An Introduction to HISD Vanguard
Vanguard is the term used by HISD to describe a specialized, academically accelerated curriculum designed for Gifted and Talented (G/T) students. Virtually every HISD magnet school has Vanguard programming of some kind. Some are dedicated Vanguard magnets, while the rest are Vanguard Neighborhood schools.
At a dedicated Vanguard magnet, all students are Gifted and Talented (G/T), and G/T status is a prerequisite of admission. The curriculum at these schools is structured around the Houston ISD Gifted and Talented Curriculum Framework, and because the Vanguard program is schoolwide, this framework can be realized to its full potential. For instance, Vanguard schools may require students to take pre-AP or AP courses, or they may implement the IB Primary Years, IB Middle Years, or IB Diploma curriculum. In every class, instruction, content, and work can be tailored to the needs of G/T students.
A Vanguard Neighborhood program, on the other hand, is not schoolwide, nor does it function like a magnet SWAS (school-within-a-school). It is essentially an enrichment program for G/T students that adds an extra element of challenge. Because Vanguard Neighborhood programming is incorporated into the school’s existing curriculum, the enrichment will primarily take the form of additional work and independent projects. A school with a Vanguard Neighborhood program will not offer additional AP or IB classes for G/T students beyond what is available to all students through the primary curriculum. Thus, while many schools with Vanguard Neighborhood programs do offer AP or IB programming, the AP/IB-centered curriculum found in most dedicated Vanguard magnets is relatively less common in these schools.
If your child is G/T, how can you decide which type of programming would be a better fit? The most important question to ask yourself is whether a rigorous curriculum overall would benefit your child more than another type of specialized curriculum focusing on a subject area or set of skills. If rigor and AP/IB classes are a top priority for you, a dedicated Vanguard magnet may well be a good fit for your child. If your child has specialized interests, on the other hand, he or she may be better served by a Vanguard Neighborhood program at a magnet school that caters to those interests.
Applying to Vanguard Magnet Programs
If you want your child to attend a dedicated Vanguard magnet, you will complete a special Vanguard application which is very similar to a standard magnet application. Vanguard magnet admissions follow the same timetable as general HISD magnet admissions, with the same submission deadlines and the same notification date. If your child is not already certified as G/T, he or she will be required to take a standardized test to determine G/T status.
The Houston School Survey’s Guide to HISD Magnet Applications gives detailed advice on every aspect of this process.
Applying to Vanguard Neighborhood Programs
Whereas the Vanguard magnet application cycle concludes well before the start of school, you cannot apply to a Vanguard Neighborhood program until the school year begins. There are three windows throughout the year during which you may apply. The earliest of these is in late August; we recommend applying during this phase to maximize your child’s time in the Vanguard program. The other windows are in December, for participation in the spring semester, and April, for participation the following year. For the 2014-2015 school year, the first deadline is August 29, the second deadline is December 12, and the third deadline is April 24.
The Vanguard Neighborhood application is available in paper form only. It can be obtained from your school’s office or downloaded here. When you have filled out the application, return it to your school’s G/T office by the applicable deadline.
As specified on the application form, the Vanguard Neighborhood admissions process also requires a number of supplementary documents, specifically:
A Note on G/T Testing
If your child is a current kindergarten, fifth grade, or eighth grade student in HISD, you don’t even need to worry about arranging for testing. The district arranges G/T testing for all students in these grades in late November. This prepares eligible kindergarteners to enter Vanguard Neighborhood in the spring semester (as the program is only available to kindergarteners from March onward), and it prepares eligible fifth and eighth grade students to proceed straight to a dedicated Vanguard magnet or a Vanguard Neighborhood program at their next school.
If your child has not already been identified by HISD as G/T, he or she will need to take a standardized test during the admissions process. For applicants entering kindergarten, the district requires the Woodcock-Johnson III Test of Achievement, an intelligence test designed to be used for ages 2 and up. For all other applicants, the district requires the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, Second Edition, or NNAT-2. This assessment, which measures aptitude with respect to grade level norms, is advertised as a “culturally neutral” metric ideal for identifying G/T students.
If you are applying to a dedicated Vanguard magnet, the magnet coordinator for your primary school will contact you in late January or early February to schedule any necessary testing. The test will be administered at your primary school on one of several designated testing days, which will have been identified on the Vanguard application. There may be a waiting period before your child is called in to take the test, so we recommend that you bring a book and a healthy snack for your child.
If you apply to a Vanguard Neighborhood having already applied to a dedicated Vanguard magnet, your child will not have to re-test - scores are valid for one year. If your child is identified as G/T in the process of applying to a dedicated Vanguard magnet, then he or she will automatically qualify for the Vanguard Neighborhood program at another school.
If you apply to a Vanguard Neighborhood program at the beginning of the year without having applied to a designated Vanguard magnet, then your school’s G/T coordinator will contact you to schedule any necessary testing in late August or early September. If you apply during one of the other application windows, testing will typically be scheduled within a month.
Unless you are attempting to transfer your children into a dedicated Vanguard magnet, you don’t need to worry about renewing the tests every year. Once students are accepted into a Vanguard program at a given school, they will be able to continue in the program until they graduate from that school.
Click here to access the 2014-15 HISD GT Matrices.
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