Navigating HISD School Choice

Did you know that Houston Independent School District is the largest school district in Texas, and the seventh largest in the country? Lucky for those of us living within the HISD attendance boundaries, this size also brings us a very diverse and robust magnet program: HISD School Choice. As a veteran {aka I have a current kindergartner attending a magnet school} to the School Choice process, I’ve pulled together a few tips that will help you navigate the application and selection process…

Navigating HISD School Choice | Houston Moms Blog

1} Get familiar with HISD’s website.

There is A LOT of information presented on the HISD Magnet website and the HISD School Choice website. I originally found it to be overwhelming and somewhat disorganized. But you need to keep digging, clicking, and reading to really find out all that is being offered, the real facts about the programs, and how to move forward. There are many types of school choices within HISD, some based on language, attendance boundaries, and test scores, and some on actual tryouts. Each has its own nuance.

2} Tour the schools.

Get out there and visit the schools you have interest in. And not just superstar campus choice #1, #2, and #3. Not everyone is going to get into T. H. Rogers or Garden Oaks, and you might find that these aren’t really a fit for you and your child. You only have 5 application spots this year {down from 10 last year!}, so you are going to have to be pretty strategic if your heart is set on getting a magnet transfer. There are some major hidden gems out there!

3} Talk to the magnet coordinators.

These people know EVERYTHING about their schools and the magnet application process. You aren’t going to help or hurt your chances of getting a spot by asking too many questions! If you can’t go during the open tour times and really want to check out a school, reach out to the coordinator, and they will try their best to make it happen. You can find their contact information on each school’s website.

4} Talk to other parents.

Use Facebook and other social media groups to find information. We were struggling between two schools, and I got online to find valuable information off of the city-data forums and through posting questions on Facebook neighborhood groups. Parents are passionate about the schools their kids attend, especially if a good one, and will happily answer a stranger’s questions or just give a recommendation. If raw data is your jam, dig down on HISD’s website; there is great info on acceptance rates. You can also check out Children at Risk school rankings too.

5} Be strategic with your choices.

Again, you only get 5 applications this year. If you pick Vanguard magnet schools as some of your choices and your child does not score high enough on the Vanguard matrix to qualify, you won’t get these spots back. Also, the rankings of your choices do not affect where you fall in that school’s lottery – these are all independent of each other. But if you get lucky and get offered a spot in the school your ranked first, you will be removed from the waiting list or offered spots at all other schools. Make sure to think about these logistics when choosing the school rankings.

6} Choose your school.

Once the results of the lottery have been uploaded to your dashboard on the HISD choice website, everything feels a little cumbersome and like you might implode the whole system if you click the wrong button. Take a deep breath, check your results, and decide if you are going to accept any seat offered to you. {You have a period of time to do this.} Any seat you accept will automatically remove you from the waiting list of schools you ranked lower on your list, but that acceptance will keep your waiting list spots above the offered seat. These waiting list numbers will move as the summer moves along, all the way up to the week before school starts. And yes, people get offered seats at the last possible moment.

I hope you take advantage of all that HISD has to offer. In my family we feel very fortunate to have gotten a magnet transfer into a school that is a great fit for our family and daughter. Good luck to you and yours too!

Navigating HISD School Choice | Houston Moms Blog

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Sarah, a New Orleans native, transplanted to Houston after Hurricane Katrina and has never looked back. Mom to big sister Maggie {Aug 2011} who keeps her on her toes, the most adorable little brother Jack {Nov 2013}, and one final addition arriving in August 2016! Sarah is constantly striving to have it all as she juggles working on the managerial and operational end of the healthcare industry, planning adventurous weekends to explore all Houston has to offer with her husband and kids, and keeping up with friends and family. You can follow along with Sarah’s daily life on Instagram at @sarahschnure.


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