Typically, magnet schools are feature specialized instruction or alternative curriculum and are open to students from across the county who qualify or meet certain standards. Memphis's optional schools and even suburban Shelby's schools wth International Baccalaureate programs are often described as synonymous with the magnet school concept, but there are differences.
To give one example -- former longtime suburban school board member David Pickler, still on the unified school board, is a big supporter of The Orpheum and arts programs. He has mused over the possibility of embracing the areas's reputation for great music and art to consider establishing a magnet school devoted to the arts. This would not be merely a school with a strong arts program, it would be a school almost entirely centered around students interested in pursuing the arts, and drawing students from every corner of the county.
Here is the CMS magnet school website, which describes the programs like this:
Magnet programs are theme-based and designed to offer a unique educational environment promoting students' abilities, interests and talents. Researchers have noted that magnet programs promote innovation in teaching and learning, increase parental involvement, foster greater student engagement, and encourage diverse student bodies that, when added together, can lead to higher student achievement.
CMS magnet schools provide opportunities for your child to develop his or her special interests and talents while still receiving a solid foundation in traditional academic areas, including the North Carolina Standard Course of Study curriculum. In addition, some of our magnet programs, such as Montessori, incorporate specific educational approaches. In the 2009-2010 school year, 10 of our magnet schools were recognized by Magnet Schools of America as National Schools of Excellence and Distinction. The variety of magnet programs in CMS ensures that every student has the chance to be educated in the manner in which he or she learns best.