A magnet school is being eyed as an alternative to traditional public schools and a possible replacement for magnet schools that have fallen behind academically.
In the past decade, magnet schools have grown rapidly across the country and become more popular among children of color.
Now, they are under intense scrutiny in some states, including Florida, which will begin testing a new magnet system this fall.
While schools in Florida will be required to meet the standards of the state’s new magnet-testing law, many of those that haven’t are likely to struggle, experts say.
In addition, many state legislatures have already passed laws requiring magnet schools to provide more resources and have opened them up to more competition.
So far, there have been only a few instances of students being placed in magnet schools and that has been in Florida, said Laura M. Stoll, executive director of the Florida Association of School Administrators, an umbrella group that represents the state superintendent and other school officials.
“I don’t think any of those schools have really met the standards for a magnet program in Florida,” she said.
The law requires a minimum of 70 percent of students in magnet school must be of low-income or minority status, and it does not require a minimum age.
It also requires that the magnet schools open at least twice a week, with students staying home from lunch and lunch periods.
Florida’s law, which was enacted in 2011, does not apply to charter schools, which have become increasingly popular.
Under the law, students in charter schools must be enrolled in a magnet high school or be enrolled at an alternative school, but not both.
It does not mandate that schools be “mature,” which has been a major sticking point for some critics of charter schools.
For many students, the challenge of finding an affordable magnet school may prove a challenge.
Many of the students who are enrolled in magnet programs are from low- and middle-income families who need a high-quality education, said Elizabeth Miller, the chief executive officer of the Greater Miami Community Charter Schools, which operates two magnet schools in Miami-Dade County.
The school board of those two charter schools approved the changes in January.
“If we have to take some students from the low- income or the middle-class and make them the majority of students, it will take away a lot of students,” Miller said.
“That’s why we don’t want to do that.”
The changes will have a big impact on Miami-area schools that are already struggling academically, according to experts who work in education.
“In general, there are two main groups of students: the high-poverty students and the students from low socioeconomic backgrounds,” said Lisa L. Smith, a professor of education at the University of Miami.
“A lot of charter students are the low income students, and a lot more charter students than charter schools are students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
The high-income students will come from high-performing families, but the low socioeconomic students will go to charter school.”
Many charter schools in the Miami area, like the ones that opened in Florida in 2011 and 2013, also have a magnet system, but they also rely heavily on government funding.
The charter school in the neighborhood where Smith works is one of the top magnet schools on the island of Miami-Portsmouth.
She said many of the schools that opened around the country after the law passed were charter schools with an emphasis on high-needs students.
“The charter schools were a big part of the problem in Miami,” she noted.
“There were so many high-need charter schools that were closing, and the public was not investing in those schools.
That was not something that was being addressed.”
But that is changing, said L. Lynn Riggs, who runs the Center for School Leadership at the American Association of University Women.
In some of the new charter schools opened this year, Riggs said, “they are trying to do a better job of providing a high level of learning in a diverse population.”
Riggs called charter schools a “super-effective” model for attracting and retaining high-ability students, but she said some charter schools had “some really hard decisions” to make in selecting students and “they didn’t want the risk of the magnet program to be there.”
She also said that charter schools could potentially lose out on students from middle- and low-class families.
“For many students in those magnet schools, the risk that they are going to be pushed out by magnet programs is not that big a risk,” she added.
“They don’t know where they are and they don’t have the resources to get to the middle class.”
Some schools in Orlando, Fla., and some in St. Petersburg, Fla.
are also considering charter school options, but have yet to adopt the state law.
In Orlando, about 1,400 students are enrolled at more than 100 charter schools across the city, but most of those students are