Publications & Resources

50 Years of Magnet Schools: An Overview of Desegregation Efforts

Oct 2021

Rolf J. Straubhaar, Jia Wang, and Roxanne M. Sylvester

Geographically based racial and economic segregation in the United States has resulted in unequal funding for schools and therefore unequal educational opportunities for students. In this report, we discuss the 50-year history of magnet schools as a voluntary desegregation mechanism. During these years, the funding policies and legal landscapes shifted in ways that supported and then undermined magnet schools’ desegregation mission. Throughout the 1990s and culminating in 2007, the courts eroded the ability of magnet schools to prioritize desegregation. Post-2007, in response, magnet schools broadened their approaches to include an additional focus on innovative academic programs. We end the report with research questions that remain underexplored regarding magnet schools and their effectiveness as a desegregation mechanism.

Straubhaar, R. J., Wang, J., & Sylvester, R. M. (2021). 50 years of magnet schools: An overview of desegregation efforts (CRESST Report 868). UCLA/CRESST.