Home»All»For those who have their hearts broken by the HoustonISD Magnet School lottery…

For those who have their hearts broken by the HoustonISD Magnet School lottery…

Today is the day… months after applying for HoustonISD Magnet Schools, we will find out if our kids got in to any of our chosen schools.

Some of us will be very very lucky… and many of us will probably be heartbroken tonight.

Five years ago I applied to HoustonISD magnet schools for the first time… and River Oaks Elementary broke my new-to-elementary-school-mom heart.  I so wanted my son to get a spot in the Vanguard Program… and we were approximately 5,000th on the waiting list.  (Or maybe we were 124th, which is the same as 5,000th.)

I was sad my son would not get a chance to go to my top choice school.  And I was a little angry.

My preschooler had gone through the testing, had passed the Vanguard test… and was now being denied the education I was so certain he should get.

I was the mom watching the wait list numbers, desperately looking for other Vanguard programs and searching for an apartment to rent inside the River Oaks school district.  And, with time, I got distracted by life and chose another HoustonISD school.

I have a feeling that tonight and next week and next month, there will be a lot of parents doing the same thing.  So in case you have your heart broken today… and in case this is reassuring to you…  let me tell you something as a mom that has now applied for 3 kids to attend HoustonISD magnet schools…

  1. My first choice school is no longer my first choice school.
  2. I do not care much about the gifted and talented program anymore.

My new definition of a perfect school looks something like this:

  1.  Kind and Caring Staff.  When you walk in, do they say hello, greet the kids and make their eyes sparkle?
  2. Small Class Sizes, Good Teachers… and a Teacher’s Aide.  How amazing would it be to have teachers that could give more attention to your child (and not just misbehaving children)… and an extra set of hands to help with the area that challenges your kid?
  3. A Campus that Feels Safe.  Do you feel comfortable leaving your kids?
  4. Challenging Academics… but Age Appropriate.  I do not think kindergarten should have homework.  And maybe not the next few grades either.  I know there is disagreement… and I see it at our current school (and not ROE Vanguard program!).  For me, I’d rather take my kids to the park or let them design Lego cities than spend the evening doing worksheets, or worse, gathering supplies for another diorama.
  5. One Drop Off Location.  This you won’t know when you apply for your oldest child… but for younger children, is there a good chance they will get a spot as well?  (HISD only guarantees a small number of spots for siblings.)  Once your 2nd or 3rd kid gets to school… is there a place where they will all get a spot?
  6. Good Middle School Options.  I am shocked how fast we have gone from Kinder to 3rd grade… and it’s practically time for middle school.  Some Houston schools are Kinder through 8th grade… which is amazing.  And if yours is not… is there a good plan for middle school and, *gasp*, high school?
  7. After School Care.  If you need care until 5:00pm or 6:00pm… is there a good program on the same campus?
  8. Easy Pick Up and Drop Off.  This is an added bonus… but if you are going to do pick up and drop off daily, for 180 days a year, for 6+ years… it would be nice if it did not make you want to scream each time.  (Magnet schools do have buses, but it will probably not come to your house… but to a nearby HISD school.)

And there are probably more bullet points that have nothing to do with a certain school program, like the Vanguard magnet program… help me fill them in with your comments!

So… what I’m saying is not to refuse your spot to ROE or some of HoustonISDs most popular magnet programs… because they are great programs… but know that for these schools, more kids are wait-listed than get a spot.  And maybe it’s okay if you do not get a spot… and instead stumble upon the school that makes your kid’s eyes sparkle each morning.


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  1. March 24, 2016 at 8:18 pm — Reply

    What an awesome, thoughtful, accurate article! As I wait for results, this time for middle school, this is a wonderful reminder of what is really important in this entire process. Thanks for sharing this!:)

    • March 25, 2016 at 9:18 am — Reply

      Ah! How does middle school come so quick?!

  2. March 25, 2016 at 12:00 am — Reply

    Thank you for posting! I am in the process of moving back to the States after 5 years abroad. I have missed all the deadlines and was really stressing about schools in Houston. I've realized I just need to take a deep breath. It seems we are already "in the rat race" and we haven't even landed.

  3. Atousa
    March 26, 2016 at 3:34 am — Reply

    Thank you for the wonderful reminders of what our kids truly need to feel confident & therefore brave enough to tackle anything in life. A good school is great! You should try for the best you can. But good parenting &a safe nurturing environment is going to last your kids a lifetime.

  4. March 27, 2016 at 3:17 pm — Reply

    ROE is maybe not all what you thought. The pressure to perform and the many hours of homework (2 hrs/night for 4th grade) make it difficult for any person – much less a working couple to manage.

  5. March 27, 2016 at 3:30 pm — Reply

    Wonderful article! We shared it on our wall for our community, because we know that many of our readers are in this same spot as well! Thank you for this piece!!

  6. March 27, 2016 at 5:46 pm — Reply

    Appreciate your honest remarks and comments. A loving, nurturing environment is what all children need. Thanks for your insight.

  7. March 28, 2016 at 12:46 am — Reply

    Amen and Amen, on so many levels.

  8. March 29, 2016 at 2:07 am — Reply

    Which schools have smaller class sizes and a teacher's aide? I taught kindergarten in HISD and had 23 students with no aide. Just curious…

    • March 28, 2016 at 9:57 pm — Reply

      Eron – That’s my wish list. 🙂

    • Jenny
      March 21, 2017 at 11:15 pm — Reply

      Barbara Bush Elementary has teacher aids in Pk and kindergarten.

  9. March 29, 2016 at 9:15 am — Reply

    Pilgrim Lutheran School located at 8601 Chimney Rock (the corner of Beechnut and Chimney Rock) is an excellent choice for students 18 months through 8th grade. With low student teacher ratios, and a very attentive new principal and Early Childhood director.
    There is going to be a Kindergarten Preview Tuesday April 5th from 6:00-7:00 where you can meet the teacher as well as speak to parents of current Pilgrim students.
    Visit the website at plshouston.org

    • Jennifer Bruce
      March 29, 2016 at 10:27 am — Reply

      Pilgrim is an amazing school. My kids are doing great! I have a 2nd grader, a Kindergartener and a Toddler at Pilgrim. Besides an excellent education, they nuture the whole child.

  10. March 29, 2016 at 3:14 pm — Reply

    So are you basicly saying go to private schoo? because I don't know of any public schools in houston with good student ratios and a teachers aid per class.

    • March 29, 2016 at 12:30 pm — Reply

      Chevi – No, I’m saying that my wish list is a whole lot different than “Vanguard” program. My kids go to public school… and my “dream” school is a whole lot different than it was 5 years ago. Jill

  11. Holly
    April 11, 2016 at 8:58 pm — Reply

    Great article. Do you have a list of schools you would recommend? I am new to Houston and put in an application for Wilson Montessori only and was waitlisted at 147. I would love to know some other good options around the medical center area.

    • April 12, 2016 at 6:54 am — Reply

      Holly –

      Welcome to Houston! The trick is, many of the “favorite” schools probably also have waitlists at this point. I also hear that waitlists are not moving too much because of the HISD process changes this year (and parents had to rank schools and do their homework before submitting applications). Send me an email at Jill @BigKidSmallCity.com and we can chat about your zoned school and some other ideas near the medical center.


  12. Jacquelyn
    March 21, 2017 at 9:27 pm — Reply

    I needed to hear this!! I’m new to this Texas education system and have been scrambling since I was pretty much scoffed at for finding out how far ahead you have to be to get into the magnet schools. Thank you!!

  13. Sylvia A Gonzalez
    March 23, 2017 at 2:44 pm — Reply

    Crespo Elementary Fine Arts Magnet located at the corner of Loop 610 and I-45 South is an excellent Fine Arts Program. If you are interested in watching snippets of our shows please view them at http://www.houstonisd.org/CrespoES

    Below you will read why a safe school environment is important:
    “SAFETY ABOVE ALL ELSE”, is practiced at our school, I’m the GATE KEEPER at my school, I’m the receptionist that screens every VISITOR that presses the button to come in to our school, once I know is OK, I allow them to come into our building.
    I’m also, in charge of all the Magnet and Regular bus-riders, in the morning, I check every bus rider in my log. At dismissal, I have 3 adults assisting me, making sure bus-riders get on the correct bus and checking them off on their weekly log. I take every precaution, to make sure are bus-riders get home safely. As a parent or grandparent this is a big plus in safety!!
    Parents don’t realize that some of the very best teachers in HISD don’t even work in the very “best” schools. My grandchildren are enrolled at Crespo, I’m very satisfied in all the aspects of our school. I’m not trying to be bias but truthful, (Academically, Neighborhood Vanguard G.T., Our School Wide Magnet Fine Arts Programs with a pilot in-depth residency of THE HOUSTON SYMPHONY, even the PK receives the benefits of our Fine Arts.) Our school is friendly and family oriented starting with our administrators, teachers, faculty and staff. WE WORK TOGETHER FOR THE SUCCESS OF THE WHOLE CHILD!

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