A group of educational innovators, including employees at Trinity University and the North East Independent School District, created ISA from a "blueprint" visualized in a paper written by Thomas Sergiovanni, a professor of education at Trinity. The paper describes a small, intimate school with a caring, trusting environment, high standards of student and faculty achievement, and the support needed to help students reach the goals expected of them. In this school, all students would be treated as gifted and talented students, and instructed at a level appropriate to that status.
ISA opened in 1995 with a pioneer class of freshmen, under the leadership of Principal Chula Boyle. As these students advanced through their four years, other classes followed them, until the school had students in all four grade levels, a total of approximately 450 students, for the 1997-1998 academic year. In that year, Shari Albright assumed the role of principal and served the school for eight years. Kris Wickerham joined the ISA community as the campus' third principal in 2005. In the fall semester of 2007, Kathy Bieser moved from her position as an assistant principal to that of principal. In the fall of 2016, Steve Magadance returned to ISA to become ISA's 5th principal.
ISA's achievement and reputation have continued to increase each year, with the Texas Education Agency again honoring ISA as a State of Texas Recognized High School in 2006. ISA also recently became the first campus in North East Independent School District to be named to the Texas Business Education Coalition's Honor Roll and is a past winner of the Goldman Sachs Prize for Excellence in International Education. ISA has continued to garner state and national accolades, and has been chosen as a mentor school for the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES), an Exemplar school by the Texas High School Project and Communities Foundation of Texas, one of Texas Monthly's Best Public Schools, and a Silver Medalist School for 2008 in the U.S. News & World Report's "America's Best High Schools" report.