Magnet schools and race in Los Angeles
Some magnets have admissions requirements (such as, in a couple of cases, scoring at the 99.9th percentile on the Wechsler IQ test), but most magnets in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) choose students solely through lotteries. Yet many boast significantly higher test scores, up to 60 percentiles above the normal open enrollment public school in the same neighborhood.
It would be nice if the magnets had discovered some magic formula for making children brighter. But, in reality, they typically succeed by attracting smarter, more diligent parents, who tend to have smarter, more diligent children. Notably, the better magnets tend to have higher percentages of whites and Asians than are found in the overall LAUSD—the country's second largest district, where whites make up only nine percent and Asians six percent of total students.
The court order setting up the LA magnet system in 1977 established a quota of 40 percent for white students. But far fewer white kids now remain in LAUSD. So, in an amusing example of "reverse-reverse discrimination", it's sometimes easier for whites to get into a fashionable magnet than for the much more numerous minorities. Further boosting the desirability of magnets, Asians, who are so often indefatigable in finding the best free schools for their kids, are legally considered a minority in magnets (unlike in college admissions, where they are normally defined as part of the majority). So many magnets have only a limited number of Hispanics and blacks.
And that's definitely okay with LA's liberal upper middle class. They may talk a good game about the benefits of diversity, but they ignore their oft-proclaimed principles when it comes to what their own children's peer group will look like.
Magnet school and racial integration in the Los Angeles Unified School District