Houston Forward Times

23 October 2013 Written by  Jeffrey L. Boney

HISD Guts Magnet Programs in 20 Schools, Citing Under-Enrollment as the Reason

Madison High SchoolIn another jaw-dropping move by the Houston Independent School District (HISD), it was announced this past Thursday that the district will close twenty of its 115 magnet programs, citing that those schools are not attracting enough students and do not have enough kids from outside their zoned neighborhoods going there.

 These 20 magnet school programs enroll a combined 758 students from outside their attendance zones.

And here is the kicker; the HISD school board will not be able to do or say anything about the decision, thanks to earlier changes in the magnet school policy that has the entire program falling under Superintendent Terry Grier’s administration.

The magnet phase-out plan was developed in accordance with a new magnet program policy adopted by the HISD Board of Education designed to ensure quality within the district’s portfolio of school choice options. That policy requires that non-zoned magnet students represent at least 20 percent of the total number of students at a school in order for that magnet program to justifiably continue.

All of these schools will lose any funding they received to operate their magnet programs, as well as all of the funding they received to transport the kids from various neighborhoods to and from those schools. Magnet programs that are being eliminated after the current school year are located at the following schools: Burbank, Elrod, Law, Pleasantville, Wesley, and West University elementary schools; Attucks, Deady, Dowling, Holland, Jackson, Key, and Patrick Henry middle schools; and Jones, Lee, Madison, Sharpstown, Westbury, Wheatley and Worthing high schools.

Eighteen other magnet programs placed on probationary status.  Those schools are: Crespo, Garden Villas, Helms, MacGregor, Pugh, Ross, and Wainwright elementary schools; Hogg and Long middle schools; and Kashmere, Scarborough, Sterling, and Washington high schools. Any of the 18 magnet programs now on probation that do not meet minimum student achievement requirements this school year will be phased out, losing half of their magnet program funding during the 2014-2015 school year and all of their magnet funding thereafter.

Students, who are currently enrolled in schools where these magnet programs are being eliminated, will be allowed to continue attending their school until they complete the highest grade level at those campuses.

Most parents consider magnet programs to be the most important programs offered at select HISD schools. These schools will remain open until the end of the 2013-14 school year but they will be losing one of the primary things that drive students to attend those schools in the first place.  

HISD is currently hosting several school choice fairs across the district to inform parents of the different educational choices available to their children as they transition into middle and high school.Worthing High School

HISD School Choice fairs will be from 6 - 7:30 p.m. at the following locations: (School Choice Fairs for elementary school students transitioning to middle school in 2014-2015)

  • Oct. 22: Crespo Elementary School, 7500 Office City
  • Nov. 5: Walnut Bend Elementary School, 10620 Briar Forest
  • Nov. 12: Roberts Elementary School, 6000 Greenbriar
  • Nov. 19: Shadydale Elementary School, 5909 Tidwell
  • (School Choice Fairs for middle school students transitioning to high school in 2014-2015)
  • Oct. 17: Dowling Middle School, 14000 Stancliff
  • Oct. 24: Stevenson Middle School, 9595 Winkler
  • Nov. 7: Revere Middle School, 10502 Briar Forest
  • Nov. 14: Pin Oak Middle School, 4601 Glenmont
  • Nov. 21: Forest Brook Middle School, 7525 Tidwell

Magnet applications for the 2014-2015 school year will be accepted from Nov. 4 to Dec. 20, 2013 for guaranteed consideration in the first round of applicants. For more information, contact the Office of School Choice at 713-556-6947 or visit houstonisd.org/magnet.

At the same time HISD is eliminating these magnet programs, the district is also adding new magnet programs designed to meet current demand.  Last month, HISD won a $12 million federal grant for six magnets that emphasize science, technology, engineering, and math instruction.  According to HISD, the twenty magnet programs, which have a combined magnet budget (including transportation costs) of about $4 million, will “now be freed up for other academic purposes.”  

 While the trustees can’t vote to stop Superintendent Grier from making this move, at least one African-American trustee, Larry Marshall, expressed his feelings about the magnet school program closures. 

“They all deserve to be closed,” said Marshall. “They’ve not met the standards and they’ve known that. It’s now time for us to move on.”

The Houston Forward Times is unclear of what academic purposes HISD plans to use this additional revenue for, but we will keep you posted and will be sure to keep an eye on the money for you.