Magnet Schools (información en español)
What are magnet schools?
Currently, over 4,000 magnet schools serve over 3.5 million students across the country. Magnet schools were first developed in response to desegregation efforts of the 1970s and 1980s.
- A magnet school offers a specialized curriculum, program, or theme in an effort to encourage diverse families to attend a school that would be less diverse if only serving one geographic area.
Magnet schools are based on the premise that all students do not learn in the same ways, and a unifying theme or a different organizational structure will attract students of similar learning styles and interests to a school.
Durham Public Schools magnet schools:
- are governed by the DPS Board of Education
- provide the required NC Standard Course of Study
- provide all qualifying students with full access to Academically and Intellectually Gifted (AIG/Advanced Academics) services
- provide all qualifying students with full access to English Language Learner services
- provide all qualifying students with full access to Exceptional Children's services (inclusion services at all schools and separate setting services centered at various magnet locations)
- provide all qualifying students with full access to 504 accommodations.
- DPS magnet schools do not have academic or other application criteria. With the exception of our Cooperative Innovative High School Early College programs (JDC Early College and MIddle College at DTCC). Any student residing in Durham County, within the designated geographic zone for each school, may apply.
Durham Public Schools is a member of Magnet Schools of America (MSA) and subscribes to the pillars of excellence for magnet schools put forth by MSA:
- diversity reflective of our community
- innovative curriculum and teacher professional development
- academic excellence
- leadership within our educational community
- family and community partnerships
A history of magnet schools in Durham, NC
In an effort to end the dual, unequal, and separate school systems that existed as a legacy of racial segregation, Durham County Schools and Durham City Schools merged in 1992. In an attempt to combat historic segregated living patterns in the community and truly integrate the merged district, magnet schools were established at the elementary, middle, and high school level starting in the 1995-96 school year.
Magnet programs were established at Burton, CC Spaulding, Club Blvd, Morehead, RN Harris, WG Pearson, and YE Smith elementary schools as well as Shepard Middle School, and The Durham School of the Arts (formerly Durham High School). Within the first year of the DPS magnet program, these schools in the former city district, all previously at least 80% students of color, increased the percentage of white students by at least 10%. In the next 10 years, George Watts Elementary School was also added to the list of magnet schools and three elementary and two middle schools were moved to a year-round calendar and lottery placement status.
In 2012, the DPS Board of Education approved five new magnet programs in part to ensure continuation of magnet themes across grade spans. A review of all magnet programs in 2016 reported that 38% of enrolled students attended a magnet program and that magnet programs in Durham Public Schools were contributing to efficient use of DPS facilities, reducing overcrowding and underutilization, and increasing the diversity of magnet schools.
Since 1995, magnet schools have been a tool to provide educational options to our community and shape our school enrollments to more accurately reflect the diversity of our community.
How do I know if a magnet school is right for my family?
Parents should consider many factors in deciding to apply to a DPS magnet school.
- The choice to attend a magnet school is a year-long commitment. Starting the 2024-2025 school year, accepting a magnet seat is a commitment to attend that school for the entire school year. Student school assignment changes can only be made through an approved transfer or relocation out of the magnet school’s geographic zone. Magnet schools provide specialized instruction and students are often most successful when they have expressed interest in the theme, especially at the secondary level.
- While offering unique programs, some secondary magnet schools do not offer some programs or classes that neighborhood schools offer (all DPS elementary magnet schools will include the same curricular programs as neighborhood schools as of the 2024-2025 school year).
- Additionally, some magnet secondary schools have their own competitive athletic programs while at others, students must travel to their base assigned school to participate. Competitive athletic offerings at all DPS schools can vary based on facilities and staffing. Please contact the school’s athletic director if you have questions about the availability of specific athletic programs at any school.
- Finally, families should consider transportation changes. Bus rides to magnet schools can be longer than neighborhood schools and some magnet programs have unique transportation arrangements that should be considered.
Durham Public Schools magnet schools are governed by the DPS Board of Education, provide the required NC Standard Course of Study, and provide all qualifying students with full access to Academically and Intellectually Gifted (AIG/Advanced Academics) services, English Language Learner services, Exceptional Children's services (inclusion services at all schools and separate setting services centered at various magnet locations), and 504 accommodations. With the exception of our Cooperative Innovative High School early college programs (JDC Early College and MIddle College at DTCC), DPS magnet schools do not have academic or other application criteria. Any student residing in Durham County, within the designated geographic zone for each school, may apply.
What magnet themes are available in Durham Public Schools?
- International Baccalaureate
- Dual Language Immersion (starting in the 2024-25 school year)
- Humanities and Arts
- STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)
- Early College programs
Are there other application school options other than magnet schools?
Yes, DPS offers application based programs for year-round schools, online education, Career and Technical Pathways, and JROTC as well.