What Are My School Choice Options?

Parents Have Options

When it comes to choosing a school, you have options. In addition to your zoned school (the school that serves your neighborhood), there are other types of schools that your child can attend through a transfer or application process.

What are the types of schools my child can attend?

A District Zoned School is the neighborhood school that a child is assigned to based on where he/she lives.
• The students are from the local community.
• It is free for all students in the community.
• Your child will attend this school if you do not apply to attend another school or if you don’t get into another school.
A Magnet Program or School is a public school option that:
• Has its own campus, or operates as a program within a zoned school.
• Offers a curriculum that is focused on a specific subject (example: Science Technology Engineering Mathematics or STEM, performing arts, leadership, a specific career path, or early college high school).
• Is free for your child to attend, but may charge fees for special programs.
• May have transportation options for your student if you don’t live nearby.
• Requires an application during a particular time frame; be sure to identify the application due date for any of these schools you are considering.
A Charter School is a public school that is not managed by a local school district. There are some important things to know about charter schools:
• They are free to attend but may charge fees for special programs.
• They are open to any student that wishes to apply, with preference usually given to students living in the priority areas.
• They can have different rules than neighborhood schools. For example, charters can choose their own ways to teach lessons, and some charters may have a longer school day or a longer school year.
• They may have a waitlist. Often, there are more students wanting to attend a school than there are seats available. In these cases, there is usually a blind lottery to choose the students who may attend.
• They require an application for the lottery during a specific time frame; be sure to know the application due dates for any charter schools you are considering.
Religious or Private Schools are non-public schools and do not receive government funds. Private schools may offer programming, lesson materials, and standardized tests that differ from public schools. They usually require students to:
• Pay tuition, although scholarships or financial aid may be available.
• Complete an application process that may include forms, tests, interviews, and financial aid requests. Private schools can have a religious affiliation or be independent.

Choosing a School

STEP 1: Identify and compare your district zoned school to other possible school options
Find your district zoned school and learn about it. From there you can start to look at other school options.
There are many factors to consider when learning about your district zoned school and other potential schools. The four factors you should consider are school quality, school programs and activities, environment and safety, and available resources.

SCHOOL QUALITY

School quality refers to how well a school performs academically and how much students improve their academic performance each year. There are a few key things to look for that indicate if a school is a high- or low-quality school.
• School Grade – Just like students, most schools are given a letter grade, A-F. A grade of A, B, and even some C schools, are all good options for student success! Schools that receive a D or an F are generally not performing as well, academically.
• School Ranking – Most schools across the state are ranked based on their grade received. The higher the rank, the better the school’s academic performance in the previous year.
• Gold Ribbon – Schools that have high levels of poverty (75% or more) and high student achievement are designated as Gold Ribbon schools. This means that these schools are implementing special and effective practices to meet their students’ needs.
• PEG – A Public Education Grant school is a campus that has been identified by the Texas Education Agency as needing improvement in 2 of the past three years. If your school is a PEG school, you should be notified by the school and are allowed to transfer your child to a better school if space is available. Keep reading for additional information about PEG schools and how to transfer.

SCHOOL PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES

Academic quality isn’t the only important thing to consider when choosing a school for your child. You might look at the types of special programs and activities available during the school day. For example, your child might be interested in art, music, or STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math). If so, you may choose a school that has access to those programs and encourages learning in those areas. And if your child is in high school, you may want him/her to have access to a college program, such as AP courses or dual credits.
Be sure to look for different community organizations that offer programs at the school. This can be a sign that the community is investing to help your child’s learning. Community partners can offer a wide range of opportunities and experiences for your student depending on your child’s school and age. These are a few types of programs that community partners might offer:
Gardening
• After-school care
• Tutoring or academic support
• Faith-based clubs
• Local clubs, like Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts
• Counseling services for students and families
• College counseling

SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT

Another important consideration is school environment. This is how students and teachers feel on their campus and in their classroom. It sets the tone for your student’s learning and their ability to be focused and engaged. School environment can be impacted by a school’s values, rules, discipline practices, and safety.

AVAILABLE  RESOURCES

You might also think about any additional resources your child and family may need, such as transportation, bilingual education, or special education programs. You have the right to ask questions and find the resources you need for your child.
STEP 2: Visit Your School Options
One of the best ways to find out if a school is a good fit for your child is to visit the campus! Visit your zoned school and other schools you are considering to get a first-hand look at what is happening. You can also ask questions to determine what is important for your student and family.

STEP 3: Understand the transfer and application processes and deadlines. If you decide that you would like your child to attend a school other than their district zoned school, you will need to know the different types of transfers and applications. Each has their own rules and deadlines.

Transfer Options

  1.  An Open Transfer is a transfer requested based on the student’s and family’s needs. The transfer may be granted if the school has space available. If a student needs to request a transfer for medical reasons, they will require an official letter from the doctor.
  2. Public Education Grant (PEG) School Transfer: A transfer requested if your district zoned school has a history of failing to meet state academic standards.
    • Your student can request a transfer to a different school within your school district if he/she is attending a district zoned school that is listed as a Public Education Grant (PEG) school. Search for your school to find out if your school has been designated a PEG school on their profile page.
    • PEG schools are low-performing schools where:
      • 50% or fewer students passed the STAAR exam in any two of the most recent three years (2014, 2015, and 2016), or
      • The school was rated by the state as “Improvement Required” in 2014, 2015, or 2016.
      • Each year the state provides districts with a list of PEG schools. The districts are then required to inform parents of students in PEG schools by February 1st.
Charter and Magnet School Applications
Most charter schools and magnet programs require an application. They may also have additional requirements such as an essay, audition, or portfolio. If you would like your child to attend one of these schools, you must apply by the established deadline. Be sure to check the dates and deadline early; some applications start as early as September.
Applications for Magnet Programs and Schools of Choice
• Every student interested in a Magnet Program or School of Choice must submit an application, even if the program or school is housed at that student’s district zoned school.
• Usually, students can apply for multiple programs and mark their preference, but every district has their own application process. Check your school district website for more details and requirements.
• A computer randomly selects students for the programs and schools through a lottery process.
Applications for Charter Schools
Each charter school network or individual charter school has their own process for applying. Call the school you are interested in or visit their website for additional information.
STEP 4: Decide which school best fits your needs, and take action!
After you’ve decided which school(s) you would like your child to attend, request a transfer or go through the application process. For additional information and help with the transfer and application process visit www.FamiliesEmpowered.org.
If you are unable to change schools or if it’s not the right choice for your family, you can always get involved to make your zoned school better! Check out our Parents as Partners parent action guides for ways you can support your child’s education outside of the classroom.
There are many options when it comes to choosing a school for your child. Remember that you know what is right for your child and your family. Be confident that once you have made an informed decision – district zoned school, program or school of choice, charter school, or something else – it is the right decision. And wherever your child goes to school, get involved in their education.

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