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GATE Magnet Point System

GATE Magnet Point System

posted by Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom - December 20th, 2017

We continued our LAUSD series yesterday with Sonia Reiter, our TestingMom parent expert, who helped us prepare our children for GATE testing. Today she will finish up our series by giving you insight into the GATE magnet point system, as well as a strategy you can follow to give your child the best chance to get into the school you want most.

GATE Magnet Point System and Playing the Game

My child qualifies.  Now how do I get my child accepted into a GATE magnet? Each Magnet’s openings are determined by the need to maintain a racially balanced enrollment and by available space,so the point system was created to keep that balance. Therefore, the second, trickier part is POINTS. For any given magnet school, students are selected from the lottery first based on ethnicity, then the spot is given to the child of that ethnicity with the highest points.

A magnet school cannot have more than 30% or 40% Caucasian population, depending on the school. As a disclaimer, I have received mixed information from the district regarding the make-up of the remaining minority population. I have been told by the magnet office that the other 60%-70% could be any ratio of any minority making up that total and I have been told that there are additional quotas for each minority. This depends on the school and their needs for integration. In a school where the population is already diverse, the 60%-70% is open to any minority and is tallied as it falls.In other schools, there may be a need for Asian students to round out the school’s demographics, and an over-abundance of Black students, so at this type of school, separate quotas are set. At other schools, all that matters is whether the child is Caucasian or not.  It just depends on the school. You must call the magnet office to verify how they classify minority students at the school to which you are applying. If your child is mixed race, research the demographics of the school and see where the quota is low and apply appropriately.

Point System

Now let’s get to POINTS, POINTS, POINTS!With the advent of SAS programs, the points required to get into a magnet school has actually been dropping. Acquiring too many points can get you into a school you don’t necessarily want due to playing the game too aggressively.  Be careful and have a strategy. Point totals are comprised of five categories: PHBAO (Predominantly Hispanic, Black, Asian, or Other non-Anglo) school, overcrowded school, sibling, waitlist, and matriculation.

Right off the bat you get four points if your school of residence is a PHBAO school. You can get another four points if that same school is also designated “overcrowded” by the district (this is rare). You can check if your school is on this list by searching overcrowded PHBAO schools LAUSD on the internet. This list is updated every year and it changes! Keep checking it every year you apply. You also get three points if your child has a sibling already attending the magnet school to which you are applying. Matriculation points are only granted to outgoing fifth and eighth graders graduating from a magnet elementary or middle school and take the place of any and all waitlist points.

Now, how do you get those coveted wait-list points? I’m going to give you the Magic Bullet.

How to Get Wait-List Points

Two words:  Valley Alternative.  This gem of a magnet school serves K-12. The most important step you can take in playing the game happens before your child is even in school. Here is exactly what you do when you have a four-year-old who will be entering kindergarten the following school year when he is five: The October before your child starts kindergarten in August, apply through to Valley Alternative. Many parents that already know how to play this game will also flood the applicant pool, thereby nearly guaranteeing four coveted waitlist points for the bulk of applicants. There are no true guarantees, you see. If your child is actually accepted and you decline, you get no waitlist points to use when applying for first grade.

Then, when your child starts kindergarten, come October, apply to a gifted magnet elementary AND Valley Alternative for first grade. Respectfully talk to the teacher about verification of ability at the first conference. Now your child will probably have four PHBAO points, zero overcrowded points (because it’s so rare), maybe three sibling points, and four “nearly guaranteed” waitlist points, totaling possibly 11 points. Call the magnet school you are applying to and ask how many points the waitlist started with. This will tell you how many points it took to get in the previous year.

Valley Alternative

The reason you apply to Valley Alternative again in the first grade, and this is crucial, is in the case that the teacher does not verify your child, you will still accumulate waitlist points. If you only apply to a gifted magnet and the child is deemed by the teacher not verified as qualified to apply, the entire application is rejected and no waitlist points are given. Valley Alternative is your back-up. If you need to, you repeat this process in October of the first grade, applying to a gifted magnet for second grade. Again, respectfully speak to the teacher about verification at the first conference because this does not carry over from year to year. By this time, if you’ve played the game well, you should still have four PHBAO points if you checked the list, zero overcrowded points, maybe three sibling points, and eight waitlist points from kindergarten and first grade, totaling 15 points. You can repeat this process every year with a maximum point accumulation of 23 (including those rare overcrowded points, 19 otherwise), with the last four coming from the second grade waitlist at the gifted magnet, if verified, or Valley Alternative.  Waitlist points fall off after three years, so the most you can ever have in this category is 12.

I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you of the dangers of accumulating too many points and applying to a school you have no intention of sending your child to. This happens all the time and is very real. Only apply to a school you would be happy sending your child to or risk losing all your points.  Use that third choice option on the application very carefully. Consider not applying at all one year to hold eight waitlist points and not get up to 12. That’s the game.

And there you have it, Moms and Dads. All my wisdom and secrets laid out for you. I thank Karen Quinn at, Angel  Zobel-Rodriguez at, and all the parents contributing to gifted forums online. This is truly a parent-led system and we are doing it for ourselves. Now I pass it on to you.

Helpful links


LAUSD GATE Program Blog Series:

How Can My Child Apply for the LAUSD GATE Program?

How Can My Child Qualify for the LAUSD GATE Program?

What’s the Difference Between SAS and GATE Designations?

How to Prepare for LAUSD GATE Testing

For more information on the LAUSD GATE Programs see:

Sonia Reiter is a parent-expert on LAUSD GATE and SAS programs.  She guides parents who, like her, seek the best education programs LAUSD has to offer.  For more information, contact Sonia at

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