Frequently Asked Questions
What is a charter school?
Charter schools are nonsectarian, secular public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. Charter schools, like other public schools, do not teach religion. The "charter" establishing each such school is a performance contract detailing the school's mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success.
A charter school is independently operated in the sense that it can design its own educational program, hire its own teachers and staff, and manage its own budget. The basic concept of charter schools is that the school exercise increased autonomy in return for an accountability to its founders, parents, public, and grantors.
Who operates Harmony Public Schools?
Harmony Public Schools are operated by the Cosmos Foundation Inc., a non-profit organization, established in Houston, Texas, for the sole purpose of supporting Harmony Public Schools (HPS). The Cosmos Foundation, the charter holder, conducts business as Harmony Public Schools. Harmony Public Schools operates 33 charter schools in Texas, including schools in all major metropolitan areas (Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso).
Do the Harmony Public Schools or the Cosmos Foundation have any ties with any religious movement?
No. Harmony Public Schools and the Cosmos Foundation are nonprofit, academic entities founded in the United States for the sole purpose of providing quality public education for children in Texas. Harmony was established by a group of graduate students at Texas A&M University, who, after working as after-school tutors, realized the need for advanced math and science education in Texas. There are no ties of any kind to any religious movement.
Do Harmony Public Schools teach religion?
No. Harmony Public Schools are not affiliated with any religious group, nor do our schools teach any sort of religious curriculum. As publicly funded charter, Harmony is required to abide by the same state curriculum as any traditional public school. We have a 10-year track record of delivering a rigorous math and science-centered curriculum that produces excellent academic results. We adhere strictly to the guidelines of the Texas Education Agency, and our focus is on delivering excellent educational opportunities for children in Texas.
How do Harmony students compare academically, in relation to other students?
At Harmony Public Schools (HPS), excellence is our standard, and our record of achievement shows that we have been successful. In 2010, 25 Harmony Schools received ratings from the Texas Education Agency, and 92 percent of all Harmony Public Schools (HPS) received an exemplary and recognized rating. U.S. News & World Report honored Harmony Science Academy in Houston as one of “America’s Best High Schools”. With a college acceptance rate of 100 percent, HPS has earned its reputation of providing a distinct, high-quality education. Fourteen Harmony Schools also carry the honor of being T-STEM field pioneer schools. In addition to a math and science focus, strong computer and robotics programs are offered at all Harmony campuses. In 2009, students from Harmony El Paso qualified to represent the U.S. in the European Robotics competition.
With a student to teacher ration of 11:1, HPS students receive hands-on, individual training and are held to the highest standards because we believe every child can achieve excellence in the classroom and in life, if we nurture, develop and challenge them. In 2010, 92 percent of HPS high school students participated in the SAT, as compared to the 56 percent statewide average, and even with a much higher participation rate, HPS students scored have higher SAT scores. In fact, in February 2011, an 11th grade HPS student received a perfect score of 2400 on the SAT.
Why does Harmony recruit teachers from outside of the United States?
At Harmony Public Schools, we are committed to providing the very best education for our students, and we recruit international teachers within the United States and outside. Today, Texas and America have a shortage of qualified math and science teachers. This unfortunate situation was highlighted in a January 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Education, which identified specific areas of deficiency (including math and science) and called for the hiring of teachers in those areas as rapidly as possible.
That report follows a 2009 study that found a severe lack of math and science educators in the United States, and suggested that the shortage would grow in coming years; while at the same time new high school graduation requirements were requiring increases in math and science curriculums (Dallas Morning News, Feb. 10, 2009). This critical shortage of math and science teachers has resulted in education experts urging the federal government to become more involved in recruiting underrepresented minority students to science, math, and engineering majors, noting such efforts are critical to increasing the number of Americans working in those fields (The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 2009).
Harmony only hires international teachers when there is not enough highly qualified math and science teachers in the application pool. As a result of the national shortage of math and science teachers, it becomes a viable option for HPS administrators to hire international teachers based primarily on academic professional credentials, regardless of their national origin.
How many H-1B teachers does Harmony Public Schools employ?
Due to the ongoing teacher shortages in the field of math and science, less than 20 percent of Harmony Public School teachers hold H-1B visas. Initially, a teacher may be issued an H-1B visa for a-three-year term, only after the federal government has determined that no U.S. citizen is qualified for the job being filled. This situation is due to the well-documented critical shortage of science and math teachers in the U.S. As a result, Harmony Public Schools must recruit both inside and outside of the United States to find teachers qualified to meet the rigorous math and science-centered curriculum that is the foundation of our schools. Our goal is that one day, based on our intense focus on math and science, Harmony graduates will help fill the nation’s critical need for math and science teachers.
What ethical standards are in place at Harmony Public Schools?
At Harmony Public Schools, excellence is our standard, and this applies without exception to our students, teachers, faculty, Board of Directors, vendors, and anyone else affiliated with our schools. We have a meticulous recruitment and training process, and our teachers, in particular, are required to:
- Recognize the basic dignities of all individuals with whom they interact in the performance of their duties;
- Represent accurately their academic and professional qualifications;
- Exercise due care to protect the mental and physical safety of students, colleagues, and subordinates;
- Understand and apply the knowledge and skills appropriate to assigned responsibilities;
- Keep in confidence legally confidential information they may obtain;
- Ensure that their actions, or those of another on their behalf, are not made with the specific intent of advancing private economic interests;
- Refrain from using their position or public property, or permitting another person to use an employee's position or public property, for partisan political or religious purposes; and,
- Avoid accepting anything of value offered by another for the purpose of influencing judgment.
How are members of the Harmony Board of Directors selected?
The Cosmos Foundation is a nonprofit organization and members of its Board of Directors, who serve as unpaid volunteers, can be nominated by anyone – existing Board members, Harmony school employees, parents of Harmony students, Harmony alumni, even the general public. The existing Board of Directors reviews the qualifications of nominees, seeking individuals who have expertise, experience or leadership abilities that will contribute to maintaining a continued standard of excellence for Harmony Public Schools and students. Once each year, the existing Board of Directors votes on nominations to replace members whose terms have expired or who have left the Board for other reasons.
Who can apply for Harmony Public Schools?
Harmony Public Schools are open enrollment and free to all students living in their respective ISDs and surrounding school districts. Students must also be age eligible to attend any Harmony Public School.
Is there a school uniform policy?
Yes, there is a school uniform policy at Harmony Public Schools. Parents need to purchase uniforms before the school starts from the school.
Do Harmony Public Schools offer after school and Saturday tutorials?
Yes, Harmony Public Schools offer after school and Saturday tutorials.
Do Harmony Public Schools offer gifted and talented program?
Yes, Harmony Public Schools offer gifted and talented program and advance courses.
What courses are offered at Harmony Public Schools?
Many courses offered in regular public schools will be offered at Harmony Public Schools. However, Harmony Public Schools will offer a more broad and rigorous curriculum including English, Math, Social Studies, Science, Art, Music, Physical Education and Spanish. Special emphasis is put on science, math, and computer technologies at Harmony Public Schools.
Why should the parents send their children to Harmony Public Schools?
Harmony Public Schools offer a comprehensive college preparatory program emphasizing science, mathematics, and technology education. Harmony Public Schools strive to play a role in satisfying this need. Harmony Public Schools also offer programs to develop skills and education for its students to enroll in Science and Engineering departments of prestigious colleges in the country and compete in an increasingly demanding workplace of science and technology, and contribute to the long-term economic development for the region.
- As Harmony Public Schools, we believe every child can learn and grow into a successful and productive citizen. When this belief is combined with the expertise necessary to set up and run a school, the result, we think, is an excellent environment for your children to learn. We believe that this environment will lay the foundation for a bright and productive future.
- Harmony Public Schools emphasize character education. We believe that parents want schools where their children are taught to be honest, courageous, persistent, etc. individuals, not just where they become educated. Our students wear uniforms daily and adhere to a clearly-articulated discipline policy.
- Our teachers and leadership team are experienced and committed. Within the central office of Harmony Public Schools, administrators are also strong, dedicated and diverse, and they monitor the quality and viability of our organization.
- Your children will be in the classroom with a high-performing teacher at Harmony Public Schools.
- At Harmony Public Schools, our goal is to enable our graduating seniors to enroll in top 4-year public and private universities.
What distinguishes Harmony Public Schools from other charter and public schools?
Harmony Public Schools have very high expectations for students in both academics and behavior. Our faculty and staff are dedicated and hard-working, and receive regular professional development and supervision. They function as a team and are committed to ensuring that students succeed. Harmony Public Schools have a small school and small class size.
The following educational innovations will distinguish Harmony Public Schools from other schools;
- Integration of technology into curriculum: By using a multi-sensory approach to learning, students will be provided with opportunities to learn through auditory, visual, tactile, and kinesthetic activities. The students are guided through the process of determining which learning style is best suited to their needs at Harmony Public Schools.
- Online Access: Parents will be able access online student grades, attendance, conduct, discipline reports, and teacher comments at Harmony Public Schools.
- Strong Reading and Writing Emphasis: English and ESL teachers focus on pronunciation and spelling of vocabulary used in the school, classroom, and home.
- Grade Advancement Policy: Harmony Public Schools develop a grade advancement policy for exceptional learners who demonstrate outstanding skills in Reading and Mathematics.
- Performance Assessments: Performance assessments - also known as "alternative" or "authentic" assessments - augment norm-referenced multiple-choice tests in all grade levels at Harmony Public Schools.
- Parental and Community Involvement: Involving parents in the activities of the classrooms, cafeteria, playground and many other extra-curricular affairs helps both students and parents to become better acquainted with the process of education.
- Peer Tutoring, Mentoring and Counseling: Peer partnership is used as a positive tool at Harmony Public Schools. High school students will tutor elementary and middle school students in core areas.
- Guidance for teaching and support personnel: In-services are the frequent and major part of our staff development Harmony Public Schools.
- Teacher Specialization in/after 4th Grade: The elementary school has two parts. The students receive specialized subject teachers as early as in the 4th and 5th grades in Mathematics, Reading, Computer Science, Foreign Language, and Science.
- Teachers as Homeroom Advisors: Middle school students are assigned a homeroom teacher who acts as an advisor, helper, and immediate guide for the student at Harmony Public Schools.
- Character Education and Leadership development: The aim of education is to support the growth of pupils' overall personalities.
- Family Visits: At Harmony Public Schools, parent-teacher relationship is improved by family visits. Teachers will be urged to visit students at home to inform the parents about the school and student’s progress, while the parents will have an opportunity to provide the teachers with feedback and input.
- Career Education: All students attend an annual Career Day at Harmony Public Schools and meet professionals from different occupations.
- Cross-disciplinary learning: Students work on projects that require cooperative teaching efforts in Language Arts, Fine Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Science Harmony Public Schools.
- Digital Art Program: The Fine Arts program is integrated with technology at Harmony Public Schools. With the growing availability of technologies of interactivity and Internet access, we see new interactive and online platforms.
- Participation in Contests: Students in the gifted and talented and the standard program are encouraged to participate in local, statewide, national and international competitions.
- Out of State and Europe Trips: Harmony Public Schools organize out of state and Europe Trips every year to different countries in Europe.
Do you offer character education and what do you mean by character education at Harmony Public Schools?
Yes, as Harmony Public Schools, we also offer character education classes to our students. By character we mean “common sense values” such as honesty and integrity. Harmony Public Schools strive to create a culture that honors “Doing the RIGHT Thing!” where RIGHT stands for Respectful, Intelligent, Genuine, Hard-Working and Team-Oriented.
As Harmony Public Schools we hope that parents who want their children to grow up to be adults who embrace common sense values will not only choose to send their children to Harmony Public Schools, but also work with us to model and teach their children what these words mean and what they look like when put into action.
Harmony Public Schools hire faculty, administrators, and staff who embody principles of character and leadership and who wish to be an active part of a community that values these in word and deed.