WHAT ARE MY SCHOOL CHOICE OPTIONS?

THE TEXAS SCHOOL GUIDE FOUR-STEP PROCESS

WHAT IS SCHOOL CHOICE?
School choice is selecting a school for your child based on the qualities of the school and your child’s needs, rather than on your home address.

  • A Neighborhood School is the public school that a child is assigned based on his or her family’s home address.
  • A Charter School is a public school that is not managed by a local school district. They are:
    • Tuition-free.
    • Open to any student within a specific area that wishes to apply.
    • Usually required to use a lottery system to choose the students who may attend.
    • Can have different rules than neighborhood schools (example: some charters may have a longer school day or year).
  • A Magnet Program or School of Choice is a school option that:
    • Is either run by a school district or a group of school districts.
    • Offers a curriculum that is mostly focused on a specific subject (example: Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM), performing arts, leadership, or certain career paths).
    • Offers a more in-depth education in their focus area than traditional public schools.
  • A Private School is a school that is not funded by the government. Private schools receive their funding from individuals or a private organization. They usually require students to:
    • Pay tuition.
    • Complete an application process that may include applications, tests, interviews, and financial aid applications.

Follow the Texas School Guide Four-Step Process below to help you find the right school for your child!

STEP 1: IDENTIFY YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOL

To find your neighborhood school, you can use the SchoolSite Locator at apps.schoolsitelocator.com/! You will need your child’s: home address, city, state, and zip code. The school district sets boundaries for all schools in the district, and these boundaries can change. Once you have found your neighborhood school, don’t forget to call the school to confirm the boundaries prior to enrollment!

STEP 2: FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOL

Once you know your child’s neighborhood school, you will need to decide if it is the best option for your child. You can look at: school quality, school programs or assets, and other important factors, like transportation options.

SCHOOL QUALITY
Using the Home Page of this website, look up your child’s school profile. This profile shows a lot of information about the school, including the school’s 2016 CHILDREN AT RISK School Rankings. You will find:

  • School Grade – Just like students, each school is given a grade of A through F. A grade of A, B, and even some C schools are all good options for student success!
  • School Ranking – Most schools across the state are ranked based on their grade received.

You can also look at the 2016-2017 Public Education Grant (PEG) List to see if the Texas Education Agency rated your child’s school as underperforming. In some cases, you can transfer your child to a better school based on a school’s PEG status.Finally, be sure to look for the different organizations that are working in your school. This can be a sign that the community is making an investment to improve your child’s learning!

SCHOOL PROGRAMS / ASSETS
Academic quality isn’t the only important thing about your child’s school! Your child might be interested in an activity like art, music, or STEM (Science Technology Math Engineering). If so, you may want your child to be in programs that encourage his or her learning in those areas. And, if your child is in high school, you may want him or her to have access to a college counselor. In the school profiles, you will find information on programs offered by all public and charter schools in the district.

OTHER IMPORTANT FACTORS

  • What else is important to you and your family?
  • Is transportation a concern?
  • What is the school’s climate?
  • What resources are available for students with special needs?

TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS
Getting your child to and from school can sometimes be a challenge. Many parents have busy work schedules or may not have a vehicle at home. Check with your school district to find out more about your options.

SCHOOL CLIMATE
School climate is important because the school’s environment sets the tone for your student’s learning. It can include:

  • The relationships between students and teachers.
  • General school environment (how different parts of the school look and feel to you).
  • Front office staff behavior.
  • Bullying prevention on the school campus.
  • Safety measures.

What to look for in a school climate:

  • Office staff (school secretary, office manager, etc.) who are friendly and encouraging, and display other supportive behaviors with students, staff, and parents.
  • Teachers who are helping and speaking positively with students in the hallways and classrooms.
  • Teachers who are keeping the students engaged and thinking critically.
  • Parents are encouraged to visit the school, participate in different activities, and ask questions.
  • Students who are friendly with one another.
  • The school has a hopeful and supportive environment, such as posters on the walls with sayings that encourage students to “reach for the stars,” etc.
  • Safety measures in place throughout the school, such as automatic locks or gated entrances to the front office during the school day.
  • Safe and clear resources for students with emotional, mental, and physical disabilities, such as unobstructed ramps for wheelchair access.

You can call the school or request an in-person tour to learn more about the school climate. Below are some questions you can ask to learn more about the school climate.

  1. How does the school provide information to parents about their child’s behavior?
  2. How do office staff or teachers communicate positive feedback to the students?
  3. If a parent contacts the school, how long does it usually take to get a response?
  4. How does the school prevent and respond to bullying?
  5. Are there any official rules that require the school to notify parents when bullying happens in their child’s classroom?
  6. What rules are in place to keep drugs from being shared on school grounds?
  7. How does the school support students’ social and emotional growth?
  8. What resources and trainings does the school have to help teachers and staff support students’ social and emotional growth?
  9. How does the school encourage parents to talk with teachers and school staff if their child is having a problem?
  10. How does the school support emotional and physical growth for students with special needs?

 

STEP 3: FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOUR OPTIONS

VISIT A SCHOOL

Whether you want to learn more about your neighborhood school, a charter school, or a magnet program, one of the most important things you can do when finding the best school for your child is to visit the campus!

Questions to Ask When Visiting a School

  • General School Priorities
    • What is the school’s mission? The mission statement is usually a sentence or two that describes the school’s values and purpose.
    • How does the school approach safety?
    • How does the school approach discipline?
    • What are the school’s greatest successes?
    • What are the school’s greatest challenges?
    • What is the student attrition rate? (The student attrition rate represents the number of students leaving the school each year for reasons other than graduation.)
    • What is the teacher attrition rate? (The teacher attrition rate represents the number of teachers leaving the school each year.)
  • Meeting Student Needs
    • How does the school keep track of student academic progress?
    • How do teachers instruct students with limited English proficiency?
    • What strategies do teachers use to help students catch up if they are falling behind?
    • What services does the school have for students with special needs or learning disabilities?
    • How do students get to school? Is bus transportation available?
    • Does the school have free or reduced-price meals for students who qualify based on family income?
    • If a child is doing really well in his or her classes, does the school have advanced courses or programs that help them continue to succeed?
  • Classroom and Curriculum
    • What rules and systems are most important in classrooms?
    • What is the typical class size? What is the maximum class size?
    • How is technology used to support teaching and learning?
    • What non-academic activities are available for students?
    • How does fine arts fit into the curriculum?
    • Parent Involvement
    • How can parents get involved?
    • How do teachers and staff communicate with parents?
    • Are parent-teacher conferences scheduled regularly throughout the year?

GET INVOLVED WITH YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL
If you are not happy with your child’s school, you can try to make changes to the campus. For example, if you feel like your child’s neighborhood school is not meeting your child’s educational needs, start by asking questions. If the school is on the Public Education Grant (PEG) List or if it scored a D or an F in the CHILDREN AT RISK Rankings, you have a right to find out why. You can start by scheduling a meeting with a school staff member or the principal. If you don’t get the answers you need, reach out to your School Board Representative.

CHECK OUT MAGNET SCHOOLS / PROGRAMS
Magnet schools and programs provide a curriculum focused around a particular subject (such as art or science) or a career, in addition to regular academic subjects. All magnet programs and schools require an application for admittance. Check with your school district for application requirements and application deadlines.

Magnet Schools / Programs Application Process

  • Application Tips:
    • Only apply for a maximum of two programs based on interests, talents, and aptitude.
    • Only apply for one program per school. For example, you may apply to an arts magnet program at one campus and a science program at another campus, but not to two programs housed on the same campus.
    • Only complete one magnet program application even if applying to two programs. On the application you can list your child’s first and second choice programs.
    • Submit the application to your first-choice school. If you submit more than one application, your child will be disqualified from the whole process.
    • Turn in the application, a current report card, test scores, and proof of parent/guardian residence.
    • After turning in the application, your child will complete an “assessment” (a test, interview, and/or writing assignment) for your child’s first and second choice programs.

A Career Pathway is:

  • A program where students can take multiple courses for similar careers.
  • A targeted program that gives students the knowledge and skills needed for a specific career field.
  • A program that leads to a certificate, degree, and/or career.

Career Academies and Pathways are open to all students. If a student wants to apply to a program outside of the neighborhood school that is zoned to his or her home address, he or she must complete a transfer process. To find out what school is zoned to your home, contact your district.

TRANSFER YOUR CHILD TO A DIFFERENT SCHOOL WITHIN YOUR DISTRICT
A student’s neighborhood school is based on his or her home address. Students can apply for transfer requests to other schools if they meet one of these 3 requirements:

  1. Student Transfers: if a student or family has specific needs.
  2. Public Education Grant (PEG) Transfers: if your neighborhood school has a track record of failing to meet state requirements.
  3. Out of District Transfers: if you live outside the district and want your child to attend a school in that district.

There are application deadlines for each of these 3 transfer options. Be sure to check the most current deadlines by visiting your district’s website or calling your school or district.

STUDENT TRANSFERS
A student may apply to transfer to a different school within the district if:

  • The new school has a program or course that the neighborhood school does not have, or
  • The student cannot attend the neighborhood school due to personal “hardship” or family circumstances.

For example, if the student is interested in a program like ROTC but the neighborhood school does not offer that program, the student may apply to transfer to another school in the district that offers the ROTC program.

Another example is a “hardship transfer.” A hardship might be if a parent works far away from their child’s neighborhood school and would find it difficult to get back to that school quickly in case of an emergency. The typical transfer window for this type of student transfer is early January to early March, and the transfer application will need to be repeated every year if the child wishes to remain at the school.

PEG TRANSFERS
Your student can request a transfer to a different school within the district if he or she is attending a neighborhood school that is listed as a Public Education Grant (PEG) school. PEG schools are low-performing schools where:

  • 50% or fewer students passed the STAAR exam in any two of the most recent three years (2013, 2014, and 2015), or
  • The school was rated by the state as “Improvement Required” in 2013, 2014, or 2015.

Every year, the state provides districts with a list of PEG schools, and the districts must tell the parents who have students in these PEG schools by February 1st. For more information, visit the Texas Education Agency’s website at www.tea.texas.gov/PEG.aspx.

CHARTER SCHOOLS
Charter Schools are not a part of your school district, but they are still public schools. Most charter schools accept students through a lottery system, which is a random drawing.

  • These schools require some kind of application.
  • Many applications can be submitted online, but the process is different for each school.
  • Check with each school for their requirements, such as documents or an interview/audition.
  • If your child is on a charter school’s waiting list, it may help to contact the school to let them know that you are still interested if space becomes available.

Charter schools must follow the same rules as traditional public schools when it comes to services for children with special education needs. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask your school’s administrators.

When looking at charter schools in your area be sure to:

  1. Look up their grade and campus profile in the 4th edition of Texas School Guide or at www.texasschoolguide.org.
  2. Visit each of the school’s websites or call the school to learn more about updated deadlines and application process.
  3. Google search the school to see if you find any recent news articles about the school.
  4. Ask the school whether they “Met Standard” for the 2015-2016 school year. If they did not, they would be rated as “Improvement Required,” which means they failed at some portion of the state education standards.
STEP 4: TAKE ACTION!

There are so many options when it comes to school choice in Texas. You know what is right for you and your family. Be confident that once you have made an informed decision – charter school, magnet school or program, or just getting involved in your neighborhood school – it is the right decision. Act on it!