Education and Schools in Houston

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Education and schools in houston
Given its size, there's no shortage of options when it comes to education in Houston. There are several school districts in the Greater Houston area which contain numerous public, private and parochial schools.

With so many choices, expat parents will need to carefully evaluate their priorities before choosing a school – including their budget, the proximity of the school from home and the workplace, the curriculum they would like their child to learn, and the kind of teaching environment that's best for their child.

School attendance is compulsory for students between the ages of six and 18, and as in the greater US, school is divided into three levels:
  • Pre-K to Grade 5
  • Grade 6 to Grade 8 (middle school)
  • Grade 9 to Grade 12 (high school)
 
With the exception of foreign-language international schools, the teaching language of schools in Houston is English.

Public schools in Houston

 
The greatest perk of public schools in Houston is that the Texas education system doesn't charge tuition, and expats and locals alike can take advantage of it – but that doesn’t mean parents shouldn't do preliminary research. Even though all public schools teach a state-mandated curriculum, the standard of each institution can vary immensely.

Some districts are consistently associated with high standards, while others aren't. Since students attend schools based on attendance zones, it’s important for parents to consider the quality of an area's schools when looking for accommodation in Houston.

To evaluate the standard of educational facilities in a district, parents can use academic excellence indicator (AEIS) reports –  where they can look at a school’s rating as evaluated by the state education agency. After selecting a few schools that seem to fit the bill, it’s always a good idea to visit them, preferably during school hours, and meet with an administrator to learn a little more about them. Once they've decided to apply to a school, parents will likely need to provide copies of their child's immunisation records and recent report cards, among other documents. 
 

Charter schools and magnet schools

The public school system in Houston also includes charter schools and magnet schools. Charter schools receive state-funding and uphold the state curriculum, but tend to be more innovative and flexible than traditional public schools. Magnet schools also use state-funding, but typically have specialised curriculums and may offer the International Baccalaureate. They're associated with high achievement and cultural diversity.

Both are good options for parents looking for an affordable but elevated standard of education for their children. That said, admission can be competitive and waiting lists can be long – lottery systems are often used to confirm enrolment.

Private and international schools in Houston

 
As in most destinations, private schools in Houston are assumed to provide a wider array of extra-curricular activities, better facilities, smaller student-to-teacher ratios, and a higher level of instruction. 

Private schooling is a broad category that includes international schools, religious (parochial) schools and alternative-learning schools like Montessori and Steiner. Some schools uphold the state curriculum, while others follow foreign curricula or offer the International Baccalaureate curriculum.

But all of these schools charge tuition, although fees vary and parents will need to enquire at individual schools regarding costs. Parents should also apply as early as possible, since the best schools usually have long waiting lists.

Many of Houston’s private schools require students to complete an entrance exam, which parents may have to finance along with other application costs.

There's usually an annual 'Private School Preview' event in September where parents can learn more about specific schools, their admission requirements and their teaching philosophies. Otherwise, the best method for finding out about private schools in an area is word of mouth, and by visiting the school in person.