As is the case throughout the US, the schooling system in Baltimore is divided into three levels:
- Elementary school - Kindergarten to Grade 5
- Middle school - Grade 6 to Grade 8
- High school - Grade 9 to 12
Prospective residents planning a move to Baltimore with children will need to factor in schooling options when making decisions. There are hundreds of schools that fall under the two public school districts that oversee education provision in Baltimore, which might make deciding on the right school slightly overwhelming.
Factors to consider when choosing a school in Baltimore include the type of school, the standard of teaching, the cost of tuition fees, extra-curricular activities, and the proximity of the school to home.
Public schools in Baltimore
Public schools in Baltimore are either overseen by the Baltimore City Public Schools District or the Baltimore County Public Schools District, depending on their location.
The standard of public schools in Baltimore varies dramatically, from excellent schools that provide specialist teaching and support to students, to schools that are underfunded. As is the case in most major cities, better public schools tend to be located in more affluent parts of Baltimore.
Admission to most public schools is based on catchment areas. Anyone living in the local area will be able to attend a public school at little to no cost, but students admitted from outside the school district may be required to pay tuition, depending on their circumstances.
Some of the more popular public schools in Baltimore are oversubscribed so prospective students will want to submit their application as early as possible. We recommend parents have the following documents on hand when making an application: student’s birth certificate, parents' ID and proof of address. Some schools may also ask for academic records, references and medical certificates.
A charter school is a type of public school that is overseen by external entities. They have increased autonomy but remain accountable to the school district.
Each school will have a charter or performance contract which details its programme, goals and methods of assessment. Some charter schools may have a particular approach to learning, focus on a certain instructional theme, or serve particular populations.
Students may choose to attend a charter school, regardless of where they live in Baltimore and are not strictly governed by catchment areas.
Magnet schools, like charter schools, are primarily state funded, but they do receive additional external funding, are not strictly bound by the US curriculum and are able to develop their own curriculum.
Magnet schools typically focus on a specialised subject area, like STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), the performing arts or languages. Teachers at magnet schools are highly specialised and tend to have a high level of training.
Private schools in Baltimore
There are a number of good private schools in Baltimore. These institutions tend to be more competitive academically. The application process for private schools is fairly stringent, and prospective students may be required to pass an entrance exam and attend an interview.
In general, private schools perform better academically than the average public school. Students have access to modern facilities and have greater opportunities to explore extra-curricular pursuits such as sport and music to a higher level.
The downside of choosing to attend a private school is, of course, the cost. Parents who opt to send their children to a private school will also need to budget for several additional expenses such as uniforms, textbooks, and extra-curricular lessons, as well as various field trips.
International schools in Baltimore
There are no international schools that follow foreign curricula in Baltimore. That said, there are a handful of public charter and private schools that offer students the option of studying for the International Baccalaureate (IB).
Expats relocating to Baltimore in the short term who'd prefer to have their children continue studying the curriculum of their home country should consider international schooling options in Washington DC. International schools provide a more familiar environment and allow students to associate with other expat children.
Baltimore is just over an hour's drive from Washington DC and many people commute between the two cities. That said, the capital is home to a large expat community and, as a result, the demand for international schools is quite high, which means expats living in Baltimore who wish to send their children to one of these schools should apply ahead of time to secure a spot.
Special-needs education in Baltimore
In Baltimore, students with disabilities are entitled to free specialised education from birth to the age of 21. The support structures in Baltimore for such students are extensive. There are a few different options with bespoke programmes designed for children suffering from a variety of developmental and behavioural issues as well as those with physical disabilities.
Where possible, students with special needs will be accommodated at mainstream public schools in Baltimore. If the severity of the disability restricts this, there are a number of special education centres and private special education facilities in Baltimore that offer more extensive support.
Tutors in Baltimore
For struggling students or those in need of some extra support to tackle university entrance exams, private tuition could help strengthen comprehension, boost confidence and give students that extra edge.
There is limited additional support offered by the school districts in terms of private tuition. Some schools do provide extra lessons for those with mild learning difficulties, but no school is required to fund private tuition for students, even those with an Individualised Education Plan (IEP) under the No Child Left Behind programme. That said, schools will often provide a list of recommended tutors available in the local area, should parents request this information.
For students in need of extra academic support, there are a number of reputable tutoring companies in Baltimore. Some of the well-established companies include Charm City Tutors and Varsity Tutors. These companies offer one-to-one tutoring services for various subjects and for a range of different grades from elementary to high school.
►Learn about the city's family-friendly neighbourhoods on the Areas and Suburbs in Baltimore page
Are you an expat living in Baltimore?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Baltimore. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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