Magnet School Merit Awards Program

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Tuesday, November 28, 2017 11:59 PM Eastern


All magnet schools share the philosophy of executing innovative programs with a dedication to diversity and an unwavering commitment to academic standards – because that is the Magnet School ‘standard.’

The Magnet School of Merit Awards elevates that standard to recognize member magnet schools/programs that demonstrate an exemplary commitment to academic standards, curriculum innovation, desegregation/diversity efforts, specialized teaching staffs and parent and community involvement.

The 2017-2018 Merit Award categories are:

  • (1a) School of Excellence – Whole School Magnet
  • (1b) School of Excellence – Program Within-a-School*
  • (1c) School of Excellence – New & Emerging
  • (2a) School of Distinction – Whole School Magnet
  • (2b) School of Distinction – Program Within-a-School*
  • (2c) School of Distinction – New & Emerging

*Program Within-a-School programs must consist of at least twenty percent (20%) of the student population involved in the program OR a minimum of 200 students.

The Magnet School of Excellence is the top merit award category and is only awarded to a select group of magnet schools.

The Magnet School of Distinction is the second highest award of recognition.

To receive a merit award member schools must submit an application that is scored by a panel of educators. Cash awards are provided to the top Magnet Schools of Excellence.


The Dr. Ronald P. Simpson School of Excellence Award is considered the most prestigious award for magnet schools in the nation and includes a $5,000 cash award presented to the winning school.

This award recognizes the work of Dr. Ronald P. Simpson, one of the founding members of Magnet Schools of America who worked in the Kansas City (Missouri) Public School System. He also served as the second MSA president from 1994-1995.

Magnet Schools of America created national awards for elementary and secondary Magnet Schools of Excellence, both include cash awards of $2,500. The elementary Magnet Schools of Excellence award is sponsored by Magnet Schools of America and is named after Dr. Donald Waldrip, founder and MSA’s first Executive Director.

The New and Emerging Magnet School of Excellence Award is recognized nationally for its leadership and commitment to magnet schools, the Washington, DC Law Firm Hogan Lovells is the sponsor of this $1,000 cash award.


Are there multiple awards for the same category?

There are two primary categories: School of Excellence and School of Distinction.  Each primary has three subcategories: New & Emerging, Program Within-A-School, and Whole School Magnet.

What is the deadline date for the Merit Awards Application?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 11:59 p.m. EST.

For clarification, the cover page and full application is not due until November 28th, correct?

That is correct, the signed cover page and full application is due November 28.  You must be an MSA in good standing (paid by November 1).  The Powerpoint slide and video must be submitted via GoogleDrive to by December 29, 2017.

Signature Page/Cover Page

I would like to ask if the Nominee Assurance & Signature portion of the application is signed by our principal or magnet coordinator?

It must be signed by the principal (see next FAQ).

Is the Superintendent/Designee Signature portion signed by our school superintendent. In my school district, it is difficult to meet with the superintendent of schools.

The Superintendent/Designee signature may be signed by your District Magnet Director or Associate Superintendent.

New & Emerging

I am a magnet coordinator at Commonwealth Gifted/Highly Gifted/High Ability Arts & Technology Magnet in LAUSD. This is our third year so we won't have 3 or 4 years of data. Can we still apply this year?

Yes, you can still apply. Make sure to check the New & Emerging Award Category. 

Do we use the same application for New and Emerging Category? Do I just check the box to indicate New and Emerging? Since this is our 3rd year, we don't have any awards that we received. Do we receive 0 point for new and emerging category?

Yes, you will use the same application and check the box indicating ‘New and Emerging’.  Awards are not limited to just the program/school as a whole.  Make sure to include student, staff awards as well. (Tip: Refer to the rubric)

If a school is applying as a New & Emerging Magnet School, is there a minimum number of students they can have in their program? Does the 200 students/20% rule apply to them?

Yes, the rule for Program Within-a-School applies (20% or at least 200 students).

We are in our fourth year extension of the Magnet program. Should we submit our application under the "new and emerging" category? The guidelines say that schools in their second or third year would be included in this category, but schools should have at least four years in the program to qualify for the regular award categories. I'm a bit confused as to where we fit in. Any guidance in this area would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

The school must be a magnet for a minimum of three full years to be eligible for the normal merit award category.

Program Within-a-School

Did the Program Within-a-School Award eligibility change for this year?

In order to qualify for this category, there must be at least 200 students in the program or 20% of the school? We have a few programs that have applied for this category in the past, but may no longer be eligible with this rule. If a school only has 120 students in each of their different magnet programs, but 480 total magnet students in a school with 2,000 total students, can they apply for Program Within-a-School for each program or would they need to combine the application into one application for Program Within-a School?

Yes, the eligibility did change this year for the Program Within-a-School award. Based on the information provided, you will need to apply as one magnet school to meet the 20% minimum. 

We have 569 students in main school and 108 students in magnet. That means we only have 18.9%. Can we still apply?

Unfortunately, you are not eligible.  Twenty percent of the student population must in the program or a minimum of 200 students. 

We are a partial magnet school with currently 165 students out of 907 students who are magnet students. Would this be considered as a program within a school?

Your partial magnet school would apply as a program within-a-school if your student population for the magnet program is 20% of the total student population or a minimum of 200 students.  Based on the numbers provided, you do not meet the requirement (18.2%).

ABC Senior High School - total population = 2612 students


  1. Science, Technology & Math = 660 students –> 25.3%
  2. Medical = 268 students –> 10.3%
  3. Performing Arts Magnet = 408 students –> 15.6%

Applying all magnets in one application… total students = 1336 –> 51.1%

Based on the information provided, you may submit a Program Within-a-School application for just the Science, Technology & Math program or one Program Within-a-School application for all of your magnets.

I am still confused about the percent for new and emerging schools. Am I correct, you must have 20% of the entire school enrolled in the new and emerging? We have two magnets. I am only applying for the new and emerging one. Do I count my other magnet as part of the entire school?

I am assuming based on the information provided above that you have two programs within-a-school, and one of the two is a new and emerging program.  Yes, the student population for the one new and emerging magnet program must be 20% of the total student population or a minimum of 200 students. The other magnet should be accounted for in the whole school data.


Are the readers who judge the applications individuals who do not have a background in the field of education? We are unclear as to how you distinguish "jargon" from valid professional terminology whose use decreases the need for unnecessary explanation.

Our trained readers do come from an education background.   We do ask that abbreviations be spelled out as some names may be used in one state and not in another. 

Can an applicant for an MSA award simultaneously also be a reader?

Yes, an applicant may apply to be a reader.  If selected, the training will take place post deadline.  In addition, the reader will not be assigned any applications from within his/her region or with any possible conflicts of interest. 

Last year we submitted the application online using text boxes and could save as we worked. Do we need to complete the entire application as a word document and then upload it as a word document?

The process is the same this year.  You have the option of typing out the narrative in a word doc, spell check, count characters before pasting into the text boxes OR you can type directly into the text boxes.  Please note, there is no spell-check available in the platform.  And, YES you do have the ability to “save” as you go. 

If you have won in the past year, are you eligible to win again?

Previous monetary award winners are NOT eligible to receive cash awards for five years after the initial award, but are eligible for the Excellence and Distinction award categories. Exception: A New and Emerging School, having completed its fourth year, may be eligible for other awards in their category. 

For previous winners, what would you suggest to be different in a new application?

Build on what you have accomplished…talk about your achievement trend, the progress that you are making, and programs that are unique and different.

I have to add the data to the table for a 3rd time because it isn’t possible to copy and paste more than one cell at a time.

The data tables are locked.  You will need to enter data for each cell.  The only items that you can copy and paste is the text for the narrative sections.  

Demographic Profile

What if there is no diversity plan/goal?

Are you working towards improving the overall diversity?  Explain how you are working towards it (school improvement plan, staff meetings, etc.).  It does not have to be a formally sanctioned plan by the district, it can be a school plan.

So a lot of the diversity questions seem based on our district guidelines? Is it fair that our answers come directly from the district guidelines?

Readers are trained to recognize district guideline limitations and are encouraged to avoid penalizing the school.  Applicants should make the distinction clear in the narrative so that the reader understands the difference.

There are many cross-outs on the data tables. Are we to ignore this information?

There are two demographic tables templates available, one for whole school and one for program within-a-school.  The whole school data template will have text crossed out pertaining to program within-a-school requirements.  We try to keep all listed guidelines on templates as consistent as possible.

I am in the process of completing the demographic profile for my school. In LAUSD, Filipino is identified, but on your form it is not. Which ethnic category should I group them with?

Please include Filipino under the Asian category and make sure to provide an explanation in the narrative.

Can you provide some guidance and share your thinking about what this language refers to "student diversity is leveraged and maximized"?

 It basically means that whatever your diversity is you can set a plan to increase diversity to better reflect your district and celebrate your current cultures.  For example, if your school is 80% Hispanic 20% Caucasian but your district is 50% Caucasian, 30% Hispanic and 20% Asian American, you would want strategies to work toward the more diverse percentages of your district.  You also need to make sure you are celebrating the diversity and cultures you already have in your building even when you haven’t made progress toward your overall goal.

Student Achievement

The directions are also calling for socio-economic percentages and there is no place in the spreadsheet to input that data. I am happy with this since we don't have state data on that yet for 15-16 and it was re-calibrated in 14-15 as well but you do state in the directions that you want it.

The application guidelines have been updated as well as data tables; we are not asking for socio-economic percentages this year.

Our leadership academies, which are also early colleges, and go 6-12, to be able to upload 2 data sheets and 2 demographic sheets to speak to their theme?

Yes, multiple file uploads are available in the online platform for the Student Achievement Data section to account for the different reporting based on grade levels.

The attendance block is new. It used to be graduation. The directions are still asking for graduation. With the new form, do we still try to include graduation in a block or just the attendance rates?

The attendance rate is new and not required, just optional.  As for the graduation rates, you may include it in the narrative section (Section D).

When completing the data table for student achievement, there is the column for school district % proficient. Do I enter the % proficient for all grades or just for students in the school district in the same grades as the ones served at my campus?

Please enter the data however it makes sense to you, but make sure to explain what you have done and the context in the narrative.  Normally you would put the last year’s data and then explain that the other years were different tests and that is why the data is not listed.  If a composite is not provided to the school from the state, an average is fine.

Could you please tell me how to report attendance on the Magnet School of America Awards template. It asks for the % Proficient for the Magnet Program, School District, and State. The data I have is % of students with 0 absences, the % of students with 1 to 5 absences, the percent of students with 6 to 10 absences, and the percent of students with more than 10 absences. I would think I would report the % of students with less than 10 absences. Please advise if this is acceptable.

The data table has been revised as of 10.24.16.  We are asking for the overall average daily attendance for program/school, district and state.

What is Attendance Rate you are looking for on the Student Achievement Data Table? The percentage of students that attend? Also, how do we represent aggregated attendance rate (single number)? It appears that our state did not disaggregate attendance rates (historical years).

We are asking for the daily attendance rate as a possible indicator of success you could share.  For instance, 95% attendance rate for the year (for previous year).

Your Total (overall) % proficient is averaging the percent passing of the races without taking into consideration the N count of each race. Therefore, if I have 2 Caucasians that have a 50% pass rate and 400 Asians with a 95% pass rate those 2 Caucasians combined hold the same weight as the 400 Asians combined. The way your spreadsheet is giving the overall total it looks like the school/district/state would only have a 72.5% pass rate when in actuality it should have a 94.6% overall pass rate.

The data table has been updated to total the disaggregated columns rather than average them.  There is also an aggregated data table template available.

Because of the way the formula calculates, our total proficiencies do not match what is on the template after inputting data. Also, we had one year that we did not have any students in a specific subgroup and putting a ".001” negatively impacts our total proficiency.

The data table has been updated.  The note along the bottom regarding the “.001” has been removed. 

Parent and Community Involvement

The one community partnership that I can think of is one that we have with one of our local elementary schools. Our Video Game Technology teacher has a Club there with our high school students working with fifth graders. Can that be considered a community partnership?

You must decide which partnerships to consider for the letter.  Determine what partnership strengthens your application

Are the letters sent in separately, correct? Not on-line?

The letters must be scanned and uploaded during the online submission process by the deadline.

I am in the process of typing up a letter of support for one of the magnet schools looking to be recognized. To whom should the letter be addressed?

Please address the letter of support to the MSA Merit Awards Committee | 1909 K Street, NW Suite C-140 | Washington, DC 20006


Do all schools submit a video and Powerpoint slide?

Yes, ALL schools must submit a video and Powerpoint slide.  Winners will be announced at 2017 National Conference on Magnet Schools, where the video and/or Powerpoint will be used. 

This is our second year. Can you clarify the video and the power point slide?

The goal is to “Scream Your Theme” for the video as well as the images/design on the slide.  Make sure to include your school name in both, principal, grade levels and theme on the slide.

A single slide? or a single powerpoint presentation?

We are looking for a single slide that is static (no animation or audio).

Can video be longer than 20 seconds?

We highly recommend that the video you submit be as close to 20 seconds and captures the message you are trying to get across.  Please note, that we may edit your video.

Part of the application for the 2017-2018 Magnet Merit Award is a submission of a PowerPoint slide. I was wondering if the slide could have animations or sound? of is this a static slide?

We are asking for a static slide.  

Magnet School must be a paid member for 2017-2018 by Friday, November 3, 2017.  Membership inquiries, please email OR call 202.824.0672.

2017-2018 Merit Awards Application

Cover Page - Signatures

Demographic Data Table_WHOLE SCHOOL

Demographic Data Table_PROGRAM WITHIN-A-SCHOOL

Student Achievement Data Table - Disaggregated

updated 10.13.2017 - Data years

Student Achievement Data Table - Aggregated

Merit Rubric - updated 10.18.17


SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Tuesday, November 28

Questions, please email

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