Fill out this application. By tomorrow, Jan. 29. And then hope the lottery gods have mercy on you.

As of today, Dallas ISD’s flamboyantly named “office of transformation and innovation” (a fancy way to describe public school choice) has received 1,200-plus applications for roughly 580 seats in its four “transformation” schools — Mata Montessori, IDEA High School, Hulcy STEAM Middle School and Solar Prep School for Girls.

And  “a big chunk comes in the last 48 hours!” says Mike Koprowski, the district’s chief of transformation and innovation, (which may be the coolest job title in town, and definitely in Dallas ISD).

Choice schools, one of the district’s more recent initiatives, offer specialized curriculum like DISD’s magnet schools but are different from the magnets in a slight but significant way: Choice schools don’t have academic entrance requirements. They may give students priority based on vicinity, but IQ, grades, talent, references and the like are not part of the application process.

Three of these choice schools — Mata, IDEA and Solar — are in East Dallas, and already the demand is high. Mata, which opened fall 2014, had more applicants than open seats by fall 2015, and IDEA’s demand was through the roof before it opened in fall 2015. Clearly, the trend is continuing for the 2016-17 school year.

The district’s goal is to have 35 choice schools open by 2020. Probably six to eight of those will be “transformation” schools, which are restarts for underutilized or vacant campuses (IDEA is housed in the former Fannin Elementary on Ross, and Solar in the former Bonham Elementary on Henderson, which both were shut down in a cost-savings effort in 2012).

The rest of the choice schools will be “innovation” schools, like Marsh Preparatory Academy, which introduced a personalized learning curriculum into its neighborhood-zoned campus. And then there are all the unofficial choice schools in our neighborhood that parents are flocking to, such as Preston Hollow and Kramer elementaries, Franklin Middle School and Hillcrest High School with their International Baccalaureate curriculum. You don’t have to win the lottery to attend any of these schools; you simply need to live in the school’s attendance zone or apply for a transfer.


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