Last week, Houston ISD’s Board voted to make an adjustment to the magnet application process. In the past, parents who were exploring magnet options need only know the names of the schools to which they were applying. They’d complete the application online and select up to 10 schools for which they would like their application to be considered–a process similar to the Common Application many high schoolers use when applying to college. In March, families would find out where their children got in and where they were waitlisted. Then the real work–the work of choosing which school would be best–would start. And by April, parents decisions had to be made.
That’s different now.
The change in HISD’s process requires you choose at the front end of the process rather than at the end. When you complete their online application, you'll be required to rank your choices, so that when the actual lottery is conducted in January/February, admission in your highest ranked school forfeits consideration for anything ranked lower. Here’s a visual:
Ultimately, that means parents who are exploring their options must do the work of really understanding their options on the front end. The work of surveying other parents, posting questions in Facebook groups and looking at school data and visiting schools should be happening now, so that when it’s time to apply, you’ll have a prioritized list that resembles a high schooler’s college list.
Just as seniors bucket their school choices, parents should do the same, grouping their choices into 3 categories: dream school, sweet spot schools and safety schools. Approaching the process this way works well for anyone engaging in school selection this season, whether you are considering public or private, elementary or college.
So before you gear up to take advantage of the Magnet Thursdays (HISD did away with Magnet Week to give parents more opportunities to visit schools), decide what would make a school a dream school for your son/daughter. What characteristics would make a school fall into the sweet spot category? Doing this early will help you articulate what you are looking for and will help you focus on what matters most during your tour. Think of school selection like shopping at Target: if you go in not knowing what you want, you’ll spend time you don’t have looking at things you don’t need, and you’ll likely walk out without the essential you went in for. But if you walk in with a list in hand, you’re more likely to get exactly what you want without the loss of time and money (read: application fees). And if you focus on what’s essential to you, you make it possible for others to come in and get what they need because it’s not an extra in your basket. The change forces parents make more informed decisions on the front end which incidentally make it possible for more families to get into their school of choice.
HISD got it right here. Go forth and #choosewisely
For guidance on what else you should be looking for, tips on how to mine the data to see which schools are likely to be a good fit, for clarity on the public and private school admissions process, contact me to see how Crumbine Ed can support you through the process.