Houston is the 4th most populous city in the United States. The Houston ISD serves over 210,000 students, creating a need for many great schools in this system.
There are more excellent schools in the Houston city limits than meets the eye. SchoolSparrow has identified five of the best schools in Houston that wouldn’t be identified as such by other school ranking websites.
As it turns out, parent income is the most influential factor that impacts test scores at public schools. If you just look at the straight test scores like most websites do, then schools with high parent incomes are favored. SchoolSparrow’s ranking system normalizes for parent incomes by calculating the average or expected test score at every parent income level, then calculating the difference between the schools actual scores vs the expected scores. The extent to which a school has a departure from the expected score on the trendline determines the rank of the school.
Other school ranking websites, such as GreatSchools, favor more affluent schools, because their main criteria is straight test scores, giving an unfair advantage to the schools with the most wealth and access to resources.
To illustrate this, let’s take a look at a school in the Suburbs of Houston, Buckalew Elementary. Buckalew Elementary is one of the highest rated school schools in the Houston area on GreatSchools. This school is located in The Woodlands, the wealthiest suburb of Houston, with a median home price of $370,000. Buckalew has a 10/10 rating on GreatSchools. However, Buckalew’s grade on SchoolSparrow is a C. The reason for this is that students only achieve scores 2 points higher than expected, when normalized for parent income.
This is not to say that Buckalew Elementary isn’t a good school, but it does show that GreatSchools and other ranking sites are inherently biased towards schools that serve more affluent families.
The average price per square foot of a home in Houston is $141.
It is the mission of SchoolSparrow to highlight schools where students are achieving test scores that are much higher than expectations given the parent income profile of the school. Oftentimes, this results in schools with more diversity, and allows families to be located closer to the central business district, shortening their commute times and creating more time with their families..
The five schools highlighted in this article are schools that rank very highly on SchoolSparrow, and not so highly on other school ranking sites. We like to call them our “hidden gems”.
1. Durkee Elementary – Houston, TX (19 minute drive to Toyota Center)
Durkee Elementary is a true hidden gem on the Northside of Houston. With a score of 2/10 on GreatSchools, most families would immediately overlook this school as an option for their children.
However, when you look deeper into the data, Durkee Elementary is actually outperforming many schools in Houston. SchoolSparrow gives Durkee Elementary an A- grade, so we believe that its score on GreatSchools should be at least an 8/10.
The median home value in the 77076 zip code is $143,929, making this zip code pretty affordable.
Durkee Elementary has a diversity score of 10 out of a possible 40.
What really makes Durkee great though, is the test scores. Based on parent income, students are expected to average a score of 31, but they actually achieve 20% better than that. The average score of Durkee students on reading/language arts is 38. This is very impressive, and the main reason why Durkee Elementary finds itself atop this list.
Parents, don’t look past Durkee Elementary, as it could actually be the best option for your child.
Address: 7301 Nordling Road, Houston, TX 77076
2. Thompson Elementary – Houston, TX (11 minute drive to Toyota Center)
The next school on this list is located in Riverside Terrace. It is the closest school to the central business district on this list, with just an 11 minute drive.
This is another school with a diversity score of 10 out of a possible 40.
The price per square foot of a home in this zip code is $146, and the median home value is $134, 136.
To go along with all of that, Thompson Elementary has both the highest test scores on this list, and the highest achievement above expectations.
The test score that is expected of Thompson Elementary is an average of 33.11. However, the average test score of students at this school is all the way at 47.0! This is a very impressive 42% better than expected. Thompson Elementary finds itself high on this list for that very reason.
This is another school that GreatSchools just doesn’t recognize. Thompson is a school with test scores that much above expectations should be rated much higher than GreatSchools 4/10.
This elementary schools is the highest rated school on SchoolSparrow on this list, with an A grade.
Parents, give this school your consideration, as it is truly one of the most outstanding schools in Houston.
Address: 6121 Tierwester St., Houston, TX 77021
3. Franklin Elementary – Houston, TX (14 minute drive to Toyota Center)
Coming in at number three on this list is a school located in the Greater East End of Houston, Franklin Elementary.
SchoolSparrow gives Franklin Elementary an A- grade. This is a big improvement from the 3/10 on GreatSchools, and deservedly so.
The expected test score of students at Franklin Elementary is 31.24. The actual average score that students achieve is 37.0, 19% better than expectations.
The average list price of a home per square foot in zip code 77011 is $157, with a median home value of $177,429.
Franklin can be easily skimmed past because of its low score on GreatSchools, but this shouldn’t be the case, as it is a hidden gem in Houston.
Address: 7101 Canal St., Houston, TX 77011
4. Elmore Elementary – Houston, TX (16 minute drive to Toyota Center)
Elmore Elementary, in Settegast, is another hidden gem that achieves test scores above expectations, much like the other schools on this list. What makes Elmore Elementary stand out, is that it is in the most affordable zip code on the list.
The median home value of a home in 77028 is $108,088.
To go along with this, Elmore Elementary is the most diverse school on this list, with a diversity score of 20 out of a possible 40.
In reading/language arts, Elmore students are expected to score an average of 31.78, but in reality they score an average score of 35.0. This is a 10% performance above expectations.
These scores are good for a B+ grade on SchoolSparrow. Elmore Elementary finds itself on this list because it is a true hidden gem. GreatSchools only scores Elmore a 3/10, which is far too low.
This is a score that causes people to count Elmore Elementary out as a possibility, but when you see the data, it becomes clear that this should not be the case.
Address: 8200 Tate St., Houston, TX 77028
5. Black Elementary Houston, TX (23 min drive to Toyota Center)
Another great school in an affordable zip code is Black Elementary. Located in Greater Greenspoint, with a diversity score of 15 out of 40, Black Elementary is SchoolSparrow’s 5th hidden gem in Houston.
The median home value in 77060 is an affordable $139,942.
Black is another school that overachieves on the reading/language arts portion of standardized testing. Black Elementary students score an average score of 35 on this section, when the expected score was only a 29.44. This is good for 16% above expectations.
SchoolSparrow gives Black Elementary a B+. On GreatSchools, Black Elementary only scores a 3/10, which is far too low. Black should score much closer to a 7/10 on test scores alone. This problem occurs because GreatSchools does not normalize for parent income, creating an inherent bias to more affluent schools.
Give Black Elementary your consideration, because much like the other schools on the list, it has deserved it.
Address: 160 Millstream Lane, Houston, TX 77060
BONUS. Smith Academy – Houston, TX (28 minute drive to Toyota Center)
Smith Academy, a school in Greater Inwood, was just too good to leave off of the list.
This school is one of two schools on the list that has a diversity score of 20 out of 40, making it the most diverse school on the list.
The list price per square foot of a home in the 770911 zip code is $157, with a median home value of $156,018.
It wouldn’t find itself on this list unless students out-achieved test score expectations. When normalized for parent income, Smith Academy has an expected average score of 30.53. Smith Academy students achieve an average score of 34, 12% better than expectations.
The reason that this school just couldn’t be left off the list is how underrated it is by GreatSchools. Smith Academy only scores a 2/10. On SchoolSparrow, Smith Academy has a B grade.
The 2/10 score is a nonstarter for many parents, but this score just is not an accurate representation of what the school really is. Give Smith Academy a second look, as it is one of the best elementary schools in Houston.
Address: 5815 W Little York Road, Houston, TX 77091