0 percentile point increase in a student’s rank. A few studies differentiate magnet schools by the grades they serve. Significant positive effects emerge from the meta-analysis for high schools in both reading and math, but not for middle or elementary schools. The chapter ends with three proposals for extending the literature.

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