Surveying Recent Alumni and Students on Magnet Experiences

In the summer of 2020, Laura Cui, Steven Qu, and Jacob Stavrianos, alumni from the Class of 2019, distributed a survey to recent Blair Magnet alumni and current students to learn about their Magnet experiences. Excerpts from a summary of their results are below. The full summary is available here: (pdf)

Outreach through the survey happened largely through informal social circles with the exception of the Class of 2019, to which the form was sent through a class-wide Google group. We tried to access as many current and former Magnet students as possible through various social media platforms, most notably a multi-class group of students on a Discord server named Playground.

The categories (academic opportunities, social life, mental/emotional health) were decided by active members of the Playground server. The decision to have three categories largely stemmed from desires to keep the survey informative yet brief. Five substantive responses were available for each question, ranging from “significantly better” to “significantly worse”, as well as an option “not sure/prefer not to say.” They were arranged in the order as stated, and the survey questions were in the following order: overall experience, academic opportunities, social life, and mental/emotional health.

Responses were gathered from a total of 128 participants, predominantly composed of the classes of 2019 through 2022, with only 15 participants who were part of other class years; 2 respondents chose not to answer this question. The largest group by far was the class of 2019, with 54 respondents. 78 of the respondents were male, compared to 42 female and 3 nonbinary; 5 chose not to answer. Finally, 84 respondents identified as Asian, 35 as White, 4 as African American, and 2 as Hispanic/Latino. 5 respondents were of mixed race/ethnicity, and 2 listed other racial/ethnic identities; 5 respondents chose not to answer this question.

The average response for “overall experiences” in the magnet program compared to home school was 1.45, where the responses have been converted to a scale from -2 to 2 as follows: 2 for “significantly better”, 1 for “slightly better”, 0 for “about the same”, -1 for “slightly worse”, and -2 for “significantly worse”. The average response for “academic opportunities” was 1.79, while “social life” and “mental/emotional health” received more mixed reviews, with averages of 0.41 and -0.05, respectively. The distribution of responses for each of the questions is displayed in Fig. 2.

Both “social life” and “mental/emotional health” ratings varied significantly between different demographic groups. For example, non-White respondents reported significantly lower “social life” and “mental/emotional health” ratings than White respondents, and female respondents reported significantly lower “mental/emotional health” ratings than male respondents. The overall ratings tended to be more balanced over demographic groups, with the notable exception of African American respondents reporting significantly lower ratings than White respondents. However, the wider implications of these results are limited by small sample size, especially for the African American group, as well as by the informal design of the survey. Some participants expressed that they were unsure about how to evaluate “mental/emotional health” experiences at Blair compared to their home high school, suggesting ambiguity in the ratings depending on individual interpretation of phrasing.

Full summary here: (pdf)