Above, are the magnet coordinators from the schools honored by the Magnet Schools of America. Front row, from left, Alise Caynen, Marilena Franco, Tabitha Thigpen, Laurie Vallejo, Marleen Riewthong, Fanny Arana, Dawn Brown and Xiutleth Santibanez. Back row, Sam Corral, James Altuner, Keith Abrahams, Jennifer Macon and Stacy Bertuccelli. (Not pictured,  Desiree Montoya)

Twelve of L.A. Unified’s popular magnets have been recognized for their innovation and exceptional academic performance by Magnet Schools of America (MSA), which represents nearly 4,000 theme-based programs across the U.S.

The schools will be honored in April at the organization’s national convention for their commitment to promoting academic achievement, racial and socioeconomic diversity, creative instruction and community partnerships that enhance the programs’ themes.

“Our magnet schools and centers provide a full range of programs that are preparing our students for college and 21st century careers,” said Interim Superintendent Vivian Ekchian. “I am very proud that so many of our schools have received this well-deserved recognition for the outstanding work they are doing to help our students succeed.”

Created in the 1970s as the heart of the District’s court-ordered desegregation program, magnets are now among the most popular choices, with instructional themes that align to students’ interests. There are currently 225 magnet programs, enrolling approximately 80,000 students. Three dozen additional magnets will open next fall.

“Over the past four years as director of the magnet programs, I have had the honor of observing, participating with and engaging in conversations with magnet leadership throughout the country,” said Keith Abrahams, executive director of Student Integration Services for the Division of Instruction. “L.A. Unified continues to serve as a national model through our development of an extensive, sophisticated portfolio of magnet programs that project texture and depth. This recognition is a testament to the academic excellence and high standards present in our District.

As MSA winners, five magnets have been recognized as Schools of Excellence, the highest honor given by the organization. Seven others received honors as Magnet Schools of Distinction.    

The Schools of Excellence are:

  • John Burroughs Middle School Gifted/Highly Gifted/High Ability Magnet: Supported by a high-achieving learning environment, students participate in an enriched curriculum that includes theater, orchestra, robotics, and coding classes.
  • Rudecinda Sepulveda Dodson Middle School Gifted Magnet: An interdisciplinary academic environment encourages academic growth, allows for individual difference and fosters the development of positive self-concept. The program includes laboratory experiences, writing and team-building opportunities and computer projects.
  • Downtown Business and STEM Magnets High School: The nationally acclaimed Gold Ribbon campus features pathways in fashion, business, computer science, engineering, digital arts and an International Baccalaureate program.
  • Ernest Lawrence Middle School Gifted/Highly Gifted Magnet: The program provides differentiated instruction designed to prepare students for honors and Advanced Placement classes in high school. It balances creative learning activities with structured lessons that equip students with the skills that are essential for academic success.
  • Van Nuys High School: Through three separate magnets, students receive diverse, interactive and comprehensive high school experiences while pursuing their interest in performing arts, medicine or math and science. On March 19, MSA announced that Van Nuys High is among five finalists for Magnet School of the Year.

The Schools of Distinction are:

  • Cleveland Charter High School Humanities Magnet: Students are exposed to a holistic learning experience with educational disciplines that support and enhance each other. This is the seventh consecutive year that Cleveland has been honored by MSA with a National Merit Award.
  • Franklin Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Magnet: The program provides personalized instruction that supports students in their pursuit of a strong STEM education. This is the third year the magnet has received a National Merit Award.
  • King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science: The 35-year-old program remains committed to providing students with a first-class education that supports their interest in health and science careers. Administrators maintain that justice in health care must come about through equal opportunity founded in a rigorous education.
  • Mayall Street Academy of Arts and Technology Magnet: The schoolwide magnet focuses on providing academically rigorous instruction in an arts- and technology-infused environment.
  • Melrose Elementary Math/Science/Technology Magnet School: The 6-year-old program utilizes a STEAM curriculum and project-based learning to support academic growth and critical-thinking skills. Melrose has also been named a California Distinguished School.
  • Orthopaedic Hospital Medical Magnet High School: Through key strategic partnerships students are exposed to the medical and biotechnology field by engaging with guest speakers and conducting experiments in medical facilities.
  • Reseda High School Police Academy Magnet: Students receive a tough physical training regimen in addition to a rigorous academic curriculum. Law-enforcement officers co-teach in the classroom, so students receive authentic career training and relevant college preparation.

“Our magnets showcase the variety of high-quality choices available to our families, and our commitment to providing students with programs that connect with their interests as we advance toward our goal of 100 percent graduation,” said Board President Mónica García. “I am especially proud of the Orthopaedic Hospital and Downtown Magnets in my board district for their success in serving our students.”

“These 12 schools show the educational excellence that L.A. Unified is capable of achieving,” said Board Vice President Nick Melvoin. “We applaud the hard work and success of these magnet programs, and recognize that our work is not done until every child in Los Angeles has access to this kind of high-quality education.”

“The specialized and unique academic offerings of our magnet programs span multiple subject and areas of interest that meet the diverse needs of many L.A. Unified families,” said Board Member Dr. George J. McKenna III. “We are pleased with their continued outstanding performance.”

“I could not be prouder of our award-winning magnet programs and the recognition that our magnet schools have earned from the Magnet Schools of America,” said Board Member Scott M. Schmerelson. “I am particularly delighted to see how many of the high-achieving award recipients, schools that are enriching the lives of L.A. Unified students every day, are located in Board District 3. Congratulations to all!”

“I am proud of the L.A. Unified schools that received this prestigious award,” said Board Member Dr. Ref Rodriguez. “I am especially proud of Benjamin Franklin High School in my board district, which has done an impressive job of improving steadily over the years. Receiving this award illustrates why families want their children enrolled in magnet programs. It also demonstrates Franklin’s commitment to high academic standards, curriculum innovation, desegregation, and diversity efforts – all markers of excellence and adept leadership.”

“Our magnets are part of LA Unified’s diverse and high-quality options for families, helping to ensure that every child can get a great education,” said Board Member Kelly Gonez. “Congratulations to all of our magnets that have been recognized, and especially to Van Nuys and Reseda High schools in my board district, for their exceptional programs. Excellent work!

“I want to congratulate our 2018 National Merit Awards recognized schools from Local District South,” said Board Member Dr. Richard Vladovic. “The quality of programs being offered by L.A. Unified is the best-kept secret in the state. The academic record of Dodson Middle School Magnet speaks for itself, and the medical magnet at King Drew High School is so successful that its model is set to be replicated at the middle-school level. I want to extend my most sincere thanks to the administrators, teachers, and students who have worked so hard for their academic success, and for getting the recognition they deserve.”