HISD Magnet & Vanguard Programs for 2015-2016 School Year: Overview of the Programs, What You Need to Know & How and When to Apply!

Joe & Brooke!
It’s NOW time to apply for NEXT school year.  For information on applying to HoustonISD Magnet Schools, go HERE.  Here is the BigKidSmallCity overview, based on my Magnet School experience… but be sure to check HoustonISD for the official information!

Key dates for 2014 (for 2015-2016 School Year):

  • November 1 – Magnet applications are available online.  You can apply online or on paper.
  • December 19 – Magnet application deadline.
  • March 27 – Parents will learn the outcome of their childrne’s appliations.  You have 2 weeeks to accept or decline.

 What you need to know about HoustonISD:

ZONED SCHOOL

The school that you are zoned to is your neighborhood school and the one that your child will be automatically accepted into (as long as it is too full). If you don’t already know which school you are zoned to, go to THIS website, type in your address, and choose the grade level your child will be in for the 2015-2016 school year.

If you are happy with your neighborhood school and want your child to go there, you don’t need to worry about the magnet application process.  (One note is that a few HoustonISD neighborhood schools are over full.  Call your zoned school to see if there is any issue at all with attending your local neighborhood school.)  Simply contact the school to find out what you need to do to enroll your child and when to do it.

 

MAGNET FOCUS

If, however, you would like the opportunity for your child to attend a school you are not zoned to, you will have apply for a magnet transfer. THIS  is the part of HISD’s website about the magnet programs.

Each magnet school has a specialized theme that is incorporated into their classes and curriculum.

Each magnet school has a specialized theme that is incorporated into their classes and curriculum. For example, a fine arts magnet school may offer more exposure to music, dance, art and drama than other schools would.

 

APPLICATIONS

Last year you could submit applications to as many as ten Magnet programs, and up to five of those may be Vanguard.  I don’t see a limit on the number of applications this year… so tell me what you find!  Just know that magnet schools can be very hard to get in to, so apply to several! {Update: The limits are still10 and 5. Thanks Lisa!}

HISD now is accepting both online and paper applications.

If you’re planning to fill out a paper application you can print it out HERE.  If you’re going to be applying to a lot of schools and if you are required to turn one in to each individual school, as has been the case in previous years, I recommend printing one copy, filling out the information that will be the same for each school, photocopying that form as many times as you need, then on each of those forms completing the information that is school-specific.

Once the forms are completed, they must be mailed or delivered by the December deadline. If you want to mail the applications but are worried about them arriving, you can always send them with a return receipt for an extra fee. Schools will not call or email to let you know they received the paper applications.

Apply online HERE.

 

VANGUARD

The Vanguard Magnet schools are different than the other Magnet programs. Vanguard is HISD’s term for G/T or gifted and talented. Students must pass a test in order to be accepted as a transfer student at these schools.

In previous years, schools were listed in order of preference and a student was only considered in the first round of applicants at their first choice of Vanguard school. I’m not sure if this will still be the case or if students will be in the first-round lottery at all of the schools they apply to.

On the application there was a place to select a testing date. Testing is done at specific sites on specific days.

On the test day parents and children signed in then were directed to a large waiting area, in our case it was the school cafeteria. Then students were called out on their own or in small groups while parents waited for them.

Your child probably won’t be called out immediately, so you may want to bring snacks and something quiet for them to do. I brought books and magazines that I read to my daughter to keep her entertained while waiting.

Once the students left the waiting area they met individually in a room with the person administering the test. When they finished they were brought back to the room then the parents and students could leave.  For some very unofficial tips on testing, go HERE.

If a student passes the test, then he or she is entered into the lottery at the Vanguard schools already chosen on the application. If the student does not pass the test, he or she will not be considered for transfer to a Vanguard school. Children who pass the test but aren’t accepted into one of the Vanguard schools can still be in the Vanguard program at the school they end up attending (if that school has a program).

 

LOTTERY

Once the deadline for turning in applications has passed, each school holds a lottery where they draw the names of the students they’ll accept. Any students who applied but were not chosen are placed on a waiting list in the order their names were drawn.

Many of the schools that you’ll be applying to will probably have long wait lists and you are not guaranteed to be accepted as a transfer student into any of the schools that you’ve applied to. I was waitlisted at around number 320 for one of them, in the 200s for another and actually got in to 1!

So, if you really don’t want your child to attend your zoned school you should to turn in applications to more schools to increase your chance of acceptance.

Status notifications (whether you’ve been accepted or your number on the waitlist) are mailed out in late March.

If you are on a waitlist you won’t hear back from the school again unless enough spaces open up for your child to be accepted. You can call the school to find out updated waitlist numbers though.

If you are accepted you have until early April to inform the school of your “intent to attend.” Once you do so, any other guaranteed spots that your child was given through the lottery will be given to other students because each child can only be enrolled at one school.

Your place on any waitlists should remain the same though, so if you receive a spot at your second choice school, but are waitlisted at your first, accepting the second choice shouldn’t affect your chances of getting into your first choice.

This time in early April is also when the waitlist starts moving. As students decline their spots at schools those schools will move on to their waitlists to fill their enrollment. This process continues throughout the summer as the schools move down their waitlists.

 

SIBLINGS

Those of you who have, or who plan to have, additional children may be wondering if you’ll have to go through this whole process again. The answer is yes, but special consideration is currently given to siblings in the lottery.

As of the last time I checked, up to the 25% of the incoming Kinder class is guaranteed to siblings of currently enrolled students. If the number of siblings applying is more than 25% of the entering class, all sibling names are placed in a lottery and those spaces are awarded according to the order the names are drawn.

Any remaining siblings are placed in the general lottery, and if their names still aren’t drawn, they are placed at the beginning of the wait list. So, chances are that if your older child gets a spot at the school you want, your younger one(s) should too… but no guarantee!

For Vanguard schools the younger child(ren) will have to pass the Vanguard test, but as long as they do the above should hold true for them as well.

 



Our Experience with the HoustonISD Magnet School Program

FirstDayofSchoolThe Houston Integrated School District (HISD) has a magnet school program that allows kids to attend schools not in their zone.

Magnet schools are specialized schools that have the magnet-like ability draw in students from all backgrounds throughout the city.  Some of HISD’s Magnet programs draw in lots of students, and some do not.

Vanguard is a special program that is designed to meet the needs of gifted and talented students in grades K-12 by providing a learning continuum that is differentiated in depth, complexity, and pacing. These programs require a special application and testing.

Details on how to apply to these schools can be found HERE.  And everything I know about the Vanguard test is HERE.  In this post, I’ll answer a popular questions that I get:  How was your experience with HISD Magnet Schools?

When my son was 4 years old, I had every intention of sending him to our zoned school.  I never considered driving him across town or putting him on a bus.  A City Council member in my neighborhood once said it was best for kids to stay in their zone because everyone recognizes them and can spot when someone is out of place or up to no-good.

I agreed with this for a while.  But then it came time to plan for Kindergarten.  Shanna, BigKidSmallCity contributor and mom-that-does-her-homework, was applying to schools, so I did too.  I did not tour each school but I did apply to schools with good programs, including Vanguard Schools.

The thing that changed my mind about attending magnet schools is that Joe qualified for the Vanguard Program, but our zoned school did not have one.  And what drove me insane was that the HISD Vanguard Elementary Schools have long wait lists, and we were number 100.

By some miracle, we did get into Twain.  It is not a Vanguard school, but it does have a program for kids with the GT label.  I went and toured the school and was in love.  This school is beautiful, the academics are strong and the programs are established.  And they said they gave out homework based on the kid’s ability.  I was sold.

Well, almost.

I had accepted a spot for Joe at Twain, but could not stop thinking about a brand new language immersion school.  It was new, there was no PTO, no after-school activities, no music class and the building was old and outdated.  But 50% of the day was in a foreign language and if I was looking to challenge my son, what could be better than this.

So we decided to switch to the new school.  And despite not having the best building or best extra curricular activities, this is what I love about it:

 

1.  Half the day is in Mandarin, taught by a native speaker.  And now my kids mouth off in Mandarin and I don’t even care.  Because they are speaking Chinese.  I took 4 years of Spanish and don’t even know angry Spanish.  (Just that I hear it at Felicia‘s house a lot.)
2.  The school is 100% Magnet.  Everyone that is there has applied to be there and they care about making the school great.
3.  The school will soon become K-8.  I don’t have to worry about middle school.  Which is good, because middle school scares me.
4.  They had a preschool spot available for Brooke.  One drop off location added an hour to my day.

One concern that I have is getting all of my kids into the same magnet school, especially as it becomes more and more popular.  Siblings get preference, but there is no guarantee.  See more about that HERE.

So how was the first day of school?  Bad bad bad.

Joe is young for his class and my most sensitive kid.  He really did not want to go to school for the first semester.  I asked a lot of questions and spent a lot of time volunteering in the classroom, and I don’t think it was because of the school.  I think it was because he had to go to Kindergarten.

As far as Joe knew, every kid was speaking Chinese in Kindergarten.  He even told me his Chinese teacher was his favorite.

He got more brave as the year went on and, now in first grade, he’s excited to run into school each morning.  And Brooke just follows him in.

If you are looking for my recommendation, I would say to apply around town and see where you get in.  A lot of decisions will be made for you because of long wait lists.  For schools that you do get into, consider what is best for your kid.

Maybe you don’t care of the GT program, but what about after-school activities, extra resources for tutoring, dual language, music class or special programs.  And if you take tour, how do you like the school.  More than the building, do you like the environment and staff?  And also consider how you will handle pick up and drop off.  Buses are available, but check on the pick up time, location and route.

In the end, it might turn out that your zoned school is better for you than a magnet school.  That’s great too.  And probably a lot more convenient!

So this is MY experience with HISD magnet schools.  I’d love to hear yours.  Comment here, just keep it polite.  It turns out that school choice is one of the most controversial topics on BigKidSmallCity!

 

 



HISD Magnet & Vanguard Programs for 2014-2015 School Year: Overview of the Programs, What You Need to Know & How and When to Apply!

Back to School

UPDATE: Go here for updates for the 2015-2016 Magnet School Dates.

Two years ago when my daughter was just starting her last year of Pre-K, I was mostly clueless about the elementary schools in our area. I didn’t know anything about how to choose which schools would be good for her, let alone how to apply to those schools.

Now that I’ve gone through that process once (and am about to do it again!), I feel comfortable with it and hope that my experience can help you too.

My husband and I are both firm believers in public education so I knew I wanted to send my children to a public school. If you’re interested in private schools I won’t be able to help much, but there will hopefully be another post soon that will give you more details for those schools.

All of the information below is about HISD but there are probably similar resources for other area school districts.

You should begin the school selection and application process this fall for the 2014-2015 school year. This may seem early, but Magnet applications can be turned in beginning November 4, 2013, and must be submitted by December 20, 2013 to be considered in the first round of applicants.

**Disclaimer: All of the information on this page is a result of internet research that I have done and my own understanding of the process based on what I learned when going through it myself. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of anything on this page, so please use this only as a guide and verify everything yourself!**

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HISD Magnet Open House – November 3, 2012 – 9:00am – 12:00pm

Starting Monday, you can apply for HISD Magnet programs for the 2012 – 2013 school year.   Go HERE for all the details.

Magnet schools are specialized schools that have the magnet-like ability draw in students from all backgrounds throughout the city.  Some of HISD’s Magnet programs draw in lots of students, and some do not.

Vanguard is a special program that is designed to meet the needs of gifted and talented students in grades K-12 by providing a learning continuum that is differentiated in depth, complexity, and pacing. These programs require a special application and testing.

Applications for both programs are being accepted November 5, 2012 through January 11, 2013.  Late applications will be accepted on a space-available basis. You can apply to as many Magnet programs as you want. For Vanguard, you only fill out one application and rank your top 3 schools. Testing is required for Vanguard and is held in January.

The Magnet Open House is scheduled for November 3, 2012.  At the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center (4400 West 18th Street) , from 9:00-noon, you can learn about all of HISD’s magnet programs.

Magnet Awareness Week is November 5, 2012 to November 9, 2012.  All magnet schools will be giving tours at 1:00pm.  You do NOT need to tour the school to apply.  If you are accepted, you can schedule a tour before committing to the school.

For important dates, go HERE.

APPLICATION DEADLINE – January 11, 2013
PARENT NOTIFICATION – March 22, 2013
PARENT RESPONSE DEADLINE – April 5, 2013

If you plan to simply attend the school that you are zoned for, no applications are needed.



HISD Encourages You to Vote Early – October 22 to November 2, 2012 – Gangham Style

 

There are a lot of good reasons to vote, but HISD might have just provided the best motivation to get out there for early voting from October 22 – November 2 or on the November 6 election day. Check out the video, encouraging your to vote early.

 

I’m sure you’ve heard about the upcoming presidential election. HISD also has a bond issue that, if approved, would rebuild or renovate 38 schools in neighborhoods across Houston, upgrade technology in all HISD classrooms, and more.

Why do you need to vote? Think back to high school history class. Women fought for 72 years before getting the right to vote in 1920. The women who started the movement, and dedicated their lives to women’s suffrage, died before the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provided: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” I personally feel obligated to vote because of the opportunity they gave me but never had for themselves.

Not enough? Without the vote, you do not get representation. The issues you care about will not be considered because the lawmakers do not depend on you to be re-elected. Political candidates know if you are a registered and an active voter, so if you want representation, the right to vote is not enough. You actually have to vote.

The issues of today have changed from 100 years ago, but the truth remains the same. If you want to influence public affairs, you have to vote. Yes, your preferred candidate may not win, but the elected official must consider the concerns of active voters, and active voting communities, if he or she wants to be re-elected.

The same goes for the HISD bond issue. If you want it, you need to vote. If you don’t want it, you also need to vote. And doesn’t this video get you excited to vote?!

If you still decide not to vote, be sure to mention that first before complaining about the election results!



What’s for Lunch? HISD Breakfast and Lunch Menus

 

Wondering what is on the menu for breakfast and lunch at HISD?  Go HERE to see what will be served each day. Or, go HERE to get a lunch box to fill with something better!



HISD Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion Magnet School – Still Accepting Applications

HISD is opening a brand new Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion Magnet School (MCLIMS) in August 2012.  Although most HISD schools have filled their 2012-2013 roster, MCLIMS is still accepting applications.  The standard HISD curriculum will be taught.  Half of every day will be in Mandarin, taught by a native speaker, and half of the day will be taught in English, but a different native speaker.  The immersion will give the children the opportunity to become fluent speakers, readers and writers of Mandarin Chinese.  For details, go HERE.

I have been very interested in this school, and have gathered the following information.  For first hand information from the experts, contact the school at 6300 Avenue B, Bellaire, TX 77401, 713-556-6947, mclims@houstonisd.org.

1.  Location:  The school is taking over the Gordon Elementary Campus.  This campus has been an overflow HISD campus and the current Gordon kids are being offered a spot at MCLIMS, or  are being sent back to their zoned schools if they are not interested in the program.  That said, MCLIMS is currently only accepting pre-k through 2nd grade students.  The current Gordon 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classes will remain on the campus until they move on to middle school.  As the children enrolled at MCLIMS get older, the MCLIMS program will expand.  The plan is to extend the Mandarin program through High School.

2.  Building:  The Gordon Elementary building has an outdoor campus where children walk outside to go between classrooms.  (Think 90210 but not in Beverly Hills.) It also has many modular buildings on the property.  The Bellaire location feels safe but the building is pretty old and, in my opinion, ugly.  That said, the school is on a big lot and there is talk of an upcoming bond issue to build a new school.  The incoming principal says the goal is to have a K-8 school. This summer, the building will be getting a mini make over. There will be the basic painting and updates as well as technology upgrades for each classroom.

3.  Staff:  Bryan Bordelon is the young new principal and looks to be a very strong leader for the school.  Bordelon, who was a HISD English teacher, lived in China as a child and speaks Mandarin Chinese with advanced proficiency.   At a recent information session, the Chinese gentleman next to me was surprised to meet Bordelon in person.  From how well he spoke Mandarin on the phone, this All-American blonde was not what anyone had pictured.  It was unexpected and exciting because I happen to have an All-American blonde 4 year old who could blow people away if he spoke Mandarin.

Bordelon has said that they are recruiting top teachers that happen to also speak Mandarin.  They have signed on a HISD teacher of the year and some HISD campus teachers of the year.

4. Why Mandarin: China is a fast growing country and our children will likely have the opportunity to do business in Mandarin after graduation. And if there are doubts about the future of China, there is still Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore as future partners. And, if you still don’t buy it, just think about how useful it could be to just train a young brain to be bilingual.  And, finally, the Mandarin program will offer 90 minutes, instead of the HISD standard 60 minutes, of math each day. This appeals to the engineer in me.

Parents do not need to speak Mandarin. All Mandarin work will be done at school. However, HISD is working to give each family a free Rosetta Stone license and tutoring classes in case parents want to learn with their children.

5.  Buzz:  There is a lot of excitement about this program. The HISD superintendent opened the San Diego immersion program, which is expanding, and is determined to make the HISD program successful. A lot of people are watching this school and, in my opinion, this means that there will be money and resources  sent in its direction. Also, this school is 100% magnet, which means that every family that attends has gone out of their way to apply. It is good to attend school with families who want to be there.

Mandarin programs are growing throughout the United States.  This Houston program is going to be one to watch.

6.  Unknown:  MCLIMS does not exist yet.  You cannot take a tour of the classrooms and you can not see it in action.  The school will still be in the old building and the construction plans are unknown.  The PTO is still being formed, the after school programs do not exist yet, the library is starting over now and the uniform is still being defined.  On top of this, you have no idea who will be at school with your child, if they will be well behaved and good friends, and if your child will like being immersed in an unknown language.

7.  Advantage:  Even with all the unknowns, this program has a lot to offer.  Since 2012-2013 is the first year, the school is still filling their classrooms.  (For kindergarten, there will be 4 classes of 22 students.)  Next year, once the program has been tested, there is sure to be a waitlist.  Also, after this initial year, new students will only be accepted into Kindergarten.  (Older students will need to speak some Mandarin to enter grades 1+.)

An immersion program is the way to learn a language. (I took Spanish for 4 years in high school and just ask me what I know now.)

 

 



What HISD School are you Zoned to? Kindergarten Round Ups Start this Week!

Are you wondering with HISD school your child should attend?  Go HERE to view school boundary maps.  Or go HERE for a really useful School Zone Search Tool.

Once you find out which school you are zoned to, check out the school’s website.  Kindergarten Round-Ups start this week and run through April.  If you will have a 5 year old by September 1, you’ll want to take them and find out what is needed for next year!

If you applied to a magnet school, remember that you need to make your choice by April 9 or you will lose your spot.



HISD Magnet Acceptance Letters have been Mailed. What’s Next?

Did you apply for a HISD magnet program?  If so, you may have received the letter notifying you of your acceptance.  Not sure what I’m talking about?  Check our last post HERE.

I’m no expert on the process, but I’ll tell you everything I know on next steps.

If you applied to a Vanguard Magnet school, your child took the test in January.  The letter that came out on March 23, 2012 tells you if your child qualified.  If your child qualified, his or her name was put into a lottery.  If select, your child was accepted into the program. By April 9, you need to fill out the paperwork and register at the school.  If you do not register by this time, you will lose your spot.

If your child qualified, but did not get selected, you have several choices.  Depending on your number on the waitlist you may want to do one of the following things.

1.  Wait on the waitlist and hope you get in.  If you do not, you will attend your zoned school in September.  Since your child qualified, you can take the paperwork to the zoned school and participate in the Neighborhood Vanguard Program.

2.  Check HERE for the list magnet schools that are still recruiting students.   You can apply to another school and still keep your position on your top choice school’s waitlist.

3.  Accept a spot at another non-Vanguard Magnet program that you may have applied to and enroll in the Neighborhood Vanguard Program at this school.

If you applied to a non-Vanguard Magnet school, you submitted an application by January 6, 2012 and you child’s name was put into a lottery.  If select, your child was accepted into the program. By April 9, you need to fill out the paperwork and register at the school.  If you do not register by this time, you will lose your spot.  If you were selected by more than one school you must accept in only one school. 

Once you have accepted a magnet school, you cannot transfer to another magnet school.  If you want to change schools, you must return to your zoned school.

**HOWEVER, I’ve been told by two magnet coordinators that if you accept a spot at one school but are then offered a spot at your top choice school (since you were on the waitlist), you can switch to your top choice school by August 1, 2012.**

For more information, go to the HISD website.

 

 

 



When does school start? What are the official school holidays? Check the HISD Calendar.

Looking for the HISD Calendar? Go HERE.   For 2012, the last day of school is May 31, 2012 an the first day of school is August 27, 2012.

You can also go HERE for the 2012-2013 Calendar in PDF format.