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Best School Districts in Houston: Public & Private Schools Compared

The Best School Districts in Houston Public & Private Schools Compared

If you are looking for the right community to build a home for your family, one of the factors that is likely high on your radar is the quality of local educational institutions.

Understandably, most families want their school-aged children to get a well-rounded education, whether through the public school system or a private school and this has been one of the main reasons people are leaving the city for the suburbs. Houston, Texas, and surrounding area supports an ample helping of both types of institutions for students in preschool to 12th grade, creating an especially conducive environment for you to build a new home in Houston and raise your children. 


What Are the Best School Districts in Houston?

There are approximately two dozen school districts serving the city limits of Houston, Texas, and nearby suburbs. Based on data from multiple sources, including the Texas Education Agency (TEA), Niche, and Zillow, here is a look at the best schools districts in Houston for 2020. The rankings are based on rigorous analysis of reviews from students and parents, as well as key statistics, such as state test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores, teacher quality and pay, and public school district ratings.


1. Houston Independent School District

Houston ISD is the largest school district in Texas, and the seventh-largest district in the U.S. Of the district’s 280 schools, eight are early childhood institutions; 160 are elementary schools; 38 are middle schools; 37 are high schools; and 37 are combined or alternatively structured schools. Houston ISD educates more than 209,000 students from a variety of neighborhoods and service areas, including families in Houston Heights, with a vision that “every child shall have equitable opportunities and equal access to an effective and personalized education in a nurturing and safe environment.”

The district includes some high schools that consistently rank among the most challenging and prestigious in Texas, and the U.S.—including the Mickey Leland College Preparatory Academy for Young Men, Carnegie Vanguard High School, Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy, Challenge Early College High School, and Eastwood Academy. Many families in the Houston area, however, send their children to district elementary schools and then move them to private schools for their secondary education. 

Best Elementary Schools in Houston ISD

Some of the top choices for elementary-aged students in Houston include:

  • West University Elementary School: West University Elementary, located on University Boulevard, scores well in student achievement, student progress, and closing performance gaps. The school serves approximately 1,200 students, with a student to teacher ratio of about 18:1. In 2019, the school ranked better than 99.6% of elementary schools in Texas.
  • Travis Elementary School: Travis Elementary is also one of the most highly rated elementary school in the Houston ISD, as well as the state of Texas. It was one of the first schools in the district to add a garden and an outdoor classroom. The student to teacher ratio is also about 18:1, and Travis has ample programs and resources to meet students' specialized needs.
  • Harvard Elementary School: Harvard Elementary is located in Houston Heights and serves about 600 prekindergarten through fifth-grade students, with a student to teaacher ratio of 16:1. Harvard is an IB World School for the Primary Years Programme (PYP) and offers a specialized science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) Magnet Program. Students typically perform well academically and score high on standardized testing.
  • Briargrove Elementary School: Briargrove Elementary is also an IB World School with a school community that represents more than 35 different spoken languages from more than 26 different countries. Students receive a well-rounded education in a supportive environment where they are empowered to ask questions and think critically. The school offers a Gifted and Talented (G/T) Program, after-school program, and other enrichment programs and activities.

2. Katy Independent School District

Katy ISD, which encompasses 70 schools that service Houston, Katy, Brookshire, and Fulshear, ranks high on any list of top Houston school districts. The district’s call to action is, “Katy ISD learners, through active engagement, achieve individual success while making positive contributions in an ever‐changing world.” The district spends an average of $7,143 per student each year and the student to teacher ratio is about 15:1. The TEA assigned Katy ISD an A for accountability and a State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) score of 92.


3. Friendswood Independent School District

Enrollment in the Friendswood ISD, which includes six schools, is about 6,000. The student to teacher ratio is roughly 16:1 and the district takes a very student-centered approach to education that is especially appealing for families living in the Houston area. Friendswood ISD received an A accountability rating from TEA, along with a 93 STAAR scaled score. The district’s schools also offer a robust selection of extracurricular and competitive athletic programs.

4. Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District

The mission of the Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, or CFISD, is to “maximize every student’s potential through rigorous and relevant learning experiences preparing students to be 21st-century global leaders.” The district’s 88 schools serve more than 116,000 students, but the student to teacher ratio remains about 16:1. CFISD is heavily involved in the community and offers a wide range of unique programs to support a well-rounded education.

5. Spring Branch Independent School District

Spring Branch ISD, which is headquartered in Hedwig Village, serves roughly 35,000 students from portions of western Houston, including most of Spring Branch. The district is guided by a goal, known as Spring Branch T-2-4, that includes two primary objectives: Every SBISD graduate will attain a technical certificate, military training, or a two-year or four-year degree, and SBISD will increase the number of students achieving T-2-4 from 44% to 72% by 2022.

In 2017, the district had a record number of Advanced Placement (AP) Program Scholar Award winners. Additionally, 31 seniors were named either National Merit Scholarship Program Semifinalists or National Hispanic Recognition Program award winners.


Best Private Schools in Houston

If you prefer a private education for your children, there are several private schools in the Houston area geared toward different grade levels and styles of learning. Here are five of the top private institutions, based on academic achievement, college readiness, extracurricular programs, and other factors:


1. St. John’s School

Founded in 1946, St. John’s School offers a 13-year sequence of college preparatory training for K-12 students. More than 1,400 students are enrolled in the school and of those, 86 percent are involved in fine arts and 83 percent are involved in athletics. Students typically achieve high scores on SAT/ACT and Advanced Placement (AP) exams, in addition to donating numerous community service hours.


2. The Kinkaid School

The Kinkaid School in Houston is a PreK-12 independent, college preparatory school established on a roughly 64.5-acre campus. The private school, founded by Margaret Kinkaid, stresses “academic accomplishment alongside social development, athletic participation, enjoyment of the arts and ethical behavior.” Approximately 62 percent of faculty have advanced degrees and they work to instill not only academic but emotional, social, and physical growth in students.


3. The Awty International School

Houston's Awty International School prepares students to live, work and thrive anywhere in the world. Founded in 1956, Awty offers students—from 3 years old to 12th grade—a path to graduate with either the International Baccalaureate or the French Baccalauréat, and it is the only school in Houston accredited by the French Ministry of Education. The school has a diverse student body that celebrates cultural, national, and linguistic diversity.


4. The John Cooper School

Situated in The Woodlands, The John Cooper School offers college-preparatory education to approximately 1,280 students in the greater Houston area. The student to teacher ratio is 10:1, and about 62 percent of faculty have advanced degrees. The school’s mission “is to provide a challenging education in a caring environment to a diverse group of select students, enabling them to become critical and creative thinkers, effective communicators, responsible citizens and leaders, and lifetime learners.”


5. The Village School

The Village School in Houston, which educates students ages 2 to 18, is home to a collaborative, supportive and diverse community. Offering an international perspective, The Village School is recognized for its excellent STEAM education; rich selection of arts, athletics, and community service activities; and personalized approach to teaching and learning.


Building a Custom Home in Houston

Whether you prefer private or public education, quality education is only of the many desirable aspects about living in the Houston area. Southern Green Builders can help you renovate a historic home in Houston or build a custom home to suit the unique lifestyle and needs of your family.

Houston Modern Exterior Remodel & Addition

By Sam Seidel | May 18th, 2020