Increasing numbers of the students returning to high school this fall will take all or part of their classes in "magnet" schools or programs that emphasize math, science, and technology. Whether they are residential academies that attract top scholars or part-day programs for students seeking exposure to technical careers, these specialized public school offerings are designed to draw students with similar interests and talents.

OPPORTUNITY: North Carolina magnet student Christiane Haeffele presented her work at a scientific symposium.
"There are several pluses and minuses to magnets," says Daryl Chubin, a division director in the National Science Foundation's Directorate for Education and Human Resources. Magnet schools, which tend to get a bigger slice of the budgetary pie than do traditional high schools, often have small classes, high-tech labs, and teachers with superior scientific credentials. But while they are widely perceived to give students a leg up in college admissions,...

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