Spring Branch Academic Institute (SBAI)

SBAI Applicants

Application Information

The application window for the 2020-21 school year is March 30-April 13, 2020. 

If applying online is not an option for you, please contact Advanced Academic Studies. 

  • Application opens March 30, 2020  8:00 AM
  • Application Closes April 13, 2020 11:59 PM


For students entering grades 6-8: At this time we do not anticipate any available spaces in the middle school for the next school year. Parents are still welcome to submit an application. If any spaces become available, we will contact parents and hold a lottery at that time. We will not hold a lottery for a wait list at this time but we will keep the applications of interested families on file.

SBAI Informational Meeting

For parents of students qualified or hoping to qualify for the program, SBAI will host an informational meeting about their program in the SPRING of 2020.

Application Criteria

Students currently enrolled in SBISD:  Students are eligible based on the results of Level 3 evaluation in the SBISD GT Evaluation Process.  The Advanced Academic Studies will access these records directly; parents do not need to provide these scores. Entering Kindergarteners are expected to be reading on a DRA2 level of 8 (mid-1st grade level).  Students must meet the following criteria.

  • Standard score 145+ (99.9%) or above on at least two of the following sections of the district IQ test administered in Level 3: Verbal, Non-Verbal and/or Composite.
  • On grade level or above age peers on district administered criterion-referenced assessments measuring content mastery in reading and math: two grades preferred.
  • IQ testing may be provided. Please see minimum score guidelines below. 

Students residing in but not currently enrolled in SBISD:  Provide a full written report for at least one of the following tests which are accepted as part of the application process.  All tests submitted must have been completed within the past two years.   A full written report is required.  This would include the tester’s observations, tests administered, test scores, summary and explanation of findings, and recommendations. 

Test Name

Minimum Score Guidelines

Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-V)

Standard score 145+ (99.9th percentile) on at least two of the following sections: Verbal Comprehension, Fluid (Perceptual) Reasoning, or Visual/Spacial.

OR at least one score of 145+ on the General Ability Index (GAI) or Full Scale IQ score.

Wechsler Preschool & Primary Scale of Intelligence  (WPPSI)

Standard score 145+ (99.9th percentile) on at least two of the following sections: Verbal Comprehension, Fluid Reasoning, Performance, Visual Spatial and/or Full Scale

Woodcock-Johnson Cognitive Battery (WJ)

Standard score 145+ (99.9th percentile) in General Intellectual Ability


Tests from outside the SBISD district are used for screening purposes only and are NOT qualifiers for admission. Testing must be submitted with the application. All students not currently enrolled in SBISD may be scheduled to complete district-administered IQ testing and/or criterion referenced assessments to determine content mastery in reading and math if deemed necessary. SBISD testing will take precedence. This will be scheduled between the submission of the application and the date of the lottery. Entering Kindergartners are expected to be reading on the DRA2 level of 8 (mid 1st grade level) and SBISD will arrange this assessment if necessary after applications are received.

Students not residing in SBISD zone:  Applicants must zoned to SBISD schools and living in our school district to apply for acceptance at SBAI. 


What are the requirements for admissions?
Students must be identified as "highly gifted" through SBISD's identification process and must be residents of SBISD.  Depending upon the IQ test administered, students need a standard score or combination of scores of 145+. (See Application Criteria tab.) 

Entering Kindergarteners must be reading on a DRA2 level of 8 (mid-1st grade level).  Applications are available online through the link on this website. 

What grade levels does the school serve?
The school currently serves students from K-10th grade. 11th grade will be added for the 2020-2021 school year.

Where is the school located?
The elementary school is housed at Thornwood Elementary, located at 14400 Fern, Houston, TX 77079.

The secondary school is located in designated classrooms at Stratford High School for all core content classes.  It is a school-within-a-school.  Middle school elective classes take place at nearby Spring Forest Middle School.

Will transportation be provided?
No. If a student lives outside of the Thornwood or Spring Forest attendance zones, his/her parents are responsible for arranging safe, reliable transportation to Spring Branch Academic Institute.

Is after school care available?
Not at this time.

Will there be a lottery for admissions?
Yes, due to the limited capacity of the school.  Due to the format of the school, there are no specific seats by grade level.  All students who qualify for SBAI - and whose completed applications are received before the deadline - will be included in a lottery.  Applications received after the deadline will be put at the end of the waiting list.

Any student entering SBISD outside of the lottery timeline has 30 calendar days to provide information about gifted status, and if applicable, to apply for SBAI.  Qualifying students will be placed on the wait list.  If the student is not placed before the lottery reopens, he/she must reapply to be added to the next year's lottery. Students are only admitted from the wait list through the first semester of the school year.

How will siblings who qualify for Spring Branch Academic Institute be handled in the lottery?
Qualified siblings will have priority in the lottery. 

Can siblings who don't qualify for Spring Branch Academic Institute transfer to Thornwood?
Siblings of students who are enrolled at SBAI may apply for a transfer to Thornwood or other nearby elementaries or Spring Forest Middle School following the usual guidelines for SBISD Residents.  Transfers are greatly dependent upon available space at these schools.  You will find the deadlines, criteria, and applications for transfers here.  Please be aware the transfer process follows a different timeline than the SBAI process.

Will students attend the Primary Gifted Program or SPIRAL at Bendwood pull-out programs?
No. It is expected that students’ needs will be fully met within Spring Branch Academic Institute. They will be doing in-depth projects and hands-on learning experiences as part of their daily curriculum.

Will Spring Branch Academic Institute students be interacting with Thornwood and Spring Forest students?
Yes. The students in SBAI will attend music, art, and health fitness with their age peers at Thornwood. The school director and Thornwood principal will work to ensure SBAI students participate in the Thornwood special activities that are most appropriate. This would include activities such as author visits and field days. In Middle School, SBAI students choose elective and health fitness courses at Spring Forest Middle School and are integrated with SFMS students. 

To what classroom will my elementary child be assigned?
All students will receive instruction from all of the teachers.  The goal of the school is to provide instruction based on readiness and interest, not age. Students will receive instruction in small groups and individually. Students may be assigned a “homeroom” teacher for administrative purposes but all of the teachers in SBAI will build relationships with all the students in the school.

My child skipped a grade in the past.  In what grade will my child be enrolled?
One of the goals of SBAI is to allow students to be challenged and continually learning without grade skipping.  Students will receive instruction at their level of readiness in each subject area, without regard to their age appropriate grade level.  In collaboration with school personnel, parents will be able to choose which grade level of record is best for the student – the age appropriate grade level, or the grade level based on previous grade skipping.


Spring Branch Academic Institute will provide highly, exceptionally, and profoundly gifted children an advanced educational opportunity matched to their individual abilities, strengths and interests.


There are few public programs or schools designed specifically to meet the needs of highly, exceptionally, and profoundly gifted students in the Houston area. Parents of highly gifted children are desperately seeking appropriate educational settings for their children.

Spring Branch Academic Institute will provide individualized instruction at the appropriate pace, depth and complexity needed by highly gifted students in a multi-aged setting. By creating a school-within-a-school for this specific population, SBISD will be filling a great need for students in Spring Branch ISD.


  • Expand to grades K-11 in 2020-21 for qualifying Spring Branch ISD students. The school will continue to expand to serve an additional grade level each year.
  • Use a school-within-a-school format with a separate director and core teaching staff
  • Meet students’ affective needs by providing a true peer group and service learning opportunities. 


This school was first recommended in 2005 by the Elementary GT Task Force. A second task force with predominantly new members recommended it again in 2007. Based on the experiences of other public school districts in urban areas (Carrollton-Farmers Branch in Carrollton, Texas and Paradise Valley Unified in Scottsdale, Arizona), the school will grow as it attracts eligible students.  The school opened to eligible SBISD students age appropriate for grades K-4 in 2013-2014.

Opening a school designed specifically for highly gifted students demonstrates that SBISD is committed to meeting the educational needs of ALL students.

For Information

For information about qualifying for the school, the application process or the lottery, please contact Advanced Academic Studies at 713-251-1901. Specific scores needed for students moving into SBISD can be found on the application and on this website under the "qualifications tab" along with the names of qualifying tests. 

For more information about programming for the Spring Branch Academic Institute at 713-251-2219.