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Standards of Excellence Certification Program

Magnet schools are changing lives and outperforming all other types of schools. Isn’t that the educational brand with which you want to be affiliated? With certification, your school offers parents, students and community partners confidence that each nationally certified magnet school, no matter its location, is held to the same high standard in every school district.  Based on the National Magnet School Standards of Excellence and the five pillars of magnet schools (1. Diversity; 2. Innovative Curriculum and Professional Development; 3. Academic Excellence; 4. Leadership; and, 5. Family and Community Partnerships), the MSA certification process defines and ensures these standards as consistent, essential elements and characteristics of high-quality magnet programs.

Standards of Excellence

New Certification Cohort is Accepting Applications

We are excited to announce the application for the next Certification Cohort National Certification is now open!

Apply Now

Why become a nationally certified magnet school?

Call it, “looking at your school through the lens of excellence.” Applying for certification raises 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. In addition, the certification becomes an invaluable asset to your marketing and ability to seek support for your school.

Why Certification?

What is the process to become nationally certified through MSA?

To become nationally certified, MSA member schools must submit a detailed application and participate in a rigorous evaluation conducted by the National Institute for Magnet School Leadership (NIMSL). Cohorts begin every August and run through the following June.

View Informational Webinar

Participants will simulate a quasi-certification activity and will work to assist the magnet schools and leadership in evaluating where the strengths and challenges are for each program and can be used in strategic planning for school improvement efforts. Each will leave the workshop with a clear understanding of their school’s successes and challenges, prepare to address in strategic action planning, and address via SMART goals where necessary.

“I feel that this Certification process greatly increased our awareness of where we needed to be as a school. It gave us insight into how to make our Magnet Program a true program. I would highly recommend that all schools go through this process.”
– Certification Participant

“I truly feel that this is a process for all Magnet Schools to undertake. It takes your program to an all new level. I would highly recommend seeking Magnet Certification for any school looking into this worthwhile endeavor.”
– Certification Participant

Standards of Excellence

Standard 1: Student Recruitment and Selection
All district and school based efforts for student selection including marketing, recruitment, entrance and assignment, and transportation policies, are designed to ensure equal access for all students and reduce minority group isolation.

Standard 2: Diversity and Equity
District and school based policies and activities to attract and retain students support racial, ethnic and socio-economic integration. All classrooms reflect the demographic diversity in the district and community, and educators demonstrate a commitment to teaching in a diverse setting.

Standard 3: Theme and Curriculum Fidelity
The school’s magnet theme is integrated into all subjects, monitored, differentiated, articulated between grades, and is innovative, relevant, and ensures student preparation beyond high school.

Standard 4: Professional Development
The school has a plan that aligns professional development to its theme, supports all students including English language learners, and those with disabilities, and includes job-embedded training. Collaboration is a structured part of regular planning.

Standard 5: Instructional Fidelity
Teaching and learning focuses on theme-aligned instruction and researched-based design. It includes student collaboration and problem solving with tiered levels of intervention and formative assessments relevant to instruction that improves student achievement.

Standard 6: Student Achievement
There is evidence of academic improvement and narrowing the achievement gap for all subgroups, and the school continually collects, analyzes, and uses data to improve graduation rates and indicators of college and career readiness.

Standard 7: Leadership and Educator Development
Magnet school leadership recognizes exceptional instruction, staff is coached to ensure that
the theme is implemented with fidelity, and decisions are made collaboratively. Teachers are
recruited, selected, and retained, and strategic partnerships are cultivated to meet the unique needs of the magnet.

Standard 8: District and Magnet Relations
The district supports the magnet program in all school improvement efforts, includes them
in the strategic plan, and has a pathway for themes. There is a financial plan to sustain and
continuously improve magnets with latitude for decision-making and dedicated resource
allocation and curriculum support.

Standard 9: Community Engagement and Partnerships
Schools have an established process to welcome and involve businesses and organizations in decisions about theme implementation. The district supports and facilitates career-related and curriculum-focused partnerships that enhance magnet themes and benefit students.

Standard 10: Family Engagement and Communication
The school has an active family and parent group that is involved in school operations and student learning is showcased regularly. There are policies and practices for communication and there is a demonstrated commitment to engage families.

View Standards of Excellence Brochure

Certification FAQs

What are the benefits of applying for certification?

When you apply for certification, you are looking at your school through the “lens of excellence.” You will be self-evaluating, providing documentation, and in some cases, writing SMART Goals in the areas that need improvement. You are asking that your school be rated as one of the “best of the best” magnet schools in the nation. Such a designation will be invaluable to your marketing and ability to seek support for your school.

Should we also apply for the merit awards?

We strongly encourage all of our schools to apply for any recognition opportunities that Magnet Schools of America offers to their members.

How long is certification valid?

Your certification will be valid for four school years. At that time, you may reapply to continue or improve your rating. We encourage schools to strive for the top designation of MSA Certified National Demonstration School.

How do we recertify?

In February of your third year of Certified status, your Principal will receive an email with Re-certification details. As of August 2023, if your school chooses to not go through the Re-certification Process in its eligible year, this means your school is choosing to forego the Re-certification process and will have to start a new application in a future cohort.

What is the cost of the application for certification?

The cost is $1395.00 per school. (If you hire a coach to assist your school, that is an additional cost.)

Will there be a district rate or does each school pay separately?

At this time, there is no district rate. Each school must apply separately and pay the individual school fee.

What is due at the time of application?

In addition to completing the application form, you must submit the fee of $1395 (via check, credit card, or purchase order). If you select to pay with a check or purchase order, payment must be received in the National Office within 10 business days of submission.

Make check payable to:

Magnet Schools of America, Inc.
PO BOX 45739
Baltimore, MD  21297-5739

A Supervisor Signature page is also required to be completed and emailed within 10 business days of submission to  (you may obtain this from our website ahead of time). Your application will be numbered in the order that it is received.

If we don’t reach certification, can we get a refund?

No refunds will be given.  We encourage you to use the information you have learned to improve your school and to reapply in a subsequent year.

What if we don’t finish addressing the standards by the end of the application year? Can we get an extension?

A one school year extension can be granted by the Director of NIMSL. The extension fee is $195 per school.

How many years do I need to be a magnet school before applying?

All schools are at different developmental levels of their program, but as a rule of thumb, three years. Schools that are in their third year may apply as they will be completing the process in their fourth year.  During this time frame, you will have the data, documentation, and evidence needed for a complete application. With complete information, you will be able to tell the success story of your school.

Re-certification FAQs

When is my school eligible to apply for the Re-certification process?

During the third year of its four year status; i.e. if Certified in 2018, school will be eligible in 2021-2022 school year to go through the process.

How do I apply for the Re-certification process?

The Principal of your school will receive an email from during February of the eligible year with details on how to proceed.

How much does the Re-certification process cost?


Is the Re-certification Process the same as the Certification Process?

The process is the same, however, there are options based on the previous status attained.

Previously Demonstration School – complete 20 indicators (MSA determined) – if Demonstration status is attained, it will be good for 4 years; if Certified status is attained, it will be good for 2 years.

Previously Certified School – complete 40 indicators – whichever status is attained, Certified or Demonstration, it will be good for 4 years.

What is due at the time of application?

In addition to completing the application form, you must submit the fee of $995 (via check, credit card, or purchase order). If you select to pay with a check or purchase order, payment must be received by September 1st of the applying year. 

Make check payable to: 

Magnet Schools of America, Inc.
PO BOX 45739
Baltimore, MD  21297-5739

A Supervisor Signature page and Collaborator Table are also required to be completed and emailed within 10 business days of submission to  (you may obtain these from our website ahead of time). 

When do we onboard for the Re-certification Process and when is the submission deadline?

Eligible Re-certification schools will onboard in June of their eligible year with a submission deadline at the end of June the following year.

Who can assist with the online platform including login and technical assistance?

The Certification Help Desk,

Who can assist if we have a question regarding evidence or want to hire a coach?

The Leadership Development & Planning Director Kelly Bucherie,

Who can assist if I forgot where to go to access my school’s Re-certification platform?

The Certification Help Desk,