Choice and Opportunity Thriving in Texas Public Schools

    The following was first published as a column on TribTalk, a publication of the Texas Tribune.

    Texas students and families today have access to school choice offerings as diverse and unique as the students themselves. From dual-language and STEM to internships and early college programs, public school districts across Texas are offering families innovative choices to personalize education and engage students, leading to higher achievement and post-secondary success.

    From large urban districts to small rural communities, school choice and opportunity abound and are expanding at a rapid clip. In the 50 largest school districts, which educate more than half of Texas students, multiple school choice options are available, with many districts offering students options including magnets, district charters and transfer options.

    In other districts, including the 60 percent considered rural or small, students can become more college- and career-ready through involvement in innovative courses, community and industry partnerships, and extracurricular programs.

    Examples of Public School Choice

    Students and families have a myriad of school options. Examples include:

    Neighborhood Schools

    The guaranteed campus for every Texas student based on home address

    Magnet, Academy, or Specialty Campus

    (Fine Arts, Montessori, Medical, STEM, Single-Gender, Dual Language, etc.)

    Students enroll or apply to a campus or program focused on a particular path of study that may provide a certification; may be a stand-alone campus or located within a traditional campus; campus may be outside the student’s zoned campus

    Early College High Schools

    Students enrolled in high school take college courses to receive college credit prior to graduation; may be a stand-alone campus or located within a traditional campus; campus may be outside the student’s zoned campus

    Open-Enrollment Districts

    Students living outside district boundaries may transfer to the district

    Open-Enrollment Campuses

    Students may transfer to campuses outside their neighborhood campus within a district

    Charter Schools

    Charter schools are operated by non-profits, universities, or other governmental bodies. Open-enrollment charters serve students from a defined geographic area and are open to any student residing in that area.

    As a 2016 Dallas Morning News editorial poignantly concluded, “With the explosion of public charters, magnets and creative choice schools, the need to siphon money away from public schools as a way to embolden innovation and diversity of opportunity is no more.”

    What does quality school choice and opportunity look like? Texas public schools can show you. Below are a few examples of the many stories of public schools and districts offering cutting-edge programs and quality choices to students while preserving transparency and accountability in the use of public dollars. They also stand as public school choice models for other districts that are considering how to explore, identify, and introduce customized education offerings to meet the needs of all students.

    Learn more about quality public school choice in Texas schools and districts, how public education is being reinvented across the state and why the future of Texas is in our public schools.

    Harlingen CISD

    Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District takes school choice seriously. In 2014, HCISD began development of a five-year strategic plan to ensure the district’s educational offerings are aligned with local interests. The district brought together more than 800 community representatives and asked what they want for students. The answers sparked a district transformation and new opportunities for all students.

    “Public schools serve approximately 90 percent of Texas children, and it’s our responsibility to reinvent and redesign ourselves to serve those students well.” — Harlingen CISD Superintendent Art Cavazos

    Grand Prairie ISD

    Grand Prairie ISD is transforming education in the district into a rich, personal experience for each student. Today, the district offers 22 open enrollment schools of choice – more than half of all its schools – and a vast array of program options.

    “A parent has a right to choose to home-school, and a parent has a right to pay $40,000 a year in tuition. But every parent can’t, so as a public school superintendent, I have an obligation to give every parent an opportunity to exercise their right to make a choice for their child – a choice that’s best for their child and a choice that they want to be vested in.” — Grand Prairie ISD Superintendent Dr. Susan Hull

    Roscoe ISD

    If you judge Roscoe only by its railroad tracks and rural farmland, you might not recognize a school district on the cutting edge of quality school choice. But students in Roscoe Collegiate ISD in West Texas are benefiting from options and innovations previous generations could only dream of.

    “Students are much more engaged when they know it’s for a real-world issue rather than just for a grade.” — Roscoe ISD Superintendent Dr. Kim Alexander

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