Admissions Policy for N.Y.C. Magnet Schools Lauded
The New York City school system's magnet-schools admissions procedure appears to offer students a choice of schools without leading to increased segregation by race or class, a new study asserts.
The evidence from a study of New York's magnet schools for secondary students "seems to indicate that it is possible to construct a public high-school choice system that eliminates some of the worst excesses of an unfettered choice plan,'' the study says.
The federally funded National Center for Research in Vocational Education at the University of California at Berkeley conducted the study, which is expected to be released this week.
The study concludes that other large cities would do well to copy New York's school-admissions procedures.
Under New York's approach, magnet-school administrators select half their students from among applicants and then use a lottery to determine who else will be admitted from among students who listed the magnet as their first choice.
The study compared the academic experiences of students who got into magnet schools because they had "won'' the lottery with similar students who had sought admission to the schools but "lost'' and attended regular comprehensive high schools.
The researchers found that New York's admissions system resulted in magnet schools that avoided much of the race and class segregation that frequently occurs in districts where magnet schools admit only students with good records or use a first-come, first-served admissions system that tends to favor the best-informed or most aggressive parents.
Students in New York's more than 125 magnet schools also appeared to make more educational gains than their peers in regular high schools.
Lottery winners appeared much less likely than expected to drop out during their transition from middle school to high school, the study found.
In addition, the lottery winners of average reading ability were more likely to show a gain in their reading scores, and they earned more credits toward graduation than did their peers in regular schools.
"Not all the news from the career magnet program is good, however,'' cautioned Robert L. Crain, a professor of sociology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University and one of the study's three authors.
The lottery winners who had low reading ability did not make similar progress in reading scores or in the number of credits earned.
Moreover, the advances by magnet-school students do not necessarily
translate into a net gain for the district. Because the magnets still
enroll more above-average students, students in regular schools may be
harmed by having fewer such students in their classes, the study
Vol. 11, Issue 31, Page 17