Charter Schools vs. Magnet Schools: Differences and Selection Guide

Although a lot of people are aware that magnet schools and charter schools are both alternatives to conventional public schools, it’s not always easy to tell exactly how these two types of schools differ from one another… and how they are similar. Our team here at AssignmentGiant has prepared a guide.

Even though the debate between magnet schools and charter schools has been thoroughly over-flogged, and the differences between the two have been stated, there are still misconceptions about both types of schools and how they are really operated. This is because both types of schools are considered to be alternative options to the conventional ones that are known to everyone and anyone. According to the topic, the purpose of this article is to investigate both of these systems and to offer a manual for public education in the United States.

Magnet schools are public schools that are part of the conventional public school system but offer specialized academic programs in addition to those that are required by law.

Regardless of where a student lives within a certain school district or metropolitan area, enrollment in a magnet school is open to that student. Magnet schools are held to the same standards as ordinary public schools, and they are answerable to the same levels of authority (the state and the local school board) as traditional public schools.

Even though charter schools are officially considered public schools and are therefore eligible to receive funding from taxes, they are also eligible to obtain private funding from a sponsorship group. The first charter schools began opening their doors in the 1990s. Although charter schools are required to continue adhering to the basic requirements for curricula established by the state, they do have various liberties that the majority of traditional public schools do not enjoy. They are not, for instance, subject to the constraints of school boards or the scrutiny of state authorities. Many charter schools go against the grain of conventional methods used in public education, and many of them focus on providing instruction in a particular subject area, such as the arts or technology. There are some charter schools that are geared exclusively toward giving kids, and many of these institutions offer smaller class sizes and more individualized attention than typical public schools do.

In the 1970s, in an effort to desegregate the public education system, the first magnet schools were established. These schools encouraged kids to relocate to attend school in areas that were not located inside their home district. A magnet school is a sort of public school that is free of charge and is well-known for offering unique courses and maintaining rigorous academic requirements. They may focus on a particular subject, similar to charter schools, and pupils must submit an application in order to be considered for enrollment. To reiterate, magnet schools do not charge tuition; however, some of them do provide boarding so that children from neighboring districts can also attend.

Public charter schools are schools that are not affiliated with specific school districts but rather enter into direct contracts with state or local boards of education.

Charter schools are considered to be public schools; as such, they are open to any and all children living in a particular metropolitan area, do not administer entrance exams, are not allowed to charge tuition, receive public funding, and are required to take part in state and federal accountability programs.

On the other hand, charter schools are managed by private entities. Although the most majority are nonprofit organizations, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, approximately 15 percent get funds from for-profit businesses, making them for-profit schools. Magnet schools, on the other hand, are not for-profit organizations. In addition, charter schools are excluded from the majority of state laws; instead, they are required to conform to a “charter,” which can be thought of as a legislative contract.

Comparing Charter Schools and Magnet Schools

Magnet schools and charter schools have many things in common, but there are also a few key differences. Here’s a side-by-side breakdown of how they compare:

CostsNo tuition to enrollNo tuition to enroll
FundingPublicly-fundedFunded on a per-pupil basis with government funds, sometimes with independent funds as well
Government RegulationRegulated by the state and subject to the same standards and requirements as traditional public schoolsIndependently run, but must meet standards outlined in their charter in order to secure state funding
Teacher CertificationAll teachers must be certified by the stateTeachers don’t necessarily have to be certified, but this differs from state to state
Curriculum FlexibilityThe curriculum has a focus such as STEM, the arts, or world languagesCurriculum is flexible, but the school is held accountable to a performance contract
Application ProcessLottery is typical, though some schools require an entrance exam, interview or auditionMay be a lottery or application, but students do not have to take an entrance exam
SelectivityCannot legally discriminate against studentsCannot legally discriminate against students

One of the most striking similarities between magnet schools and charter schools is that attendance at both types of schools is free of charge, and neither type of school mandates that applicants reside in a particular neighborhood or location in order to be considered.

One thing that sets them apart from one another, though, is who they report to. Charter schools are not required to answer to the same standards of accountability as other public schools, in contrast to magnet schools and public schools in general. They are answerable to the provisions of their own charter.

There are certain parallels, but there are also some variances, when it comes to funding. The state provides the funding for magnet schools. In addition to receiving funding from the state, charter schools may also be eligible for funding from a variety of other sources.

Best magnet schools in the US

When it comes to learners’ readiness for college, the quality of a high school as measured by the impression it leaves on its pupils can go a long way. Taking into account magnet schools and ranking them according to their college preparation, curriculum breadth, math and reading proficiency and performance, underserved student performance, and graduation rate of their students is a good way to determine which magnet schools are the best. U.S. News and RTI International collaborated to develop the ranking methodology for grading the quality of educational institutions. These approaches were then used by U.S. News. The 2019 rankings are presented here of the top 5 Magnet schools:

  1. Academic Magnet High School
    1. #1 on National Rankings;
    1. 100% Graduation;
    1. 100 rating score for College Readiness and;
    1. 658 Enrollment for Grades 9-12.
  2. Maine School of Science and Mathematics
    1. #2 on National Rankings;
    1. 94% Graduation;
    1. 100 rating score for College Readiness and;
    1. 145 Enrollment for Grades 9-12.
  3. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology:
    1. #4 on National Rankings;
    1. 100% Graduation;
    1. 100 rating score for College Readiness and;
    1. 1,789 Enrollment for Grades 9-12.
  4. Central Magnet School
    1. #5 on National Rankings;
    1. 100% Graduation;
    1. 96.5 rating score for College Readiness and;
    1. 807 Enrollment for Grades 9-12.
  5. International Academy of Macomb
    1. #8 on National Rankings;
    1. 100% Graduation;
    1. 100 rating score for College Readiness and;
    1. 484 Enrollment for Grades 9-12.

What is a Charter School?

They do not charge students any fees, get funding from the government, and are run by a private organization. The question then arises, what really differentiates private schools from charter schools? In spite of the fact that charter schools are privately managed, they operate without any intention of making a profit, and they are typically given more leeway to formulate their own regulations in a manner that is consistent with the terms of their licenses.

In most cases, private groups, institutions, enterprises, or religiously based organizations are the ones to initiate the formation of these charitable organizations. Others are created by management or companies that manage several institutions, which may or may not be done for financial gain. These institutions may or may not be for-profit.

Both charter schools and public schools have fairly similar policies regarding student enrollment and classroom instruction. Since they are regarded to be state institutions by the United States Department of Education, they do not require any admission tests or interviews and do not discriminate based on the student’s race or religious beliefs.

Best charter schools in the US

Using the same metrics as with the magnet schools and delivered by U.S News in conjunction with RTI International. Below are the top 5 charters in the US:

  1. BASIS Scottsdale:
    1. #3 on National Rankings;
    1. 99% Graduation;
    1. 100 rating score for College Readiness and;
    1. 313 Enrollment for Grade 9-12.
  2. Haas Hall Academy:
    1. #7 on National Rankings;
    1. 97% Graduation;
    1. 96.1 rating score for College Readiness and;
    1. 236 Enrollment for Grade 9-12.
  3. Signature School:
    1. #10 on National Rankings;
    1. 100% Graduation;
    1. 96.9 rating score for College Readiness and;
    1. 361 Enrollment for Grade 9-12.
  4. BASIS Chandler:
    1. #18 on National Rankings;
    1. 100% Graduation;
    1. 98.8 rating score for College Readiness and;
    1. 285 Enrollment for Grade 9-12.
  5. BASIS Peoria:
    1. #21 on National Rankings;
    1. 100% Graduation;
    1. 100 rating score for College Readiness and;
    1. 186 Enrollment for Grade 9-12.

Which School is Right for Your Child?

There are numerous aspects of a school that must be taken into consideration before selecting one for your child. Even if you know that enrolling in a private school is not an option for you, there are still a number of public school choices available to you; the specific schools available to you will depend on where you reside. Even if there could be only one regular public school in your neighborhood, you should also broaden your search to check if there are any charter schools or magnet schools in the vicinity that are taking new students.

Keep in mind that they are public institutions, which means that even if an application might be necessary, children from other towns are welcome to attend. When deciding where your child will attend school, the following are some factors to take into consideration:

  • Where exactly are the schools, and does any of them offer transportation to their students? However, there are certain charter and magnet schools that do not provide transportation for children who reside outside of the district. If you live within the district, your child should be able to get a bus to school.
  • What kind of educational support does your child require? Is your kid an above-average or below-average student? Does he have a natural talent for learning, or does he require a little bit of extra assistance? There are schools that cater to pupils who are academically bright while others are designed for students who struggle academically. Spend the time to learn about your child’s unique requirements so that you may pick the school that will be able to satisfy those need to the greatest extent.
  • Is there a method to submit an application? While the fact that you live in the district automatically makes your child eligible for public school, certain charter schools and magnet schools require applicants to meet certain criteria and may also administer placement exams.
  • What does the school primarily emphasize? Traditional public schools frequently adhere to a core curriculum that is legislated by the state, whereas charter schools and magnet schools have somewhat more leeway with regard to the educational standards they implement. Consider enrolling your child in a school that specializes in that subject if he or she possesses a talent or passion in a specific area of study.
  • Do you have any positions available? For this reason, many charter schools and magnet schools require prospective students to submit an application in order to be considered for enrollment. Even if applications aren’t required, the school might not always have a spot available, so you might have to wait for your child to be accepted before enrolling them there.

In addition to providing responses to all of the questions presented above, you should also make plans to visit each of the schools that you are thinking about attending. If you visit the school, you will be able to get a sense of the type of educational environment that is offered there, which will allow you to determine whether or not it would be a suitable fit for your child. In addition to this, it might be beneficial for your child to meet some of the teachers, particularly if the school requires an application.

Issues Surrounding Magnet and Charter Schools

One more essential thing to keep in mind is the fact that magnet schools and charter schools, both of which are met with some degree of controversy. Although magnet schools were initially established in part to combat racial segregation in educational settings, it is debatable as to whether or not they still accomplish this goal today.

There is also criticism directed toward charter schools, but for a variety of reasons. Some people argue that charter schools take money away from public schools, which would therefore weaken the public education system. This is due to the fact that public schools and charter schools compete for public financing. Additionally, due to the fact that charter schools can be operated by businesses that are for-profit, some people have the opinion that charter schools mix education and business too much.

Basic Statistics about Magnet and Charter Schools

It is interesting to note that the number of students attending magnet schools in the United States is relatively similar to the number of kids attending charter schools in the same country. On the other hand, there are a substantially larger number of charter schools than there are magnet schools, which suggests that the average class size at charter schools is lower.


Number of elementary and secondary magnet schools in the U.S.

3.5 million+

Number of magnet school students in the U.S.


Estimated number of elementary and secondary charter schools in the U.S.

3.1 million+

Number of charter school students in the U.S.


It is not an easy task, but selecting an appropriate educational environment for your child is one of the most significant choices you’ll have to make throughout your child’s formative years. The standard of education that your child receives will either set him up for academic success or academic failure, and this outcome may have repercussions for the rest of his life. If you find yourself in the position of having to decide where your child will attend school, you should think about the information that was presented above and take the time to consider all of the schools that are available to you, including private schools, charter schools, and traditional public schools. When it comes to making a choice like this, the more knowledge you have, the more options you’ll have to choose from.