May 05, 2013

Magnets Often More Diverse Than Other Texas Public Schools

Students walk to class at Dallas ISD’s School for the Talented and Gifted at Yvonne Ewell Townview Center in Dallas. Photo by Michael Ainsworth/Dallas Morning News.


By Nick Swartsell and Kelsey Jukam
For InvestigaTexas and The Dallas Morning News

Even education innovations, such as magnet schools, are complicated by race and economics.

In Texas’ urban areas, most schools largely serve minority students, while high-achieving magnets are more racially diverse.

Magnet schools provide a unique or specialized curriculum, attracting students from across normal boundaries.

Dallas Independent School District’s high-performing magnets are more diverse. But they serve only a small percentage of the district’s students.

Magnet schools rated exemplary or recognized in Dallas and other major cities generally have a much higher percentage of white students than the districts as a whole. And they typically have fewer at-risk students than do regular schools.

Experts point to several possible explanations for the gap.

Those magnets may be one of the most attractive incentives to keep white and more affluent students from fleeing to the suburbs or to private schools.

DISD has nine high school magnet schools, and the state rates each as high performers.

Among them: the nationally recognized School for the Talented and Gifted, or TAG, which boasts a diverse enrollment not seen in most other Dallas schools. Its student body is 40 percent white.

U.S. News & World Report named it the best high school in the country this year.

Lew Blackburn, president of DISD’s board of trustees, said the district’s white students tend to gravitate to its magnets. Strong curriculums in math, science and the arts are the main draw, he said.

He also praised other mostly minority magnets, including the Science and Engineering High School at the Townview Center, which houses TAG.

Alfonso Correa, a veteran teacher at TAG, said the student-teacher ratio is “one of our main strengths” and contributes to the school’s success. TAG has 253 students and 16 teachers.

Principal Michael Satarino credits some of the school’s academic success to its high admissions criteria, based on test scores, interviews and other factors.

Senior Adanna Teemac called TAG a family. “The teachers here are kind of like parents that are guiding you.”

See the full report by Nick Swartsell and Kelsey Jukam at

Key Findings:

Magnet schools rated exemplary or recognized in Dallas have a greater percentage of white students than the district overall.

Statewide, magnets rated as academically unacceptable have a high percentage of at-risk students. That’s a state designation for those facing challenges, such as racial demographics, family situations and poverty.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a special report on resegregation and disparity in Texas public schools. The report includes articles on charter schools, Hispanic students, state funding and crime in schools. The report is also available at The Dallas Morning News.