I founded General Academic as a research-and-analysis driven academic consulting firm in 2003. We are dedicated to enabling our students and employees to reach their aspirations, grow as individuals and professionals, and make an impact on society. This website, essentially the fourth edition of our publication on Houston schools epitomizes this philosophy. “HoustonSchoolSurvey.com” presents more than 2000 hours of research, surveys, interviews, and analysis across more than 300 virtual pages on sixty-four schools, general education, growing up, and some interesting tidbits in-between. (Shelby Joe is the President & Founder of General Academic).
Starting Your Journey
I am confident that this site will provide you with a broad picture of what you will need and want to know about your school options. However, you will not find explicit rankings, gossip, or individual points of view. Rather, I hope that you will arm yourself with the facts and analysis in this website to jump start the next phase of your journey – the part where you get to physically visit schools and get a warm and fuzzy feeling or a cold and sharp discomfort from what you encounter. No amount of prose, graphs, or charts will be able to replace your own introspection, instinct, and experiences. Fortunately, I am elated to inform you that there are at least 64 good options from which to choose. Indeed, there is something to like about all of the 41 private and 23 public schools profiled on this website.
Houston Public Schools are Admirable
Houston Independent School District (HISD) deserves your attention. It boasts at least two nationally recognized public schools in Carnegie Vanguard and Debakey High Schools. HISD is at the forefront of implementing the globally developed and respected International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum across all grade levels and attendance zones. Over the last decade, Houston residents have voted to invest more than $3.5 billion into rebuilding, renovating, and updating the district’s 279 schools. Now is a good time to look into your local public school.
A World of Choice in Private Schools
Houston private schools are equally, if not more impressive in their growth, offerings, and diversity. When you see the verdant lawns or the finely constructed buildings of many private schools, you’ll likely want to return to grade school yourself. Private schools are on a construction boom that easily rivals and sometimes surpasses those of well-endowed colleges. Advanced class offerings, like Organic Chemistry and creative ones like Masque Acting Ensemble, cater to virtually every intellectual pursuit and expressive desire. Curricula adhering to religious ideals, like the Episcopal tradition, or serving a global community, like the International Baccalaureate Diploma, allow families to pick the environment that speaks to them the most. You can obtain a world-class, private education and experience for your children in Houston.
Technology is Making a Quality Education More Democratic
I want to make you aware of some exciting developments regardless of which school you choose. Technology is heralding in a paradigm shift in the way we educate children and how they consume knowledge. Quickly disappearing across campuses are the scoliosis-inducing bags full of heavy textbooks. Eagerly supplanting these relics are featherweight laptops and tablet computers. These computers can be loaded with advanced software like digital textbooks that can read out loud to students with dyslexia, flash cards that can show a hint when a child lifts the tablet’s cover, and adaptive learning software that can determine and strengthen a student’s weakest area in algebra. Two-pound laptops, $150 tablets, and a continually growing selection of phenomenal applications are making education more individualized, adaptive, and interactive. Even if your school does not provide or require this technology, I encourage you to seek it out on your own.
Foreign Languages are Invaluable
I want to stress the importance of studying a foreign language. Studying four foreign languages over a 12-year period—Chinese, German, Latin, and Spanish—has made me a better, more analytical, and inquisitive person. Scientifically speaking, studying languages is proven to develop the brain and lead to higher test scores across the board, math and science included. Financially, multi-lingual professionals have more job opportunities. Philosophically, studying foreign languages opens the mind to new ideas and cultures. Most schools in Houston start offering Spanish by fifth grade; some schools, including IB and HISD schools, offer even more options. By high school, most schools will generally offer a choice of three language options and require two years of study in one language. Encourage your children to go beyond the two year minimum and look for ways to make the new language meaningful to them, whether it’s exploring new food options at a Mexican restaurant, shopping in Chinatown, or possibly even spending a couple of weeks exploring the south of France!
Extracurriculars Fill in the Gaps
Students don’t stop learning when the last bell rings; some of the most enriching and developing activities happen after and outside of school during extra-curricular activities. You can hone math and science skills through fun activities like MathCounts and Lego robotics. You can encourage a talented tongue by having your child participate in speech and debate or develop athletic abilities through club soccer and USTA tennis. Ask schools what activities they support but don’t be disappointed when they don’t have it all; ambitious students can usually start any activity they can devise so long as they convince one faculty member to sponsor their organization.
Boarding Schools Aren't Just for the Über Wealthy
Begin your school search across the street but do not forget about the options across the state or even the nation. This year, we profiled the Texas Academy for Math and Science (TAMS) and the Chinquapin Preparatory School. TAMS is one of the finest public boarding schools in the nation; there is no more advanced way to prepare for college than simply starting it two years early. The real bonus is that applications are open to any Texas resident and that tuition is mostly free. Even more affordable and equally impressive for its results is Chinquapin, which lies just outside of Northeast Houston. Serving mostly underprivileged children, Chinquapin’s endowed boarding program costs next to nothing while offering an excellent curriculum with tangible results. The many boarding schools in the US are beyond the scope of this book, but remember that with endowments that can hit $1 billion or more, ivy-covered schools aren’t just for the über-wealthy; they often offer unrivaled financial aid.
Don't Forget Your Child's Perspective
Allow me to leave you with one parting recommendation—keep your child’s needs and wishes as priority one. Please think about and consider the environment in which your child will have the best opportunity to succeed and grow. Every child is special; try not to assume that your unique child will automatically excel at a seemingly prestigious school just because of its name. Talk to your friends, family, and school administrators about their experiences and trust your instinct. Finally, go see the school for yourself. Visit schools and register your child for a shadow/buddy day so that he or she may experience a school first hand; openly listen to what your child has to say about that experience. Like just about anything in life, school is more about fit and what your child makes of it versus name recognition and certificates. With enough tenacity, spirit, and support, I am confident that your child will stand out and succeed regardless of the school that he or she attends.
Article last updated on February 19, 2014.
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