Magnet School Merit Awards Program

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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 2023-2024 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 150 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 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 Presidents’ Award is Magnet Schools of America’s third highest honor and is bestowed on behalf of all Presidents, past and present, of MSA.

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 RECIPIENTS 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. 

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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