How is a charter school different than a magnet school?

The lines between magnet and charter are thin but very important. For example Milwaukie Academy of the Arts is no longer considered a charter school — they are now a magnet.

Sojourner, another school in NC12, was never a charter school. It was always a magnet and may have been one of the first magnet elementary schools in the state.

Charter schools and magnet schools are two relatively new kinds of public schools.

Charter schools began appearing in the early 1990s. They are supposed to be independently operated public schools started by parents, teachers, community organizations, and in some states, for-profit companies. In Oregon however, the law was written so actual school districts could redesign a school (or their whole district if they only had one high school, middle school or elementary school) and receive the start up funds for charter schools from the federal program.

Charter schools receive tax dollars (again, in Oregon at a lower rate than other public or magnet schools) , but the sponsoring group may also come up with private funding. Charter schools may not charge tuition. Charter schools are public schools.

Charters must adhere to the basic curricular requirements of the state but theoretically are free from many of the regulations that apply to conventional schools. In Oregon charters are subject to the scrutiny of school boards or government authorities just like other public schools and sometimes more (we have a school board but we are also under the scrutiny of the district school board).

Originally considered cutting edge, charter schools usually challenge standard education practices and sometimes specialize in a particular area, such as technology or the arts, or adopt a basic core-subjects approach. We follow the Core Knowledge Foundation approach for our central curriculum. Some charter schools specifically target gifted or high-risk children but must accept anyone who applies through the lottery process. They usually have smaller classes and offer more individual attention than conventional public schools.

There are about 3,000 charter schools in the United States. Between the 2008–09 and 2013–14 school years, the public charter school movement experienced a dramatic 80 percent increase in the number of students and an astounding 40 percent increase in the number of schools. Despite this growth, there is still an overwhelming unmet parental demand for quality school options, with more than 1 million student names on charter school waiting lists. Click here for more information.

There is a lot of information available now regarding the success rate of charter schools as well as the "health" of the charter school laws in each state.

Magnet schools are free public schools that can be highly competitive and highly selective. They're renowned for their special programs and high academic standards. They may specialize in a particular area, such as science, the arts or language immersion.

Students who apply to these schools may go through a rigorous testing and application process (Jefferson students for example must audition for admission) . Some magnet schools have boarding facilities to allow students from other communities to attend in remote rural areas.

Magnet schools were first launched in the 1970s to help desegregate public school systems by encouraging children to attend schools outside their neighborhoods and attend a school that had a specific interest focus which drew a particular population of students (thus the term "magnet"). While student diversity is still an explicit goal of most magnet schools, that can be driven by their specialty as well. The magnet movement was tried heavily in Portland Public many years ago when they decided to make each high school a different focus (Jefferson : Arts; Cleveland : Business, etc) Some worked and some didn't. Magnet schools receive all the benefits of their district; full funding, transportation, facilities (though Sojourner took a real hit recently when it was forced to share a building with another public school- they lost a lot of enrollment and their administrator in the "merge")- but they are also subject to the union guidelines for movement of teachers. Magnets may or may not have a lottery process.


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