Advanced Placement: Advanced Placement (AP) is a program created by the College Board that offers college level curricula and exams in 38 subject areas to students in high school. AP courses are taught by high school teachers who have received training from the College Board. Universities and colleges may use AP exam scores to grant students course credit and placement.
Resource: College Board AP Page
Afterschool Programs: Afterschool programs are offered between the end of the regular school day and the end of the customary work day (usually around 6pm). Afterschool programs are offered by schools and community organizations. Before-school programs are offered in the early morning hours.
Application: Some public schools and most private schools require that students apply for admission. Applications for admission are often due between December and March of the year prior to the beginning of the school year. Many schools have online applications.
Charter Schools: These are schools that are publicly funded, but privately managed. Charters are granted and regulated by the Texas Education Agency. Charter schools are governed by independent corporations or organizations rather than an elected board. Charter schools have freedom from some regulations of an independent school district and are free to attend.
Comprehensive School: A comprehensive school is a secondary school (high school or middle school) that serves students regardless of their aptitude or interests. A comprehensive school offers students courses in core subjects (math, language arts, science, and social studies) and elective subjects (such as music, visual arts, Japanese, and debate).
Dual Credit: Dual credit courses offer high school and college-level curricula simultaneously in core areas to high school students. Dual credit courses are often taught by a college instructor. Colleges and universities may offer credit to students based on their class grade in a dual credit course.
Resource: Texas Education Agency Dual Credit FAQ
Dual Language/Language Immersion: Students participating in dual language programs (also referred to as two-way immersion) receive instruction in English and one other language with the goal of fluency in both languages. Most programs begin as language immersion programs in preschool, preK, Kindergarten or 1st grade. Language minority and language majority students are integrated, and both English and the native language of the minority students are used for instruction. Program structures vary by campus, but many schools begin providing instruction in the non-English language for a significant portion of the school day, increasing the English instruction until a balance is reached (often around 3rd grade). In this model, all students have the opportunity to be both first language models and second language learners.
The school district (HISD) has dual language schools that offer instruction in English and Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, or Spanish. Most of these campuses offer the dual language instruction in a magnet program, but some zoned schools are designated English and Spanish dual language. In this context, the dual language program is a bilingual program for Spanish-speaking students and a foreign language immersion program for English-speaking students. HISD offers two dual language models – 80/20 and 50/50. In the 80/20 model, participating students receive instruction in language arts and content subjects primarily in Spanish in the early grades (K-2) with a grade specific amount of English as a Second Language/English Language Development instruction incorporated daily. English instruction is gradually increased through the grade levels (K-2) and by third grade instruction is presented in a 50% non-English and 50% English format. The 50/50 model presents academic content in English and non-English equally.
Early Childhood Education: Early childhood education generally refers to the teaching of young children before children prior to their entrance into elementary school. It encompasses preschool as well as infant education (birth to age 2). Learn Central does not collect the data on early education, but recommends local resources (see Preschool). Many of Houston’s public, private and open-enrollment charter schools offer these programs.
Enrollment in tuition-free HISD early childhood and preschool programs is limited to students who are considered to be in one of the following categories: economically disadvantages; homeless; not proficient in English; children of active duty members of the US military or whose parent has been killed, injured, or missing in action while on active duty. Students not meeting eligibility criteria may enroll in HISD tuition-based programs.
Elementary School: An elementary school serves students in the first years of their education (also see primary school). Typically serving students in Kindergarten (ages 5-6) through the 5th grade (ages 10-11), Houston elementary schools begin enrolling students as early as prekindergarten (also called preK, PK). Some schools offer two years of preK (designated PK3 and PK4). Public schools that offer preK may charge a fee for some families.
Extracurricular Activities: Extracurricular activities are those that fall outside the normal school day. Some examples are team sports, clubs, journalism, and internships.
Gifted and Talented/Vanguard: Gifted and talented is used to describe programs for students who are identified as having the capability to achieve intellectually, artistically, or physically beyond the expectations for their cohort or age. In Houston ISD, the term “Vanguard” is used to indicate gifted and talented programs. ALL HISD schools offer vanguard programming to zoned students, and some offer vanguard magnet programming to students outside the neighborhood.
High/Senior High School: High schools provide the last years of a student’s statutory formal education, usually grades 9 to 12. It provides education in academic and vocational subjects. Upon completing high school, students are awarded a diploma or certificate. In Houston, students may earn higher education certifications and credits concurrently in high school.
Houston Independent School District (HISD) Schools: These are public schools governed by an independently elected school board (the Houston Independent School District) and regulated by the Texas Education Agency. HISD is a governmental entity independent of the City of Houston and all other municipal and county jurisdictions.
Resource: HISD Homepage
International Baccalaureate: International Baccalaureate (IB) is an educational program that was designed in the late 1960’s to provide an internationally acceptable level of education to young people whose parents were part of international and multi-national organizations, or diplomacy. Originally for students in the pre-university years (ages 16-19), the program evolved to include younger students. The Primary Years Programme (PYP) is offered by grade schools. The Middle Years Programme (MYP) is offered by middle schools. The IB Diploma is offered to high school students. Students may take IB Diploma courses in individual subject areas. Texas public universities will grant at least 24 semester credit hours or equivalent course credit in appropriate subject areas to an entering student for successful completion of the IB Diploma Program. The institution may grant fewer than 24 semester credit hours if the students received a score of less than four on an examination. There is similar legislation in California, Colorado, and Florida. Colleges and universities also may use IB exam scores to grant course credit or placement.
Resource: International Baccalaureate Organization
Lottery: In the Houston area, lottery procedures are used to determine enrollment in some public magnet and charter schools where applications for enrollment exceed available spaces. Parents complete applications for the schools by a given deadline. Once eligibility is verified, schools then use a variety of methods to randomly select students for enrollment. Schools may conduct lottery procedures for all applicants, or only for applicants that do not meet priority criteria. Students not selected in the lottery are usually put on a waitlist in numerical order. As enrollment spaces become available, parents are notified.
Magnet Schools: Magnet schools are public schools that are part of HISD, governed by an independently elected school board, and regulated by the Texas Education Agency. Magnet schools focus on specialized thematic curriculums designed to give students in-depth topical instruction. Magnets refer to specific areas of focus such as Fine Arts, International Studies, or languages. In order to attend a magnet program, students must apply.
Resource: HISD Magnet Programs
Middle School: A middle school (sometimes called intermediate or junior high) serves students between elementary school and high school. In Houston, middle schools typically provide education beginning in the 5th or 6th grade through the 8th grade.
Montessori: Montessori is an educational approach that was developed by Italian physician Maria Montessori. The schools typically feature mixed-age classrooms, student choice, long blocks of work time and specialized educational materials.
Neighborhood School: This is a school that serves the area surrounding it. It is sometimes referred to as a zoned school or boundary school. Locally, HISD (the Houston Independent School District) is the district that oversees all of the neighborhood schools inside the 610-Loop. Boundaries are determined by the school board and are modified as needed.
Non-traditional Schooling: There are alternative education opportunities available for parents who seek non-traditional schooling options for their children. Increasing numbers of parents are choosing education based on their children’s talents and interests. These include online courses, virtual schools, homeschooling, self-directed learning, and apprenticeships as well as courses at cultural institutions and colleges. These options may charge tuition or may be free.
Parochial School: A parochial school is a private institution associated with a religious organization. It offers some form of religious education in addition to general education.
Preschool: A preschool offers early childhood education before children begin Kindergarten, usually from the ages of 3 to 5. Locally there are private and public options for preschool, offering a myriad of programs at a variety of costs. Learn Central does not collect the data on preschools, but recommends these local resources: Collaborative for Children, Texas Department of Family Services Child Care Search Tool, Early Matters Coalition on Early Education
Primary School: Primary schools are the typical entry into the system of compulsory education and refer to the first eight years of formal education. Primary schools in the Houston area typically serve students in the elementary and middle school grades (K-8th). Some private schools may refer to primary school as a “lower school.”
Private Schools: These are schools that are privately funded and governed. These schools are most often regulated by external agencies such as the Council of International Schools, the National Association of Independent Schools, secular governing bodies, or the American Montessori Society. Private schools charge families tuition to attend, and most offer financial aid. Some private schools are affiliated with religious institutions, some with educational philosophies, and some are for students with specific learning needs.
Secondary School: A secondary school provides the final years of compulsory education between the ages of 11 and 19. Locally, schools may designate secondary school as beginning in 6th-9th grades and ending at 12th grade. Some private schools may also refer to a secondary school as an “upper school” for older students.
STEM and STEAM: STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It is an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning that incorporates real world applications of problem solving incorporating. STEAM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. It adds in the arts to an interdisciplinary approach that uses these subjects as access points for guiding inquiry.
Texas Education Agency (TEA): TEA is a branch of state government that is responsible for the oversight of primary and secondary education in the state. The agency has the authority to oversee operations of Independent School Districts (ISDs) if serious issues arise. TEA is led and managed by a Commissioner of Education who is appointed by the Governor. A 15-member elected State Board of Education provides oversight for the agency.
Resource: TEA Homepage
Zoned Schools: In the Houston area, these are also referred to as Houston Independent School District (HISD) neighborhood Schools. These are public schools governed by an independently elected school board (the Houston Independent School District) and regulated by the Texas Education Agency. Zoned schools are those campuses that residents within certain areas are assigned to attend, and are sometimes referred to as “neighborhood schools.”
Resource: HISD Homepage