A magnet middle school longitudinal case study of student achievement, attitudes, and parental engagement

Magnet schools are public schools with a specific curricular theme. The curricular theme may be the arts, science or some other theme attractive to a potentially diverse student body. Since attendance at magnet schools is a matter of parental choice, school districts often use magnet schools as a vehicle for their mandatory or voluntary integration plans. The United States Department of Education has supported magnet schools through a national competitive grant until a recent Supreme Court ruling limited magnet schools' purpose by restricting admission policies. Recently, the No Child Left Behind policy has provided parents some choice by allowing transferring from low performing schools to high performing schools, with this magnet schools have always been an option for families since the late 1970's. Yet, there is limited empirical literature focused on determining the effectiveness of magnet schools in affecting student achievement, student belonging and parental engagement. A case study of one magnet middle school provides the opportunity to identify the impact of these three components and their journey toward closing the achievement gap utilizing the Circle of Courage (Brendtro, Brokenleg, & Van Bockem, 2002). This theoretical framework provided the foundation for an exploration of the overall effectiveness of one magnet middle school during its first two years of existence and the goal of evaluating students' sense of achievement, belonging and parental engagement. I hypothesized that there would be positive effects on students' attitude of belonging, academic achievement and parents' engagement. Results from statistical analyses indicated a statistically significant increase in: Latinos' perceived Scholastic (Achieve) and Social (Belong) Competence scores from 2007 to 2009 and males' Scholastic Competence scores from 2007 to 2009. Females also demonstrated a statistically significant increase in Scholastic Competence scores from 2007 to 2009. Other findings indicate that program improvement and other personal and school-level demographic variables yielded significant findings. Implications are offered for future research, policy, and practice.