State education agencies, local education agencies, and schools play critical roles in providing every student with a high-quality, equitable education. WestEd partners with these organizations to enhance their capacity to develop and implement policies, systems, and strategies that improve school quality and provide access to school choice options that serve all students through a magnet option.
WestEd provides services pertaining to magnet schools and magnet school evaluation for a variety of federal, state, and local organizations. These services include:
- Evaluation to inform program impacts and improvement
- School design and development
- Best practices in STEM, CTE, parent and family engagement
- Supporting your equity and access goals
WestEd also conducts mixed method, impact and implementation evaluations for various magnet school grants, including Albuquerque Public Schools, Baltimore County Public Schools and Clark County School District, and Savannah-Chatham County Public School System.
Evaluation Toolkit for Magnet School Programs
Conducting an effective evaluation starts with careful thinking on Day 1 as you begin to design and implement your program. This magnet school evaluation online toolkit, produced by WestEd for the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement, offers practical advice and resources informed by research and the experiences of magnet directors and partner evaluators.
The toolkit will help you conduct a successful evaluation by:
- Moving beyond compliance to uncover the effectiveness of your program
- Using a logic model to guide your evaluation process
- Supporting strong partnerships between magnet directors and evaluators
The toolkit also supports district administrators to strengthen six essential components of the evaluation process:
- Setting the stage for purposeful evaluation
- Developing a theory of action for your program
- Evaluating implementation to document your actions
- Evaluating outcomes to show your program is making a difference
- Getting quality data into your evaluator’s hands
- Taking action in response to to evaluation results
School Design, Development, Improvement
Designing and developing a Magnet Program can take a significant amount of time, effort, and district/school resources. Your partners will need to be involved in fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what the magnet school will be, who it will serve, what it will do, and why it will do it. Effective magnet school design, development and improvement are pivotal to ensure optimum use of resources to achieve magnet objectives, the actions needed to make progress, and how the school will know if it is successful in achieving student outcomes.
How Can We Help?
Eligibility and Readiness
- District eligibility to apply for an MSAP grant
- Support with understanding and locating your district’s desegregation plan
- Needs Assessment to determine readiness for a magnet school program
Designing and Developing Successful Magnet School Programs
- STEM and CTE Magnet Design
- Designing for sustainability – Sustaining the Magnet Program beyond the Grant
- Adopting a Continuous Improvement Model
Family and School Partnership
Engaged family and school community partnerships are mutually beneficial, offer a system of support and shared ownership, and are vital to the success of magnet programs.
Partnerships with families are essential for a rich educational experience for students. Highly effective magnet schools deliver pertinent information to families and encourage continuous collaboration and partnership. As evidenced by their recommendations, input and participation in shared decision-making, family and parent groups are essential members of any high-quality magnet programs. Students in magnet programs benefit from themed curriculum and focused and rigorous academic instruction. To build a strong relationship with parents, a district needs to ensure a process for parents to provide input on school decisions and for them to raise concerns.
How can we help?
Educational support from professionals in the field enhances students’ real-world problem-solving skills and creates a connection to the community’s economic needs.
Successful Magnet High Schools, researched and written by Innovation Studies at WestEd for the U.S. Department of Education, profiles eight successful magnet high schools, analyzes their common characteristics, and examines the strategies that have allowed these schools to demonstrate sustained success. The profiled schools illustrate that students—regardless of race, background, or economic status—can meet and exceed the academic standards set for them.
Creating and Sustaining Successful K-8 Magnet Schools shares “lessons learned” for district and school decision-makers in magnet school settings. The guide provides information regarding specialized programs that can spark enthusiasm for learning and catalyze academic growth, especially for students whose interests and aptitudes may not be fulfilled by their neighborhood schools.
Researched and written by Innovation Studies at WestEd for the U.S. Department of Education, this guide profiles six elementary and middle schools that use themed instruction in such subjects as fine arts, leadership, and engineering to meet the needs of students from diverse backgrounds and interests.
Advanced Course Completion in Magnet and Comprehensive High Schools: A Study in Nevada’s Clark County School District
Does a student’s chance of completing an advanced course in high school differ based on whether he or she attended a magnet or comprehensive high school?
Does the relationship between students’ prior academic achievement and the likelihood of completing an advanced course differ between magnet and comprehensive high schools?
This REL West study, conducted in collaboration with Clark County School District in Nevada, addresses these questions.
- Among students with similar prior achievement, graduates of magnet high schools are more likely than graduates of comprehensive high schools to complete an honors English language arts course.
- Among students with similar prior academic achievement, graduates of magnet high schools are no more likely than graduates of comprehensive high schools to complete an honors math course.
- School type contributes to the likelihood of completing an Advanced Placement English language arts course, but the degree of its contribution depends on students’ prior achievement.
- School type contributes to the likelihood of completing an Advanced Placement math course, but the degree of its contribution depends on students’ prior achievement.
Given these findings, school districts and state administrators could explore factors that might contribute to students’ completion of advanced coursework. Such factors include the number and breadth of courses offered, the degree to which students receive support in enrolling and taking advanced courses, and the attitudes of teachers, counselors, parents, and students about students’ likelihood of success in these courses.
Sara Allender, a Senior Research Associate, directs monitoring and evaluation projects with a focus on federal school choice discretionary grant programs. She also provides technical assistance to states and other entities on school choice policy. She has extensive knowledge of related school choice statute, policy, regulatory, and nonregulatory guidance.
Allender also serves as an external evaluator for Clark County School District’s (CCSD’s) FY17 MSAP grant. In this capacity, Allender works with a team of WestEd colleagues to conduct a mixed methods evaluation of the implementation of CCSD’s MSAP grant. Allender also leads the implementation evaluation and serves as an advisor for WestEd’s Baltimore County Public Schools’ and Albuquerque Public Schools’ MSAP grants.
Prior to working at WestEd, Allender was a Research Associate at Policy Studies Associates, Inc., where she worked on evaluations on alternate assessments, school libraries in elementary schools, after-school adolescent literacy programs, small-school reform, and school-based collaboration.
Allender has a Master’s in education policy from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and a Bachelor’s in politics from New York University.
Maria Paredes is dedicated to excellence and equity in family engagement. She works to tear down walls between home and school and helps educators and families join forces as genuine partners for learning. Her areas of expertise include family and community engagement, organizational development, needs assessments, and design of high-impact family engagement programs for state departments, districts, and schools.
In 2009, Paredes developed Academic Parent-Teacher Teams (APTT), a strengths-based model of family engagement designed to strengthen the capacity of teachers and families and transform family participation in their children’s education. This model has been adopted by over 2,000 schools in 26 states and has been the subject of multiple studies asserting the positive outcomes for students, families, and schools.
Paredes and her team have earned a national reputation for excellence in service, and they partner with state departments, districts, and schools to support program development, professional learning, and integration of effective family engagement practices into all areas of school improvement.
Paredes earned her EdD from Arizona State University in Leadership and Innovation, MEd from Arizona State University in Curriculum and Instruction, MA from the University of Wisconsin in Latin American Literature, and BA from the University of Wisconsin in Comparative Literature.
Steve Canavero is a Senior Advisor and Director of the School Choice content area at WestEd.
Canavero served two appointments under Nevada’s Governor Brian Sandoval. Most recently he served as the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Nevada, where he led the state’s education system serving nearly 450,000 students. Canavero previously was appointed to serve as the first director of Nevada’s newly created State Public Charter School Authority. His initial work there resulted in Nevada’s charter school policy becoming one of the highest rated in the nation.
Canavero is serving his third term as a board member at the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. He was also elected by his fellow state school chiefs to the board of the Council of Chief State School Officers in 2017 and is a member of Chiefs for Change and an Aspen-Pahara Fellow.