Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Terms of Use

© 2023 Eliza V. Murphy. All rights reserved. Access to this work is restricted to users within the Swarthmore College network and may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. Sharing with users outside of the Swarthmore College network is expressly prohibited. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Educational Studies Department

First Advisor

Edwin Mayorga


In the fall of 2021, the School District of Philadelphia implemented a centralized lottery system for admissions into the city’s magnet schools. By replacing the principal-choice system, the district intended to make the admissions process more equitable since Black, Latine, low-income, emergent bilingual, and disabled students have been underrepresented at these schools. In this paper, I explore the history of magnet schools in the United States and Philadelphia, the mechanisms through which these schools have excluded marginalized students, the district’s attempt to address these disparities, and parents’ and community members’ responses to the latest policy change. I use these four pursuits to explore how the implementation of the lottery system fits into the history of magnet schools and how families experienced and responded to this magnet application process. I find that magnet schools have historically been used to promote integration, but have not and will not live up to these goals. The implementation of the lottery for magnet admissions in Philadelphia is an attempted quick fix to a much larger issue. Further, I find that many families are displeased with the results of the new policy, and these critics fall into two categories: predominantly white, higher-income parents who wish to return to the principal-choice system, and those who emphasize the negative side-effects of the policy on students of color, whom it was meant to benefit. I conclude by describing how the policy could be improved, and my vision of a more equitable education system in Philadelphia that does not rely on the use of magnet schools.