Named for the classic American author, Mark Twain Elementary (MTE) opened in 1950 in southwest Houston with a student body of 800. Over time, student enrollment dropped significantly due to the lack of new families in the surrounding neighborhoods, and MTE was scheduled for closure in the 1980s. However, the school was saved by young families moving into southwest Houston and by significant changes to the curriculum. MTE became an authorized IB World School in 2005, and all attending students participate in the IB Primary Years Programme and the school’s Literary Development Magnet Program. The school also offers an optional Dual Language Program.
As a magnet school within HISD, Mark Twain Elementary has no religious affiliation. Students’ religious convictions do not factor into admissions, and the curriculum does not include theological material. While there is no institutionalized prayer in the school, there is a daily minute of silence during which students may choose to pray. Additionally, absences due to religious holidays do not count against a student’s record, though the student is still responsible for make-up work.
Mark Twain is located in an affluent neighborhood of single-family homes, Braeswood Place, just south of Rice University and west of the Medical Center. It is bordered by McGovern Park, the McGovern Stella Link Public Library, and a YMCA. Although it is still in its original location, MTE was remodeled in 2005. An outdoor track was added in 2012.
Mark Twain’s admissions process is split into two different types: zoned and magnet. Although zoned students are automatically accepted into the IB and magnet programs, zoned students must still apply to the Dual Language Program in order to participate. Parents of students living outside Mark Twain’s zone must apply through the HISD magnet process. Slots for non-zoned students are filled through a lottery process after applications have closed.
Applications for the Dual Language Program can be acquired at a recruitment meeting in early December and must be submitted by the first week of January. Students applying to the program are tested for oral proficiency and development in their native language. The prime entry point for this program is kindergarten.
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All Mark Twain students participate in its magnet program, called the Literature Development Center (LDC), and all students follow the curriculum of the IB Primary Years Programme. The LDC is a language arts lab through which students strengthen their reading and writing skills in two-week blocks. Select students in 1st to 5th grade are pulled out once a week for a 2-3 hour period for additional Gifted and Talented (G/T) instruction through a Vanguard Neighborhood program.
MTE’s Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Program (TWBIP), also known as the Dual Language Program, works with both Spanish-speaking and English-speaking students. Students who complete the Dual Language Program receive a diploma from the ISA (International Spanish Academy) at the end of fifth grade in addition to their IB PYP diploma.
Accommodations are available for students with special needs who meet the requirements for admission. If the parents already have documentation about the student’s special needs, the school will need a copy of that documentation. After receiving the documentation, the school will set up an annual ARD meeting that the parents, the student, an administrator, a core subject teacher, a special education teacher or 504 representative, and an HISD advocate will attend to discuss the specific modifications necessary for the student and to create an individualized education plan (IEP) for the student. Every teacher will receive a copy of the modifications for the student after they are set in the ARD meeting.
If the parents want to request modifications for their child, then the special education teacher will give the student’s teachers paperwork to document the student’s behavior and any modifications the teacher uses for the student. After 6 weeks of documentation, the teachers will turn in the paperwork, and the special education teacher or 504 representative will call a meeting similar to an ARD meeting. If the meeting determines that the student needs accommodation, then the school will have documentation of the student’s special needs and will follow the same procedures as above.
Students entering kindergarten may apply to the Dual Language Program, which is for both Spanish-speaking and English-speaking students. Spanish literacy is emphasized and reinforced through technology and parent participation. There is one class offered per grade level. The number of students from English- and Spanish-speaking backgrounds is balanced evenly.
After school, students have the option of participating in the Extended Day Program (for an additional fee). In Extended Day, students can take classes in Chinese conversation, American Sign Language, and Spanish conversation.
Students attend art and music classes in their ancillary rotation. They also learn about art history through the Art a la Carte program, in which trained volunteers make an appearance in the students’ regular classrooms.
The Strings Program is available to approximately 150 students who want to study stringed instruments through classes and individual lessons. Students can buy or rent their instruments. Extra costs apply.
Mark Twain staffs a full-time computer technologist in the Media Library. Technology is part of the regular rotation of ancillary classes.
Mark Twain offers a wide breadth of activities through Art a la Carte lessons, the Adopt a Monument program, and its Outdoor Classroom. Interested students can also participate in the Odyssey of the Mind, Robotics, Chess, the Name that Book Contest, and UIL academic tournaments.
After school, students can participate in Mark Twain’s Extended Day Program. Some examples of Extended Day class offerings from past years include: Art, Chess, Pottery, Glee Club, Guitar, Jewelry, Science, Piano, Video Game Creation, Musical Theatre, Model Cars and Airplanes, Robotics, and Sculpture.
In addition to P.E., which is part of the ancillary curriculum, students may join the track team. Additionally, through the Extended Day Program, students can have after-school opportunities to try different sports, types of dance, and other activities including Ballet/Jazz, Baseball, Cheerleading, Contemporary Dance, Fencing, Hip Hop & Break Dance, Karate, Soccer, Volleyball, Zumba for Kids, and Yoga for Children.
Parents can join the PTO, become Art a la Carte docents, chaperon field trips, or sponsor after-school clubs. Fathers can join the Dad’s Club, which supports the PTO and hosts events. Parents can also volunteer to become a Room Parent. All parent volunteers must undergo training through HISD’s Volunteers in Public Schools program.
The school also has a Shared Decision Making Committee, through which interested parents can join with teachers and community members to advise the principal on important administrative matters.