Magnet Schools Charter Schools Academic Academies

SAN ANTONIO-AREA ISDS: Magnet Schools and Academic School Choices

TRUE: Magnet schools admission process can require an application, entrance exam, audition, or lottery.

San Antonio’s traditional public schools including magnets, academies, private, and charter schools


Some San Antonio-area public schools offer programs that focus on a specific area of study, which are sometimes referred to as magnets or academies. It is important to note the differences between all the school choice options. These programs can be a section of a public school, or they can be a school-wide concentration. 

What is a magnet school?

Magnet schools are essentially public schools with specialized curricula. Because these schools draw students from across school zone boundaries regardless of zip code, they are named “magnets.” There are magnet schools at every level of education- elementary, middle, and high school. Magnet schools exist within our traditional public school system, but they offer a specific academic focus along with the standard core curriculum.

Some magnet schools, such as International Baccalaureate (or international studies) schools, have a more generalized focus. Other magnet school programs often focus on: 

  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)
  • Career and Technical Education (CTE)
  • World Languages (immersion and non-immersion)
  • Fine and Performing Arts
Fine Arts Performance Art Music Film Video
Photo courtesy of North East ISD
Magnet Schools Charter Schools Academic Academies

Magnet schools are accountable to the state and the local school board, and they are held to the same traditional academic standards as other public schools. Magnet school program admission may warrant an application, audition, entrance exam, or may be decided by an admissions lottery.  

San Antonio magnet programs integrate the ideas of school choice and custom education. Magnet schools are innovative, visionary, and effective. Other school options in the area include charter schools or private schools, which may offer similar curricula to magnet schools, but each school can be very different from one another.  Available information comparing public magnet schools to charter and private schools can be confusing. Here are some facts:

What is a traditional public school?

  • Public school teachers most often hold a bachelor’s degree and are always state-certified, with more than half of them earning a master’s degree.
  • Public schools provide a wide array of academic and extracurricular programs, striving to educate all children.
  • Public schools (including magnet schools, academies, etc.) are available at no cost to all students in a district.  
  • Public schools rely on local, state, and federal tax dollars, and they must follow the state guidelines on what they are allowed to teach and how to evaluate children.  
  • The state board of education accredits public schools and establishes state public school curriculum requirements and academic standards.
  • Public schools are required to provide children with disabilities a free and appropriate education, which includes no-cost testing and free special education and special needs services.


What is a private school?

  • Most private schools receive their funding from grants, tuition, donations, and endowments. 
  • Private schools may also request money from local businesses, alumni, or religious and community organizations.  
  • It is not mandatory that private schools admit all applicants, so they may be highly selective in admissions. They might require an extensive application process involving essays, interviews, and testing.
  • Many private schools do not have trained special ed teachers or special needs programs, so any extra necessary resources might come at an added cost. 
  • Texas Private schools are accredited by the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission (TEPSAC), and their accreditation standards can be more rigid than public school standards in curriculum, instruction, operations, and staffing. 
  • Private schools teachers may not be required to have a teaching certification. They are usually experts in the subject they teach, and they may hold an undergraduate or graduate degree in their field of study.


What is a charter school?

  • Charter schools are funded by a combination of local tax dollars or government money, grants, fundraising, awards, and private donations. 
  • Charter schools are free to students, but taxpayers fund their education in addition to traditional public schools, even if it’s in the same district.
  • Charter schools are accountable to the district, state, or county government bodies that approve their charter, but often have less regulation than traditional public schools. 
  • Charter schools are independently run and may be operated by private, for-profit companies vs. traditional public schools’ where oversight is achieved through board members elected by the community
  • Charter schools require applications for enrollment and spaces can be limited. 
  • Charter schools’ admissions requirements can be more challenging than other schools, and they sometimes use a lottery system to fill any vacancies.
  • Charter schools are not required by law to provide special education resources, and many charters have limited special needs classes and staff.
  • A private charter school accreditation board is in charge of accrediting charters, and the state does not determine their curriculum.
  • Teachers at charter schools are not necessarily required to have the same level of state certification as all public school teachers, while every public school teacher must be certified by our state education board.
  • Charter schools offer limited opportunities for sports, electives, and extracurricular clubs when compared to larger public schools with more resources.

Benefits to students attending magnet academies:

  • Magnet school students tend to score higher on reading, science, and social studies tests than students in regular public school programs.



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