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National Report Highlights South Florida School Districts For Magnet Programs That Promote Integration

Magnet school Coral Gables Miami Herald.jpeg
Roberto Koltun/Miami Herald
The campus of Henry S. West Laboratory, a popular magnet school in Coral Gables. Magnet programs are examples of policies that promote racial and socioeconomic integration, according to a new report.

South Florida's public school magnet programs are encouraging but not comprehensive enough to achieve racial and socioeconomic integration, according to the report's author.

More school districts and charter schools around the country are working to address racial and socioeconomic segregation, according to a new report from the national progressive think tank The Century Foundation.

The report highlights Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties for using specialized magnet programs to attract a diverse student body to some schools.

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But those programs don’t necessarily help the rest of the schools in those districts become more integrated.

“It's a little bit of a ‘glass quarter full, three quarters empty’ case, where there's some really positive models that are being used to promote diversity at the subset of schools,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow with the foundation and the report’s author. “What I think would be so powerful to see is how could you expand that to a greater number of schools.”

Generally, Potter said schools in Florida are more integrated than in many other states, because so many school districts here were under federal desegregation orders for decades.

While the report provides a comprehensive look at which school districts and charter schools are implementing integration policies, more research is needed to find out how well they are working, Potter said.

Making progress on integrating schools isn’t totally up to local school districts, though. Potter said her research indicates federal action could make a difference.

“I would love to see a Biden administration commit to annual reporting on school desegregation orders, to putting some resources behind grant programs to support voluntary school integration efforts,” she said.

Read the full report here.

Here’s how the report describes the integration policies in place in South Florida school districts:

Broward

Broward County Public Schools examines the geographic, gender, racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, linguistic, and special needs diversity of the magnet school lottery pool each January, and if any groups are underrepresented it will recruit additional applications from those groups before running the lottery.

The district's board policies also state that promoting diverse student enrollments should be a guideline for establishing school attendance zones.

Miami-Dade

Miami-Dade Public School District gives additional weight in its magnet school lottery to students from priority zip codes, which are determined based on the poverty rate of the zip code in order to promote diversity.

Palm Beach

Palm Beach County School District considers the socioeconomic diversity of students within the district when drawing attendance boundaries. The District uses a lottery system for Choice/magnet school student assignments that includes a priority for geography and supports diversity in student enrollment.

The district also gives priority to majority-to-minority transfer requests, when a student from the majority race/ethnicity/socioeconomic status in one school request to transfer to a school in which they would be in the minority.