The only thing more expensive than investing in education is not investing in education. School districts in the Houston area offer students an impressive array of high-quality educational opportunities through STEM programs and other studies.

Ask anyone why they love living in Central Houston, and most mention the arts, restau­rants, culture, convenience and other perks of urban life. Public education would prob­ably not rank high on the list, but that is changing as the fast-growing population of Central Houston increasingly includes fami­lies with school-age children.

It might take more research to find a great school in Central Houston than in the suburbs, but a little extra effort can reward you with many exciting options for public schools as well as private and parochial schools with strong traditions of academic excellence.

With a few exceptions, such as the Spring Branch area, the Houston Independent School District covers most of Central Houston. While it never ranks as high as top suburban districts on district-wide test scores and other metrics, HISD has many academic jewels that are among the best in the nation.

These include HISD’s well-known specialty high schools, such as the High School for the Performing & Visual Arts, Carnegie Vanguard, and the DeBakey High School for Health Professions. Many neighborhood high schools, such as Lamar High School in the Montrose/River Oaks area, have well-re­garded academics and special programs, such as International Baccalaureate.

Many HISD neighborhood elementary schools are also excellent and much sought-after, the result of hard work by dedicated staff and parents. Some of the most notable HISD primary campuses include River Oaks Elementary and Harvard Elementary in the Heights. Poe Elementary near the Museum District is an arts magnet school, one of many HISD magnet programs covering diverse interests. Wilson Montessori in Montrose is HISD’s first all-Montessori school, serving grades K-8.

HISD also has more than 20 charter schools including the Energized for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) Academy and the Young Scholars Academy for Excellence.

Most students living within HISD bound­aries may apply to attend a magnet or charter school, although competition can be stiff for some campuses. Many other HISD schools have open enrollment bound­aries, although preference is typically given to students living within the neighborhood attendance zones.

Central Houston also has many private and parochial schools that are as diverse as the city itself. These include the Awty Interna­tional School in Spring Branch, popular with Houston’s thriving international community, and schools affiliated with virtually every religious tradition.

Great sources for researching local schools include Children at Risk, (, which publishes annual rankings of area schools, with campus-by-campus data. The Texas Education Agency evalu­ates public schools and districts under state and federal accountability requirements. Its latest reports are at More helpful websites include www.great­ and