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LAUSD considers allowing students to enter magnets all year long

Officials are working to set up a system that would allow students to enter popular magnet programs all year long in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The revamped admission process, previewed at Tuesday’s school board meeting, would address a long-standing problem: Programs are oversubscribed during the once-a-year admissions process, but underenrolled during the subsequent academic year.

Currently, there are 172 magnet programs in the nation’s second-largest school system. On the whole, they are among the top academic performers in the school system, in large measure because they attract some of the most motivated students and families.

L.A. Unified typically has had to turn away thousands of students — many of whom have migrated to independently operated charter schools instead. And yet, about 12% of magnet seats are vacant.

The vacancies are due to a variety of factors, including students moving or leaving the program. Some magnets also are less popular. And sometimes families apply to magnets but ultimately choose another schooling option.

Magnets were established as a voluntary integration program. Some are among the most diverse programs in the district, enrolling white and middle class students who might otherwise avoid the public school system; others do virtually nothing to desegregate the campuses where they are located.

This year’s application process already included one change: Allowing families to select up to three choices rather than just one. Close to 50,000 students applied to magnets, well more than the number that could be initially accommodated. But the number of magnets is growing, in part because they are now being used as part of a schoolwide improvement strategy.

The district recently announced it would restaff low-performing Crenshaw High in Leimert Park, converting it into a campus of three magnet programs. That plan has met with substantial community and staff resistance. New programs elsewhere were generated by staff at the campuses themselves. Fourteen magnet programs are expanding next fall, adding 795 available seats to the system.

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-- Howard Blume

 
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