Charter Schools and ISD Schools - Understanding how they're similar and how they're different.

One of the questions we hear most from prospective parents interested in applying to Harmony Public Schools is “I’ve been looking at schools near me, but I don’t understand – what is the difference between a charter school and an ISD public school?” 

Texas public charter schools have grown exponentially in the past 25 years – both in Texas, and around the country – but we understand why many parents who grew up in a traditional independent school district setting themselves may still have questions.

That’s OK. We’ve got the answers to all of your biggest questions about charter schools.

So, what exactly is a charter school?

A charter school is a public school, and in many ways very similar to a traditional ISD school as you might think of one.

  • Charter schools do not charge tuition or application fees.
  • Charter schools accept every student who applies, as long as the school or grade level has not reached its enrollment capacity.
  • Charter school students take the same core classes and state tests (ex. STAAR) as ISD students. 
  • Charter schools are held to strict standards of financial and overall accountability by the Texas Education Agency.
  • Charter schools offer a full range of special services, including special education, English as a Second Language (ESL), Dyslexia, and 504. 

However, what makes charter schools different is what makes us special. In a word, that difference is “choice.”

Way back in 1995, the Texas State Legislature decided that even though there are a lot of great schools in Texas, a one-size-fits-all approach to education wasn’t working for all families. Each child is unique: some with special gifts, others with special challenges, and all with special dreams for their futures.

To help better serve every Texas student, the Texas public charter school system was created to allow independent, education-based nonprofit organizations called Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) to open and operate free public schools for Texas students with the promise that they would provide a new school choice in education for local Texas families.

For some charter schools, that new choice might be a curriculum that focuses on dual-language learning. For others, it might be helping students who have dropped out of the traditional school setting reclaim their path to graduation.

At Harmony Public Schools, we specialize in hands-on, project-based learning with a heavy emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), as well as advanced college preparedness and character education.


DID YOU KNOW?

Of the roughly 100 schools in Texas certified as official Texas STEM Academies be the Texas Education Agency, 23 are Harmony Public Schools high schools – more than any other school system in Texas!

Thirteen Harmony high schools have also been named among the Best STEM High Schools in the U.S. by Newsweek.


 

Who can attend a charter school?

As long as a student lives within its geographic boundaries of the school, any child can attend a Texas public charter school. However, unlike traditional ISD schools where students usually must attend whichever nearby campus they are “zoned” to, public charter school geographic boundaries are generally very large – often covering multiple communities or counties. These large geographic boundaries are another way Texas public charter schools offer Texas families a choice in their student’s education, and are unique from traditional ISDs. For example, rather than sending their child to an ISD campus near their home address, a parent may prefer for their child to attend one near a grandparent’s home, or the parent’s place of work. Or they may prefer to send their child to a campus that specializes in a specific curriculum, like STEM, or with a higher TEA accountability rating than their neighborhood ISD school. All of these are options with Texas public charter schools.

Do public charter schools charge tuition?

Texas public charter schools are free to attend. Applying to a Texas public charter school is also free.

When and how can a student apply to a charter school?

A student can apply to a charter school at any time during the school year and be accepted if space is available. However, most Texas public charter schools also offer an open enrollment period each year specifically for prospective new students. During this time, families can learn more about their charter school options and enter their name for the enrollment lottery, which is held in the event there are more applicants than available seats. For Harmony Public Schools, open enrollment runs each November 1 through February 10. 

MORE INFO: Learn more about how to apply to Harmony Public Schools.

How is a charter school funded?

As opposed to a traditional ISD school, which receives its funding primarily from the taxes local homeowners pay each year combined with additional funding from the state, charter schools receive their primary funding from the state and federal governments. Additionally, charters often receive both public and private grants to fund many of their innovative academic programs. For example, in recent years Harmony Public Schools has received grants of varying amounts from the U.S. Department of Education, the Texas Education Agency, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and the Elon Musk Foundation, among others.

Are Texas public charter schools for-profit?

No. By law, Texas public charter schools must be nonprofit entities. All funds received are used in the service of our students and school teams.

Do charter schools require uniforms?

That’s a decision that’s up to each charter school. At Harmony Public Schools, we do have a uniform policy. (Our students do get regular “free dress” days, though.)

Do charter schools offer the same types of programs and extracurricular activities as ISD schools?

Charter schools offer almost all of the same programs and extracurricular activities as ISD schools, though just like at an ISD school, the exact selection of extracurricular opportunities varies from campus-to-campus. Traditionally, charter schools specialize in offering a wide variety of academic-focused extracurriculars. For example, at Harmony Public Schools, some of our most popular extracurricular activities are our groundbreaking eSports clubs, LEGO robotics, rocketry, computer coding, and biomedicine. Our schools also compete in a wide variety of sports, including basketball, volleyball, soccer, and football. 

What other differences are there between charter schools and traditional ISD schools?

There are a few other differences between Texas public charter schools and ISDs, but most don’t impact the day-to-day campus life of our students. For example, charter school boards consist of appointed volunteers with a unique interest in education, rather than private individuals who have chosen to run for election.


This year every child at Harmony Public Schools is eligible to receive free lunch and breakfast each day from our child nutrition team.
However, Harmony would like to remind parents of the need to still submit one of our critical Harmony forms instead of the application normally associated with qualifying for Free & Reduced Price Meal Programs.
Each year, Harmony Public Schools is required to collect and report the socioeconomic status of each student to the Texas Education Agency for purposes of the annual state accountability ratings and for federal reporting. The data collected is used by educational agencies to determine funding which may be used for a variety of programs and educational opportunities.
Today, we are asking parents to please complete the online form “Household Income Information” in Skyward. Upon login to Skyward, this form is accessible from the main screen. If you have any questions, please contact the Child Nutrition Assistant at your child’s school.

OUR FIRST-EVER AP/EOC CAMP!

We are excited to announce a 1st ever AP/EOC Camp, open to all students, held December 10-12, 2021!
This fun and exciting event will be held at Camp Cho-Yeh located in Livingston, Texas, and will feature activities that focus on the Advanced Placement courses and any end-of-course exams offered on our campus, as well as a host of super fun activities such as laser tag, zip-lining, and paintball!

The AP Camp fee is $200, which includes all meals, activities, boarding, and transportation. Payment can be made through RevTrak, and the payment schedule is as follows :

October 31, 2021 – $100 installment due
November 30, 2021 – $100 installment due

All payments are non-refundable.

Space is limited and is on a first-come, first-serve basis, so reserve your spot right away! Spots cannot be reserved without paying the first installment through RevTrak.
RevTrak: https://tinyurl.com/2dnf7av2

Once your 1st installment is paid and your spot is reserved, a permission slip is required for all students under the age of 18; we will share it with you in the following weeks.

CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR REGISTRATION
https://forms.gle/VgzV6QCZvPAwouDh7

We look forward to spending an awesome weekend camping and learning with you!

If you have any questions, email at akaraarslan@harmonytx.org

Dear Harmony School of Advancement Students, 

I hope all is well and you all are safe! The TSI Assessment (TSIA) is part of the Texas Success Initiative program designed to help determine if you are ready for college-level coursework in the general areas of reading, writing, and mathematics. This program also will help determine what type of course or intervention will best meet your needs to help you become better prepared for college-level coursework if you are not ready. If you are an entering college student in Texas, you are required to take the TSIA—unless you are already exempt (read below)—to determine your readiness for college level work. Based on how you perform, you may either be enrolled in a college-level course that matches your skill level and/or be placed in the appropriate developmental course or intervention to improve your skills and prepare you for success in college-level courses.

Students scoring at or above the cut scores are considered “college ready” and eligible to enroll in any entry level college course (for example, English composition, history, government, or college algebra). Some college level courses require passing scores in more than one area.

Below are the passing cut scores for TSIA 2.0 as set by the state:

Mathematics:
College Readiness Score of at least 950 or score below 950 and diagnostic level of 6 

ELAR:
College Readiness Score of at least 945 and essay of 5 or greater or a score below 945 and a diagnostic level of 5 or 6 and essay score of at least 5

A student shall be exempt from taking the TSIA if the student has:

* scored a composite score of 23 with a minimum of 19 on the English test shall exempt both Reading and Writing sections of the TSIA;
* scored a composite score of 23 with a minimum of 19 on the Math test shall exempt the Math section of the TSIA;
* taken the SAT administered prior to March 2016 and earned a minimum score (verbal critical reading + math) SAT score of 1070, with a minimum score of 500 on both sections;
* taken the SAT administered March 2016 and later and earned scores on the evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) assessment of 480, and a minimum score of 530 in Mathematics (no combined score needed);
* a TAKS scale score of at least 2200 on the math section and/or 2200 on the English Language Arts section with a writing subsection score of at least 3;
* Veterans, active duty personnel, and a student who is serving as and, for at least 3 years preceding enrollment, has served as a member of a reserve component of the U.S. armed services;
* Transfer from another institution having satisfactorily completed college-level coursework;
* or Enrolled in a certificate program of one year or less (Level One certificates) at a public institution.

There will be several testing windows for the TSIA 2.0 through at the school year for free of charge for two subjects( ELAR and Math) and If you need to take a test for the second time you need to pay ( paid lunch students $10 for each subject, free/reduced lunch students $5 for each test).  Please fill out the form in order to take the test. If you need take the test for only one subject please indicate N/A for the other subjects. After submitting the form you will be given a voucher ID on testing day to take the test.

All students who are going to take the test need to be at the school no later than 08:50 AM.
The test will be between 09:00 AM and 01:00 PM.

All staff members and students are required to wear masks, particularly when they are within six feet of one another. Except when participating in activities that cannot be conducted with a mask on, such as eating, or it is not developmentally appropriate for the student to wear a mask.
All students will be required to take their temperature by no touching digital infrared thermometer before getting out of the car.

All students are expected to clean hands with hand sanitizer when entering the building.
On the test day, all students will report to the cafeteria and  will be informed what room they are going to report to. Only one student can leave the classroom at a time. Students must sanitize their hands multiple times throughout the day. You may bring a cardigan or sweater when you feel that the temperature is cold.

If you have any question please feel free to reach out Ms.Izol, Campus Testing Coordinator, at bizol@harmonytx.org.

 

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR TSIA 2.0 TEST  

 

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott officially signed into law a new education funding bill that will allow public schools like ours to offer full virtual learning to up to 10 percent of our student body enrolled in Grades K-12.

 

Under the law, to be eligible to participate and remain in virtual learning, students must meet all of the following criteria:

 

  • Students must have passed the most recent STAAR exams (if applicable to grade level). If student did not take STAAR, NWEA grade-level proficiency is required, AND;
  • Students must have earned a “C” grade of higher in “foundation curriculum” courses taken virtually or remotely in the previous school year (ex. Math, reading), AND;
  • Students must have no more than 10% unexcused absences during the previous school year, and maintain less than 10 unexcused absences in a six-month period.

 

Recently, we asked families to log into Skyward to let us know if they prefer for their child to attend virtual learning or continue in-person learning on campus. The deadline to make your selection is Wednesday September 15, 2021. For those who select “Virtual Learning,” we will cross-checking their student records to determine their eligibility status. Those selected will be notified by their home campus soon and given further directions on how to begin online learning.

 

For those not selected for virtual learning or who wish to remain in-person learning from campus, Harmony will continue to offer its “remote conferencing” option on an as-needed basis. Under this program, students can learn from home for up to 20 instructional days if they have a pre-existing medical condition, or are forced to quarantine due to positive COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure. Additional days may be granted upon TEA approval with required documentation.

 

Harmony thanks you for your ongoing support and patience as the situation regarding virtual learning unfolded these past few weeks. Whether your student is attending virtual or in-person, we look forward to a great school year with you and your family.

– – –

 

La semana pasada, el gobernador Greg Abbott promulgó oficialmente una nueva ley de financiación de la educación que permitirá a las escuelas públicas como la nuestra ofrecer aprendizaje virtual completo para hasta el 10 por ciento de nuestros estudiantes.

 

En consecuencia, Harmony Public Schools se complace en anunciar que comenzará a ofrecer una opción de aprendizaje virtual a partir del lunes 4 de octubre para los estudiantes elegibles, según lo permitan los límites de inscripción.

 

Según la ley, para ser elegible para participar y permanecer en el aprendizaje virtual, los estudiantes deben cumplir con todos los siguientes criterios:

 

 

  • Los estudiantes deben haber aprobado los exámenes STAAR más recientes (si corresponde al nivel de grado). Si el estudiante no hizo STAAR, se requiere competencia de nivel de grado de NWEA, Y;

 

  • Los estudiantes deben haber obtenido una calificación “C” o superior en los cursos del “plan de estudios básico” hechos de forma virtual o remota en el año escolar anterior (por ejemplo, matemáticas, lectura), Y;

 

  • Los estudiantes no deben tener más del 10% de ausencias injustificadas durante el año escolar anterior y mantener menos de 10 ausencias injustificadas en un período de seis meses.

 

Recientemente, les pedimos a las familias que inicien sesión en Skyward para informarnos si prefieren que su hijo asista al aprendizaje virtual o que continúe con el aprendizaje presencial en el campus. La fecha límite para hacer su selección es el miércoles 15 de septiembre de 2021. Para aquellos que seleccionen “Aprendizaje virtual”, verificaremos sus registros de estudiantes para determinar su estado de elegibilidad. Los seleccionados serán notificados por su campus de origen pronto y se les dará más instrucciones sobre cómo comenzar el aprendizaje en línea. 

 

Para aquellos que no hayan sido seleccionados para el aprendizaje virtual o que deseen seguir aprendiendo de manera presencial desde el campus, Harmony continuará ofreciendo su opción de “conferencias remotas” según sea necesario. Bajo este programa, los estudiantes pueden aprender desde casa durante hasta 20 días de instrucción si tienen una afección médica preexistente o si se ven obligados a ponerse en cuarentena debido a un diagnóstico positivo o exposición a la COVID-19. Se pueden otorgar días adicionales con la aprobación de la TEA con la documentación requerida.

 

Gracias por su continuo apoyo y paciencia mientras se desarrolló el aprendizaje virtual estas últimas semanas. Ya sea que su estudiante asista virtual o presencialmente, esperamos tener un gran año escolar con usted y su familia.

 

Due to inclement weather with Tropical Storm Nicholas, all after-school clubs and extracurricular activities are canceled today, Monday, Sept 13. In addition, in-person and virtual classes are canceled on Tuesday, September 14. All Harmony Houston North offices and schools will be closed on Tuesday, September 14.

Hey HSA Families! Due to inclement weather, there will be NO after-school clubs today, September 13.

We will let you know of any other updates as soon as possible.

Debido a las inclemencias del tiempo, today las actividades despues de classes y los eventos deportivos see cancelaran hoy, lines 13 de septiembre.

The HPS Fall Research Program in Biomedical Sciences provides opportunities for highly motivated and talented Harmony high school students to develop skills and to explore their interest in biomedical research. Do not miss this opportunity and apply at the link below.

Parent involvement in education is crucial. Studies have shown that, when parents are involved at school, the performance of all children at the school, not just their own students, exhibits improvement.

Become part of our new volunteer program and get alerted to new opportunities for you to volunteer at HSA!

Visit https://tinyurl.com/swhxekv7 for more information and to register.

Email akaraarslan@harmonytx.org if you have any questions about the volunteer program.

Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) Announcement!

In accordance with the Texas State Plan for the Education of Gifted/Talented students, Harmony Public Schools will begin taking referrals for kindergarten and currently enrolled students in grades 1-12 for gifted and talented screening. 

Anyone interested in the educational welfare of these students may refer them for assessment. Referral forms are available at the front office and on the school’s website.

 

Parent GT Referral Form in English

Parent GT Referral Form in Spanish

 

The deadline for GATE referral is September 30, 2021, and G/T assessment period will take place in October. For more information about the screening and identification process, parents may contact the school’s G/T coordinator or G/T coach/teacher.

GATE (Educación para estudiantes dotados/talentosos) Anuncio

De acuerdo con el Plan Estatal de Texas para la Educación de Estudiantes Dotados / Talentosos, las Escuelas Públicas de Harmony comenzarán a recibir referencias para kindergarten y estudiantes actualmente inscritos en los grados 1-12 para la evaluación de estudiantes dotados y talentosos.

Cualquier persona interesada en el bienestar educativo de estos estudiantes puede nominarlos para dicha evaluación. Los formularios de referencia están disponibles en la oficina y en el sitio web de la escuela.

 

Forma de nominación

 

La fecha límite de referencia de GATE es el 30 de septiembre de 2021 y el período de evaluación de G / T se llevará a cabo en octubre.

Para obtener más información sobre el proceso de selección e identificación, los padres pueden comunicarse con el entrenador / maestro de GT de la escuela.

Dear Harmony Families,

Today, we would like to share some important news regarding a potential virtual learning option at your child’s school.

This weekend, a new bill to fund virtual learning in Texas public schools like Harmony cleared a major hurdle in the Texas Legislature. In its current form, schools such as Harmony Public Schools would be allowed to provide virtual learning for up to 10 percent of its student body throughout the remainder of the school year.

While the bill has not received final approval and specific details may change before being signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, it now appears very likely that schools like ours will be able to offer virtual learning in some form to students in the near future and we are looking forward to offering comprehensive virtual learning to our student population during 2021-2022 school year.

Currently, in your child’s Skyward account is a form asking your family’s interest in virtual learning. We ask that you please complete this virtual learning application form as soon as you are able. While we may not be able to accommodate every request due to potential new legal restrictions on the number of students who can participate, by understanding your preference we will be able to more quickly assign students to virtual learning should it become an option.

We will continue to share important updates with you as new information becomes available.

Thank you.

 

 

Estimadas familias de Harmony,

Hoy, no nos gustaría compartie algunas noticias importantes sobre una posible opción de aprendizaje virtual en la escuela de sus hijos. Este fin de semana, un nuevo proyecto de ley para financiar el aprendizaje virtual en escuelas públicas de Texas como Harmony eliminó un obstáculo importante en la Legislatura de Texas. En su forma actual, las Escuelas Públicas de Harmony podrían proporcionar aprendizaje virtual para hasta el 10 por ciento de su cuerpo estudiantil durante el resto del año escolar.

Aunque el proyecto no ha recibido la aprobación final y unos detalles específicos pueden cambiar antes de set convertida en lay por en gobernador, Greg Abbott, ahora parece muy probable que las escuelas como la nuestra puedan ofrecer aprendizaje virtual de alguna forma a los estudiantes en un futuro cercano y esperamos ofrecer un aprendizaje virtual integral a nuestra población estudiantil durante la escuela 2021-2022 año.

Actualmente, en la cuenta de Skyward de si hijo o hija hay un formulario que pregunta el interés de su familia en el aprendizaje virtual. Le pedimos que complete este formulario de solicitud de aprendizaje virtual tan pronto como pueda. Si bien es posible que no podamos atender todas las solicitudes debido a posibles nuevas restricciones legales sobre la cantidad de estudiantes que pueden participar, al comprender su preferencia, podremos asignar estudiantes más rápidamente al aprendizaje virtual si se convierte en una opción.

Continuaremos compartiendo actualizaciones importantes con usted a medida que haya nueva información disponible.

Gracias.

On Saturday, the HPS executive board approved a recommendation allowing all regular employees 10 additional days of paid leave should they test positive for COVID-19 or be asked to quarantine due to  close contact with another COVID-19 positive individual.

 

The benefit is available retroactively to August 2 (first day of 2021-22 school year), and extends through December 31, 2021. 

 

Employees with additional questions or who need to request leave for any purpose should contact leave@harmonytx.org.