HISD magnet programs provide an individualized education for a unique student body

With more than 186,000 students of different interests and talents, HISD offers 128 unique magnet programs at schools throughout the district. From STEM, medicine, and biotechnology to law and performing and visual arts, and the programs are designed with accessibility, equity, and individual student growth in mind.

“HISD magnet programs serve as a bridge for our scholars and families to access unique opportunities, transformative experiences, and exposure to innovative careers,” said School Choice Manager Alyssa Banks, who is herself a product of a magnet program. “The assortment of magnet themes and options are a testament to our philosophy in HISD, that our students can be anything they set their mind to, and we as educators are here to help them get there.”

Jyoti Malhan, Executive Director of Charter and Innovative Schools, has worked for HISD for 20 years and saw the inception of some of the district’s magnet programs firsthand.

Malhan recalls the foundation of the Baylor College of Medicine Academy at James D. Ryan Middle School and how that program was the first of its kind. Ryan Middle School, a struggling school in Houston’s historic Third Ward, was closed in 2013 and reopened as the Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan Middle School. At the time, BCMA was the only middle school in the country to have bespoke medical curriculum for sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. The school’s dwindling enrollment saw an immediate and massive increase.

This is the case for nearly 50 elementary and more than 60 secondary magnet programs. These specialized programs are designed to create a well-rounded and engaged student body, ready to take on the challenges of an at-times uncertain future. School Choice aims to heed the call for vocational programs to staff future generations of businesses that support Houston, which is home to the Energy Corridor, NASA, and world-renowned Texas Medical Center.   

“With a keen understanding of the changing technological landscape, the superintendent places a strategic emphasis on fields crucial to Houston’s future prosperity: Artificial Intelligence and Biotechnology,” said Malhan. “By integrating these cutting-edge disciplines into the curriculum, HISD aims to equip students with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel—ensuring a seamless transition from the classroom to the professional realm. This visionary approach will not only address the city’s imminent workforce demands, but position HISD as a national leader in preparing students for the challenges and opportunities of the year 2035.”

Based on parent feedback, recent changes were made to the School Choice magnet application system to improve and streamline the historically long and tedious process. The system is more user-friendly and has an option for translation into five different languages. The application is also formatted for use on cell phones to increase accessibility. This year, the number of applications submitted total more than 90,000 versus about 45,000 last year, thanks in no small part to these improvements to the system.

“We try to focus on student experience, like what in this student’s life will change by going to this school,” said Banks. “That’s the most important thing.”

To learn more about HISD’s many magnet programs, visit the Department of School Choice website.