Changes for the 2020-2021 Application Process
Applicants Currently Enrolled in 2019-2020 from the Previous Application Process
2020-2021 Prospective Applicants
Previous year the Matrix Criteria scores was utilized for all middle and high schools. Middle and high schools would set a qualifying matrix score for entry into programs.
For the current application process, the Matrix Criteria scores are only utilized in High schools given the specific requirements for given programs. Middle schools no longer have an entry requirement (matrix score) except for: Fine Art - Auditions, Vanguard - GT identification, and Montessori & Dual Language programs – prior experience in programming. For Program Choice transfers, entrance criteria will remain a campus-based decision.
Previous year Magnet Prekindergarten students would have to reapply for Kindergarten seats and will receive 25% priority in the lottery at that same Magnet program.
Current Magnet Prekindergarten students will rollover directly into the Magnet Kindergarten program at their enrolled Magnet program for the 2020-2021 school year. Program Choice transfers will require that families apply to Kindergarten as in the past.
Previous year consideration Points for the Matrix scores was 8 additional points for students designated as Low SES or LEP only.
For the current application process, the consideration Points for Matrix scores has increased to 10 points and more categories have been included: Low SES & LEP and additionally Special Education & 504 students.
For the current application process, a consolidated application system has a unified timeline for submitting applications.
Previous year Magnet and Program Choice Transfers were in two separate systems.
School Choice Type
Number of Applications
Program Choice Transfers
For the current application process, parents may apply to a combination of 10 School Choice transfers, with no more than 5 Magnet applications.
Number of Magnet Choices
Number of Program Choice Transfers
Previous year ranking of applications was for Magnet applications only.
For the current application process, ranking of Magnet and Program Choice applications in one system will determine the order in which offers are presented to a student.
Previous Time Line for Magnet and Program Choice Transfers
Previous Year Magnet Timeline for 2019-2020
Sept. 22 – Dec. 7
Dec. 8 – May 31
June 1 – July 31
Previous Year Program Choice Transfers for 2019-2020
Jan 21, 2019:
Apr 8, 2019:
May 31, 2019:
Last day for students enrolled in HISD to submit a transfer request
Current Year Unified Timeline for all School Choice Transfers (Magnet + Program Choice)
K- 12 School Choice Timeline for 2020-2021
Sept. 27 – Dec. 6
Dec. 7 – Feb, 28
Mar. 1 – Onwards
PK School Choice Timeline for 2020-2021
Sept. 27 – Feb. 28
Feb, 29 – Onwards
June 1 – Onwards
Ranking of Magnet and Program Choice Transfers for Lottery
The School Choice lottery will continue in the same manner as it has in previous years. All lotteries are formatted to adhere to HISD school guidelines that randomly assign spaces for qualified applicants and siblings. All students will then be offered spaces in the order assigned in the computer-generated lottery.
Parents may apply up to five (5) Magnet programs out of a possible 10 Choice transfers. Ranking will only be used to determine the order in which offers are presented to a student.
Magnet and Choice transfers are submitted using one system.
Families can select up to 10 school programs, with a maximum of 5 magnet programs. Download the informational flyer.
New Notification Date
By midnight on January 30, 2020, notification of the application status will be viewable online, and letters will be sent to all parents via USPS mail.
General Magnet and Program Choice Questions
For general information please visit our website at https://www.houston.org/schoolchoice or call the Office of School Choice at (713) 556-6947. Find out more about HISD Vanguard (G/T) programs by visiting the website at https://www.houstonisd.org/Domain/32983 or call the Advanced Academic s Department at (713) 556-6954.
What is a Magnet Program?
Magnet Program offers a specialized focus of study designed to appeal to a wide variety of student interests and needs. Magnet programs do not have an attendance boundary; if you live anywhere within HISD, you may apply to any Magnet program. If you apply to a particular Magnet program, qualify for it, and there is space in it, you will be invited to attend.
I have questions about my child’s application status, but HISD offices are closed until Monday. What can I do?
Please review your child’s application status carefully and read through the FAQs to see if your question has been answered. If not, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (713) 556-6947, on Monday during office hours, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
What is the difference between Magnet and Vanguard (G/T)?
Vanguard (G/T) program refers to any of the programs in the district designed to serve the needs of gifted and talented (G/T) children. So, when you see the word Vanguard, just think G/T. All schools have a Vanguard (G/T) program. Vanguard Magnets are just one of the subsets of Magnet programs, just like fine arts or STEM. These district-wide programs are designed to serve the needs of identified G/T students. (Students must meet the entrance criteria.)
Which program is right for my child and family?
Before submitting an application, we recommend that you research the program focus, eligibility requirements, and curriculum. One of the best ways to do this is to visit the schools.
How may I find out more about the Magnet or Choice programs in HISD?
Contact the individual schools with questions specific to a particular school or program. For general information, please visit our website at www.houstonisd.org/schoolchoice or call the Office of School Choice at (713) 556-6947. Find out more about HISD Vanguard (G/T) programs by calling the Advanced Academics Department at (713) 556-6954. Application Questions.
When may I submit an application?
Applications will be accepted by all Programs beginning September 27, 2019. Applications must be completed and received by December 6, 2019, to be considered in the first round of screening. All complete applications received within this window will receive equal consideration.
What is the fastest way to apply?
Online. Not only is your application instantly processed, but you can print a copy of your selections for your records. Applying online will also give you access to the parent portal where notifications will be posted.
How do I apply online?
Go to http://hisdchoice.com; you may also access the online application through the School Choice Website at www.houstonisd.org/schoolchoice. Follow the instructions on the website to set up your account and complete your applications. You do not need to complete online applications all at one time. You may save incomplete applications for completion at another time. Once the applications are complete, you will click on “Submit.” After you have submitted the applications, no more changes may be made, and you will see a confirmation screen. Print this screen for your records.
I applied online last year or the year before. Should I create a new account?
No. It is very important that you use the same account. Create one account per family.
What do I do if the information that appears on my child’s online application is incorrect?
When you enter your child’s HISD ID# on the online application, much of the demographic information will be automatically filled in for you. If this information is incorrect, you need to contact your child’s current school to have it corrected. If your child is not currently in an HISD school, you will need to contact the last HISD School he or she attended to request a correction.
How do I submit the required documentation when I apply online?
Normally, students who were in HISD the entire 2018-2019 school year and are currently enrolled in HISD are not required to submit any documents to apply to Magnet Programs. The District Matrix and Overall Core average will be automatically calculated and visible on the Magnet application portal for students who apply to High School Magnet programs online and provide their HISD ID#. However, there are several options this year to submit documents for students who were not in HISD last year or for those who are missing documents.
- Upload directly - The quickest option is to upload documents directly from within the online application. You will see a list of documents that need to be uploaded. Each document only needs to be uploaded once, even if it is required for multiple applications for the same student.
- Send by U.S. mail to the Office of School Choice - Send copies of the documents to Magnet Applications, Office of School Choice, Houston Independent School District, 4400 West 18th Street, Houston, TX 77092. The copies will be kept for our records. In the online application system you will see a confirmation, once the documents have been uploaded.
- Drop off at the Office of School Choice - You can leave copies of the required forms at our offices. Once you arrive at the address listed above, please check-in at the reception desk by the main entrance to the building.
How do I apply with a paper application?
We always encourage parents to fill-out online applications but if you choose to submit the paper application, you will need to fill-out one application (Elementary, Middle or High School) that will cover all the schools to which you are applying. You should mail or hand-deliver the applications to the Office of School Choice at HISD's Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center, 4400 West 18th Street, Houston, TX, 77092.
How do I submit the required documentation when I apply with a paper application?
When you submit a paper application, if at all possible, you should attach a complete set of all of the required documentation. In any case, documentation should be received by January 8, 2020. Your application is not considered complete until all the required documentation is received.
The application asks for my child’s Student ID#. Where can I find that?
The Student ID# is found on your child’s report card, progress report, test reports, and on many of the communications you receive from your child’s school. You can also find it online at HISD Parent Student Connect. If you are unable to find it anywhere else, call or ask at your child’s current school.
How many School Choice programs may I apply?
You may apply to a maximum of 10 programs with no more than 5 magnet selections. It is recommended that parents weigh their options carefully and consider the following: If you apply to 5 Vanguard programs, and your student is not ultimately identified as Gifted and Talented, your student will not be considered for any of the Vanguard programs chosen. Each CTE pathway will be considered as a separate application.
May I submit my applications online and in hard copy, “just to be sure?”
No. We ask that you submit only one type of application. Redundant applications will not increase the chances of acceptance and it may cause difficulties when the applications are processed.
Do all schools have the same entrance requirements?
Different programs may use different data points to evaluate whether a student qualifies for the program. Some individual schools have additional requirements such as auditions and testing. Please visit the HISD magnet website, individual school websites, or contact the schools for further information. Qualification Scores and Processes for Applicants to 2020-2021 High School Magnet Programs are also posted on our website at https://www.houstonisd.org/schoolchoice. If you are applying to a Magnet High School program, were a student in HISD for the entire 2018-2019 and are currently enrolled in HISD, your district matrix score will be auto-generated when you apply online. This will not be the case for a student applying to a school through a Program Choice application.
May I visit campuses I am considering?
School Choice Thursdays will be held every Thursday from October 3 through December 5. All Magnet campuses will provide school tours. The tours will start at 9:00 a.m. at elementary and K-8 schools (like T.H. Rogers and Wharton), and at 1:00 p.m. at middle and high schools. Many schools schedule additional tours – call or check their websites. Choice school tours can be set up by calling the school directly.
If I live out of the HISD attendance district, may I apply?
Yes, you may apply at any time but out of district applications are only considered March 1, 2020; however, restrictions may apply. Out of district applicants are considered if no in-district applicants remain. HISD employees who live outside the HISD attendance district are considered to be in-district residents for the purposes of School Choice applications (are only eligible as in-district residents if the employee pays towards TRS). For Magnet-only programs (schools that do not have an attendance zone) such as the High School for Performing and Visual Arts, out-of-district magnet transfers must be approved by the superintendent of schools and tuition may be required.
Is there still time to consider other School Choice schools?
Yes, applications may be submitted to schools with space available during Phase II (December 7, 2019 – Feb 29, 2020). Schools with space available will be posted on our website after the Phase I Notification Date.
What if my child has disabilities?
Students with disabilities are required to follow the HISD application process for School Choice Programs. A student with disabilities who meets the specified magnet criteria and is accepted for admission to a Magnet program is required to have an Admission, Review, and Dismissal/ Individualized Education Program (ARD/IEP) or Section 504 committee meeting prior to enrolling in the program to ensure that the student’s IEP or Section 504 plan can be implemented in the Magnet program. If the ARD/ IEP or Section 504 committee determines that the services in the IEP or Section 504 plan are not in alignment with those available within the Magnet program without fundamentally altering the Magnet curriculum (e.g., modifying the curriculum or grading criteria), then the ARD/IEP or Section 504 committee may recommend the student continue placement at the student’s home/zoned or current campus. When a student with disabilities needs certain accommodations documented in the IEP or Section 504 plan for an audition for a Magnet program, a request for accommodations may be submitted to the Magnet coordinator of the receiving program at least 10 school days prior to the audition.
Selection Process Questions
What changes are there to the School Choice application process?
The changes relate to two areas:
1) student qualification criteria — also known as “qualifying matrices,” and
2) the application process. The changes are designed to make the system more equitable and efficient.
How do these changes improve the matrix system?
The new system is standardized so that one matrix applies to all non-Vanguard High School Programs, with the exception of any auditions for High School performing and visual arts programs. Vanguard magnet programs may require testing for G/T identification.
What is ranking and how does is affect the application process?
During the first round of applications, Sept. 27 – Dec. 6, 2019, parents can apply to up to 10 School Choice Programs and must rank their selections in order of preference. Once accepted into a program, all of a student’s lesser-ranked applications, including any other acceptances, will be “dropped” or “released”, so that those spots can be offered to other students. For example, if you get accepted into your #1 ranked choice and applied to 3 programs, the #2 and #3 choice will be dropped.
What if there are more qualified applications than there are spaces at a particular school?
Then all qualified applications received by the deadline, December 6, 2019, will be placed in a lottery. All the students will then be offered spaces in the order they are picked from the lottery. By midnight of January 30, 2020, the lottery results will be made available to parents. Some qualified students will be offered spaces and some placed on a waitlist.
Will the chances of my child being accepted into our top choice program be any better?
The odds will remain the same, but the duration of the wait-list period may be greatly reduced.
If my child is accepted into our third-choice school, but wait-listed on the top two, does that mean we’ll lose his/her spot on those waitlists?
No, wait-list rankings for all higher-priority schools would be maintained. Only schools ranked lower than the highest one in which a student has been accepted would be released. If you are on the waitlist of a higher-ranked school and get offered a seat, you will be able to accept the seat and the lower ranked choices will be released.
Can I see changes to the waitlist on my online parent dashboard?
Yes, you will need to carefully monitor your parent dashboard for any changes.
My child was placed on a waitlist. As time goes by, he/she sometimes moves down the waitlist. That doesn't seem fair - it appears someone is skipping up above him.
Normally, the student’s place on the waitlist only changes as it moves upward. However, in the case of a student who may have been lower down the list whose brother or sister is accepted, that child will be moved up the waitlist, and may skip above your child. (Please see the explanation for the question about sibling priority.)
What is sibling priority?
Per School Guidelines, children who have siblings that will also attend the same Magnet school will enjoy limited priority in the application process for "entry grades." Entry grades are usually defined as the lowest grade level in each program open to enrollment for all students. For elementary programs, this usually means kindergarten. The entry grade level is 6th grade for middle schools, and 9th grade for high school programs. Up to 25% of available slots will be awarded first to students applying to an entry grade level who have a sibling that will attend the same program the year the student is applying for. If there are more students with siblings than the 25% of spaces allowed, they will be placed at the top of the waitlist in the relative order they were selected from the lottery. If two siblings apply for an entry grade-level program (but do not have another attending sibling) they are treated the same as any other applicant. However, if one is offered a place, the other is moved up the waitlist, and placed among the other siblings. Each sibling must have a separate application on file.
What is the multiple birth option?
Parents of qualifying twins, triplets, etc. applying for these children to attend the same Magnet program, may select to have these children treated as all other siblings (the default) or they may opt to have all the children receive the same lottery position, meaning that all children end up in the same situation, all offered a seat or all placed on the waitlist. If they are on a waitlist, they will not be offered seats until there is room for all of them. Each sibling must have a separate application on file.
What if my child is applying to a Vanguard (G/T) Magnet program?
Vanguard Magnet programs screen applicants based on G/T identification. If your child has not been identified as G/T prior to Phase 1 deadline, then the Vanguard Coordinator for the school processing your application will contact you about testing. Please make sure that you have access to your Smart Choice account and email as that is how you will receive information regarding your child’s application.
What if my child qualifies as G/T, but I decide not to attend the Vanguard (G/T) Magnet program. Does he/she lose the G/T identification?
Once a student has been identified as G/T by HISD, he/she is eligible for Vanguard (G/T) services at any school in which he/she eventually enrolls, including his/her zoned school and other types of Magnet programs.
My child has been offered a seat in a Vanguard magnet program. Does this mean that he or she has been identified as G/T?
- Any student that has been offered a seat at a Vanguard magnet school has been identified as gifted and talented.
In my letter I see a “not qualified” status beside a Vanguard magnet school? What does that mean?
- The “not qualified” status means that the student did not meet the Vanguard qualification requirements in order to be identified as gifted and talented.
Are there any special considerations/differences in the process if the child is applying for Pre-K? (For example, does that magnet status only apply for one year?)
School Choice prekindergarten guidelines will be realigned with those enacted by HISD’s Early Childhood Office in accordance with Texas Education Agency policy.
To be TEA eligible, a child must meet the following two criteria:
- Be four years of age on or before September 1 of the enrollment year
- Live within the boundaries of the Houston Independent School District, AND
Meet at least one of the criteria listed below:
- Be unable to speak or understand English, or
- Be economically disadvantaged, or
- Qualify for the National School Lunch Program to include all children who meet any eligibility criteria for Head Start, not only those who meet the low-income eligibility criteria for Head Start, The TEC, §5.001(4), defines educationally disadvantaged as "eligible to participate in the national free or reduced-price lunch program." Consequently, all children who are eligible for Head Start are eligible for free prekindergarten, based on their eligibility for the NSLP.  Public Law 110-134, which amended 42 USC,1758, or
- Be homeless, or
- Child is or ever has been in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services following an adversary hearing held as provided by Section 262.201, Family code, or
- Be the child of an active-duty member of the U.S. military or one who has been killed, injured, or missing in action while on active duty.
- Be the child of a person eligible for the Star of Texas of Award as (1) a peace officer as defined in Section 3106.002, Government Code. (2) a firefighter under Section 3106.003, Government Code. (3) an emergency medical first responder under Section 3106.004, Government Code. The Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division honors recipients annually in September. A list of past honorees may be viewed on the Criminal Justice Division webpage.
Only eligible students applying for prekindergarten will be enrolled during the spring following the School Choice lottery, while TEA ineligible (tuition-based) applicants will be denoted as “qualified pending” and will be invited in order of their lottery number to enroll should seats be available on the first day of school.
6-Year-Old in Kindergarten Student Eligibility
Students who become six years old on or before September 1 can be enrolled in kindergarten providing he/she has not completed kindergarten during the previous school year and this permission form has been signed by the parent and principal.
Students who become six years old on or before September 1 completing kindergarten may be enrolled in kindergarten providing he/she has provided a written parental request for retention, written approval from the appropriate Grade Placement Committee and this permission form has been signed by the parent and principal.
How may I ensure that the application process goes smoothly?
In order to facilitate communications with the school(s) to which you apply, please make sure that all the information you provide on the application is the same as what is on file at your child’s current school. All contact information such as phone numbers, addresses, and e-mail must be current. Your child’s name on the application form should match the name on the child’s birth certificate. It is important that you check for e-mails sent by the application system.
When and how will I know if my child was accepted by a school?
Letters stating the status of your child’s application will be mailed on January 30, 2020 or made available in your online parent dashboard by midnight of January 30, 2020.
I got into a magnet or choice school on my list, and I would like to accept the seat. What should I do next?
Accept the offered seat either online (for parents that submitted an online application) or in person. Deliver, in person, the documents listed below and sign the entrance agreement if applicable. Complete the campus enrollment process. For offers received on January 30, 2020, you will have 2 weeks to accept the offered seat and make arrangements with the school to submit the following documents:
- Proof of current residence
- Proof of age (if your child is entering Pre-K or kindergarten)
- The school will be able to provide a copy of an entrance agreement if applicable that you will be required to sign.
Failure to meet the deadline can result in the loss of the offer.
For offers on or after March 9, 2020 parents will have 10 days to accept the seat and make arrangements with the school to submit the required documents, and sign entrance agreement at the school to secure the seat.
I got into my second or third choice. What happens to my lower-ranked choices?
Schools ranked lower than the highest one in which a student has been accepted would be released and no longer available to your student.
What if my child is not accepted into a magnet or choice program that I want him or her to attend?
Even if some School Choice programs fill-up completely, there are usually similar programs at other schools which may still have room. Additionally, many non-Magnet programs provide quality opportunities for students. You may meet with the school's Magnet coordinator or administrator to discuss the decision.
If you have specific concerns about the way your child's application was handled or you feel that procedures were not followed, you may file an appeal with the Office of School Choice by e-mailing email@example.com, detailing your concerns.
I believe there is a mistake on the magnet results. Who can I talk to?
Please contact the Office of School Choice at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (713) 556-6947.
What if I have accepted one school, but another school calls me from the waitlist. May I accept this second school?
Yes, you will have 1 week from the date that the seat was offered to take the following documents to the school whose offer you want to accept:
- Proof of current residence
- Proof of age (if your child is entering Pre-K or kindergarten)
- The school will be able to provide you a copy of an entrance agreement that you will be required to sign.
- Complete the campus enrollment process.
May I visit a school again before I make a final decision?
We recommend that you contact the school to see what times are available. If you have been offered a seat at this school, please remember that there is a deadline to secure the seat.
I am on the waitlist for all the schools on my list. What should I do next?
You may also consider schools with space available that are posted on our website and apply during Phase II.
What if I get into a school I ranked first on my list, but I am interested in a school that I ranked lower? Can I get on the wait list of a school I originally ranked lower?
Yes, you can get on the waitlist if there is space available at the lower ranked school. You cannot hold two seats at the same time and would need to decline the higher ranked choice in order to accept the lower ranked school. You will have 5 school days from the date of the lower ranked offer to respond and to deliver any required documentation to the lower ranked school.
What if my child has trouble with the Magnet program?
Upon entering a Magnet program, all students and parents will sign an Entrance Agreement. This details the expectations for the student in the program. A magnet transfer is a one-year commitment. A recommendation from the growth plan committee could result in a student losing his or her place in that magnet program at the end of the year and returning to their zoned school or another choice school at the beginning of the next school year. If the student voluntarily withdraws from the magnet school before the one-year time period is over, he/she may only return to his/her zoned campus.
When I check on the status of my child's application on the parent dashboard, it says that the application is "Submitted, in processing." What does this mean?
For applications submitted after December 6, 2019, this simply means that your application is being processed by our system. No further action by you is required. If you are missing any documentation, you will be contacted. For applications submitted between September 27 and December 6, 2019 (Phase1), in processing could mean the application was not completed or you live outside the HISD boundary map. Applications may also be left in processing for schools that have long waitlists and are no longer processing applications during Phase II and Phase III.
I applied by mail and have not received a School Choice letter. What should I do?
Letters will be mailed on January 30, 2020, so please allow the US mail a couple of days to make the delivery. If you have not received a magnet letter by February 7, 2020, contact email@example.com or call the Office of School Choice at (713)-556-6734.
I am experiencing problems with the HISD website and dashboard. What should I do?
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Office of School Choice (713) 556-6734, explaining in detail the issues you are having.
I can’t remember my login/password for my parent dashboard.
Use the “Forgot your password?” feature located at the bottom of the left-hand side of the parent login page at https://hisdchoice.com/.
Is there still time to apply to a magnet or choice school if I am in or out-of-district?
Yes. However, restrictions may apply. Out-of-district applications will be considered beginning March 1, 2020. Applications from eligible HISD-resident students will be considered first. When no further eligible HISD-resident student applications remain, out-of-district eligible students will be considered in the order their applications were submitted. For Magnet-only programs (schools that do not have an attendance zone) such as the High School for Performing and Visual Arts, out-of-district magnet transfers must be approved by the superintendent of schools and tuition may be required.
What is the process if the student is zoned to a magnet school they applied to?
There are different processes for different school types. There is no need for a zoned student to apply to a non-Vanguard elementary program. These are school-wide programs and all students will participate in the magnet program. The exception to this is a Vanguard magnet elementary school. A Magnet Vanguard program requires testing and the use of the Vanguard application. Some secondary programs have a qualification requirement for zoned students as well as out-of-zone students. Please visit the following link to view the qualification scores and process to apply to secondary magnet programs or reach out to the schools for more detailed information: Click Here
If my child gets into a different magnet school that he/she is not zoned to, does my child still have the option to go to his/her zoned school?
Yes, should the child choose to leave the program voluntarily before the end of the school year, he or she may only return to his or her zoned campus.
What happens if my child has a place in a Magnet program, but he/she misses the first day of school?
If there is an extenuating circumstance, please contact the school, and the Office of School Choice at email@example.com, or call (713) 556-6734. Any student with an approved transfer (e.g., Magnet) who does not attend his or her school on the first day of school is no longer guaranteed a spot at that school. When they arrive to enroll, if space is still available, their transfer will be accepted. If there is no longer any space, they will have lost their space and will need to enroll at their zoned school or another program with space. The rationale behind this rule is that we do not want to turn away zoned students because we are saving space for someone who may or may not come to the school. If the school is not over-crowded and space is available, all students wanting to attend will be able to do so.