Magnet School Merit Awards Program


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.

*ALL 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 cash awards in their category. 


You must follow the Criteria & Requirements outline (next tab)  to complete the narrative section of the proposal.  Special attention should be given to “describe and highlight” those exemplary and unique aspects of the magnet school which are above and beyond program components found in traditional, non-magnet schools. For example, “having an active Parent Teacher Association (PTA)” is not considered a unique level of parent and community involvement specific to magnets.  Please spell out all abbreviations and acronyms, EXAMPLE: Supplemental Educational Services (SES).  The application must follow the same order as the narrative components listed in the next tab (Criteria & Requirements), A1. – C3. and E1. – F1. (with the exception of sections B4. – B8., and D1.)  Applicants for the New and Emerging School category are required to provide data for the years that the school has been a magnet (e.g., two or three).


Complete the application for the specific award for which you are applying .

  • Whole School or Program Within-a-School
    • 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.
  • Magnet School of Merit or New & Emerging Magnet School of Merit
    • New & Emerging Magnet School category is designed for magnet school in their second or third year.

ALL applications are to be submitted online at on or before Tuesday, October 23, 2018.

A twenty (20) second video in M-PEG4/MP4 format AND one PowerPoint slide (16:9 aspect ratio) may be uploaded during the online submission process OR shared via GoogleDrive with on or before Friday, December 28, 2018.

  • SIGNATURES PAGE*: Complete with the Principal and Superintendent/Designee signatures at the time of submission, download blank template here;
  • GENERAL INFORMATION*: Complete online during the submission process;
  • ABSTRACT*: Complete online during the submission process;
  • APPLICATION GUIDELINES*: Complete all of the specific instructions for the application. Each narrative section will be completed online AND data tables uploaded in EXCEL format (templates are provided for the data tables), see Criteria & Requirements tab; and
  • LETTERS OF SUPPORT*: Two current letters of support for the award, one from a parent or parent group, AND one from a partnering organization (upload online as a PDF);


Criteria 1: PROGRAM OVERVIEW (15 pts)

Program Overview:

  1. A summary of how the vision for the school is related to the theme and aligns with the goals, objectives, and educational activities for the school, no more than 250 words (5 pts);
  2. How the magnet theme is integrated throughout the school in core classes as well as electives and co-curricular activities, no more than 500 words (5 pts); and
  3. How the program/school promotes equitable access to all demographic groups, including but not limited to English “Language” Learners and students who receive special education services, no more than 300 words (5 pts).

Criteria 2: DEMOGRAPHIC PROFILE (WS = 20 pts | PWAS = 25 pts)

Demographic Profile:

  1. A description of the student diversity plan (if there is a diversity goal) or a description on how student diversity is leveraged and maximized, no more than 500 words (10 pts);
  2. How student enrollment reflects the diversity plan, no more than 400 words (10 pts);
  3. Are students selected by a lottery process that does not include academic criteria, YES/NO; no more than 75 words (1 pt bonus);
  4. For programs within-a-school, a description on how students in the program and school have academic opportunities to interact, no more than 500 words (5 pts)
  5. Current programs within-a-school enrollment by racial/ethnic categories, and totals (# & %);
  6. Current school enrollment by racial/ethnic categories, and totals (# & %);
  7. District enrollment by by racial/ethnic categories, and totals (# & %); and
  8. Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL) eligibility for students in the district/school/program (# & %), Optional.


Program Within-a-School
Whole School


Innovative Instructional Strategies:

  1. A description of how the innovative instructional practices are implemented, no more than 400 words (10 pts);
  2. How professional development activities enhance instructional delivery, and are aligned with the magnet theme; For example: What are you doing to support your Magnet theme, teacher staff and all other instructional staff to understand the Magnet-theme philosophy/goals and objectives, no more than 350 words (10 pts); and
  3. How diversity (ethnic or socio-economic) is infused into the magnet school/program curriculum–not just festivals and/or holidays, no more than 300 words (10 pts); word count updated on 10.9.18

Criteria 4: STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT (20 pts)

Student Achievement – Reading or Math OR other areas determined by your State Department of Education:

  1. School, district, and state achievement data for enrolled students is disaggregated by race for the last 4 academic years. School must indicate new assessments and provide documentation from the state when data is unavailable. If your state no longer allows the publishing of test information disaggregated in conjunction with FRL, an aggregated template is provided (for New & Emerging schools, report data for the years covered in the application) (5 pts);  Must use provided template.Student Achievement Data Templates in EXCEL (unprotected)
    Disaggregated template word count & dates updated 8.22.2018
    Aggregated template
  2. Explanation of the student achievement data; include attendance rates and graduation rates for high school (if applicable) for 2014-2015, 2015-2016, 2016-2017, and 2017-2018, no more than 950 words (15 pts).


Parent and Community Involvement:

  1. How partnerships formed with parents, community groups, industry partners and other organizations connect to and support student learning and are aligned to the magnet theme (beyond fundraising), no more than 250 words (8 pts); word count updated on 9.25.18
  2. Current (2017 or 2018) letters of support for the Magnet Schools of America Merit Award from:
    – an active parent or parent group (1 pt); and
    – an active industry partner/partnering organization (1pt).


Awards and Achievements:

  1. Significant achievements and school awards received during the last three years as covered by the application (receiving a grant is not considered a significant achievement for this specific category), no more than 200 words (5 pts).



The following nominee/general information will need to be populated during the online submission process:

  • School/Program
    *This will be used for the plaque, if awarded.
  • School URL/Website
  • Grade Level(s)
  • Elementary or Secondary (includes middle & high schools)
  • Magnet Theme(s)
  • Type of Magnet
    Whole School Magnet OR Program Within-a-School
  • School Address
  • School Telephone/Fax
  • # of Years as a Magnet
  • School District
  • Rural | Suburban | Urban
  • Principal and Principal’s Email
  • Magnet Coordinator/Lead Teacher andMagnet Coordinator/Lead Teacher’s Email
  • District Enrollment #’s
  • Whole School Enrollment #’s
  • Program Within-a-School Enrollment #’s (required for PWAS applicants)
  • Are students selected by a lottery process: YES/NO? If no, describe selection process and any variables that impact on magnet school enrollment/acceptance.
  • Does the school us academic criteria for admission: YES/NO (i.e., test scores, GPA, etc)?


Submit a description of your magnet program. Please make sure all information provided in the abstract is supported in the application. This abstract will be posted on the MSA website for winning entries and may be used for other publications, no more than 125 words.


upload PDF during the online submission process

Download blank signatures page HERE. Two signatures needed:

  • Nominee/Principal Assurance
  • Superintendent/Designee

2018-2019 MERIT RUBRIC

Download 2018-2019 Merit rubric here.

WEBINAR hosted on October 10, 2018



We have a school that merged with another school, and it began this year. One school has been a magnet and one has not. Is that school eligible to apply for a merit award this year?

If they applied under the school within a school column before but have always planned on expansion then I could see that they would just fill out a normal merit application for whole school.  But, it sounds like this is a new thing and they have decided to do a whole school magnet.  So, if the whole school magnet is brand new for them they need to wait until Year 2 and apply in the whole school magnet category.

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

Unfortunately, you are not eligible.  Twenty percent (20%) of the student population must in the program or a minimum of 200 students.

I received a question from one school that is only PreK3 & 4. Please confirm if they are ineligible since they are a PreK school. I noticed the application says K-12 schools.

Unfortunately, Pre-K schools are not eligible.  Only schools that contain K-12 classrooms.

I am a magnet coordinator at ABC Magnet. 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 select ‘New & Emerging’ in the dropdown as you begin your online application.  

My Magnet was established in 1994 as a Communications and Technology program; however, in 2015 we successfully changed the name and theme of our program to College Prep and Digital Arts. When applying for an award, can I apply under the "New and Emerging" category, since our theme has recently changed?

You may apply for “New and Emerging” only if your school has completely revamped the program including changing administration and most of their personnel.  Evidence of that could be a new school code or a MSAP grant.

Otherwise, it’s an established magnet that has changed their focus.

CRITERIA 2: Section B. Demographic Profile

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.

The data that is provided to the school, are we allowed to go in-depth with the data by looking into certain subgroups (ie. ELL, ESS, FRL) even though that particular data is not in a chart?

Since the information may not be captured in the data table, you can always describe this information in the narrative.

Can you tell me more about the information concerning mirroring the demographic diversity of the district? Our district is very segregated and our school is diverse. We are decreasing the gap and getting closer to reflect the diversity but our goal would never be to mirror our district because it needs to work on diversity. Can you tell me more about that?

If entire district is 60% AA, 30% Caucasian, 10% Asian—your demographic data should reflect those percentages. The information we are asking is aligned with federal government for MSAP funding. These are goals and aspirations, not rules, so please describe in the narrative what you are doing.

My school has a specific area application zone. The demographics of the application community is far off of the district. Can our goal be to reflect the population of our community - not the district? For example - the district has 27% black, my community has 55% black, my school has 68% black. In the past we were marked off for being more than 20 points off the district.

These merit awards are set up to award districts who are moving in the right direction of diversity. The district as a whole needs to be diverse. If the school started at 68%, then moved to 58%, you are still moving towards the district’s 27%, moving the needle. We encourage district support; district needs to change things as well. You may include a diversity goal for your zone to assist with showing that the needle is moving.

I didn't see any place to put a narrative for the lottery question. The rubric says up to 75 words, but the application only shows a yes or no.

We are trying to streamline the lottery questions to one section. The text-box for this specific narrative question is located in the general information section.

CRITERIA 4: Section D. Student Achievement

Our leadership academies, which are also early colleges, are grades 6-12. Is there the ability to upload multiple data sheets and multiple demographic sheets to speak to their theme?

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

What is the 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).

In the Student Achievement Section (Section D), is it advised to include other measures or data stories that are not communicated in the templates to communicate closing gaps?

For the narrative you want to describe what is in the data template. Be specific to describe where improving with subgroups; we did great for two years then there was a drop…talk about interventions taking place with evidence to prove things are moving in the right direction. Narrow it down to a story to show that you are making progress. Make your case the best you can.

We are a new magnet school, but used to exist as a typical neighborhood public school, so we do have data prior to becoming a magnet school, do we still include this in the table from several years back (prior to becoming a magnet). We are applying as a new & emerging because we are in year 3, but we existed as a normal neighborhood school prior to that.

Use only the data from since you have become a magnet school; you are only graded on academic criteria since started to become a magnet school. You can reference in your narrative that you transformed a school.

Can we provide multiple data sheets and multiple demographic sheets?

If you are a programs within-a-school; call or email the MSA office ( and we can help clarify– can not upload outside tables or add any. We do offer additional file uploads for multi-year schools (i.e., K-12, 6-12).

What is the attendance rate you are looking for?

We are looking for the daily attendance rate.  Attendance is celebrated as an incentive for students. Under ESSA school’s go on a watch list if attendance is under 95%.

CRITERIA 5: Section E. Parent and Community Involvement

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:
MSA Merit Awards Committee
1909 K Street, NW Suite C-140
Washington, DC 20006

CRITERIA 6: Section F. Awards and Achievement

Where should our priority be for the awards section since we never have enough room to cover everything for our school?

The biggest awards first; list awards that are whole school vs individual awards first.

Since this is our 3rd year, we don't have any awards that we received. Do we receive 0 points for the New and Emerging category?

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)


Are the power point slide and video evaluated as part of the application?

The power point slide and video are not evaluated.

What should be included in the video?

Scream your theme!

Our district does not allow outside organizations to have shared access to our Google Drive. In the past, we needed your permission to use Dropbox so that we could share videos with you. Will we be able to use Dropbox again this year (as the .mp4 files would be too large to email to you).

If you are unable to submit the video with the online application AND unable to share with Magnet Schools of America via GoogleDrive, we will be more than happy to accept the files via DropBox.  Please share with

2018 National Magnet School Merit Award Winners

National merit awards are given to magnet schools that demonstrate a commitment to high academic standards, curriculum innovation, successful desegregation and diversity efforts, and strong parent and community involvement. To be considered for a merit award, member schools must submit an application that is scored by a panel of educators.

This year, 389 magnet schools applied for national merit awards, making 2018 the most competitive year in the award program’s history. There are two categories of merit awards: (1) Magnet Schools of Excellence, the top merit award given to only a select group of magnet schools and (2) Magnet Schools of Distinction, the second highest award of recognition. The highest ranked magnet schools in the Excellence category are eligible to receive MSA’s highest national awards listed below.

  • East Career and Technical Academy (Clark County School District, NV) received the Dr. Ronald P. Simpson Distinguished Merit Award, which is named after MSA’s founding member. It is sponsored by American Education Solutions, Inc.
  • Van Nuys High School (Los Angeles Unified School District, CA) received the Dr. Donald Waldrip Award, which is named after MSA’s first Executive Director. The Waldrip Award is Magnet Schools of America’s second highest honor.
  • Liberty Elementary STEM Museum Magnet (Broward County Public Schools, FL) received the President’s Magnet School of Merit Award of Excellence. The President’s Award is Magnet Schools of America’s third highest honor bestowed on behalf of the President of MSA.
  • Farmington Woods International Baccalaureate PYP Magnet Elementary (Wake County Public School System, North Carolina) received the Elementary Magnet School Merit Award of Excellence.
  • Young Women’s Preparatory Academy (Miami-Dade County Public Schools, FL) received the Secondary Magnet School of Merit Award of Excellence.
  • McCaw STEAM Academy (Clark County School District, NV) received the New & Emerging Magnet School of Merit Award sponsored by Hogan Lovells, LLC.


2018 Merit Awardee Profiles

Dr. Ronald P. Simpson Distinguished Award – American Education Solutions, Inc.

East Career and Technical Academy is a Magnet Schools of America Nationally Certified Demonstration School. It is a Title I School and the only five-star high school in Nevada that serves a free and reduced lunch student population of over 60 percent. Students at East Tech enroll in one of eight themes such as construction technology, culinary arts, health information management, or marketing and hospitality. All of these programs are divided into three houses to promote a smaller learning community environment. It is part of the Clark County School District in Nevada.

Dr. Donald R. Waldrip Award –

Van Nuys High School offers three magnet programs: medical; performing arts; and science, technology, and math. Each magnet program is infused with a college preparatory core curriculum of mathematics and sciences regardless of study. The arts include a variety of creative opportunities including dance, theater, voice, music, film, and stage technology. It is part of the Los Angeles Unified School District in California.

Elementary Magnet School of Merit Award of Excellence –

Farmington Woods Elementary embraces inquiry based learning with a focus on global understanding. It seeks to empower critical thinkers through a rigorous IB curriculum that fosters lifelong learning, international mindedness, and citizenship. It is part of the Wake County Public School System in North Carolina.

Secondary Magnet School of Merit Award of Excellence –

Young Women’s Preparatory Academy is the first single-gender public school in Miami. It was established in 2006 as a one-to-one technology leadership magnet school for 6-12th grade girls. The school’s leadership theme is based on Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. It is part of Miami-Dade County Public Schools in Florida.

New and Emerging Magnet School Merit Award of Excellence  Hogan Lovells, LLC

McCaw STEAM Academy engages students in the critical areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math with a focus in geological science. The goal of the school is to help students become innovators and critical thinkers while developing a growth mindset that begins with goal setting. This all takes place during an extended day that allows students to participate in Makerspace, Robotics, and Fine Art Labs as well as engage in the Design Thinking Process in its Discovery Center. It is part of the Clark County School District in Nevada.

President’s Magnet School Merit Award of Excellence –  

Liberty Elementary is a STEM museum magnet school that seeks to prepare students to become problem solvers who can compete in a global society. It integrates STEM instruction and activities throughout the school day. Students at Liberty Elementary demonstrate their content knowledge by completing semester long cross-curricular STEM projects that are showcased twice yearly when the school is transformed into a museum. It is part of Broward County Public Schools in Florida.

2018 Schools of Excellence

2018 Schools of Distinction

Learn how to become a Nationally Certified Magnet School

Raise the level of performance consistent throughout school districts nationwide and creates a platform from which all magnet schools can flourish. Magnet Schools of America’s national certification process is designed to recognize the hard work of the best magnet schools in the nation and to help them as they grow.

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