The secret to getting your kid into one of those fancy new choice schools

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.

“But 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).

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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.

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Already, the demand for choice schools 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 and Solar, both located not far from downtown, are housed in the former Fannin Elementary on Ross, and in the former Bonham Elementary on Henderson, which both shut down in a cost-savings effort in 2012. The rest of the choice schools will be “innovation” schools, which infuse new curriculum approaches into neighborhood campuses.

Educators and community leaders have been invited by the district to submit applications to create transformation and innovation schools. So far none are in Oak Cliff, but the recent Dallas ISD bond included funds to transform the historic Adamson High School campus into a new school.

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