Prospective residents considering making a move to Phoenix will have quite the mission on their hands when it comes to choosing a school for their children. With over 300 public schools across 30 school districts as well as more than 200 charter, magnet and private schools, parents will have their work cut out for them when it comes to deciding which option is best.
A few factors to take account of when picking a school in Phoenix include the standard of teaching, the type of school, the proximity of the school to home and the parents' place of work. Cost is also something that’ll play a part in the ultimate decision, especially when considering private schooling options.
As with the rest of the USA, schools in Phoenix are split between three levels: elementary schools (pre-school to grade 5), middle school (grade 6 to 8), and high school (grade 9 to 12).
Public schools in Phoenix
While there are some very good public schools in Phoenix, there are many more that are failing, plagued by issues of underfunding as well as safety concerns. On the whole, the state of Arizona has a long way to go before its public schools come close to the average national US or international standard.
That said, the local government in Arizona have started to take the matter of public education more seriously in recent years. There has been a recognition that offering residents a globally competitive education is essential to boost the future economy of the area by retaining talent. Standards are gradually improving as a result of these efforts.
Because public schooling is available to all legal residents at no cost, it is definitely an option worth considering. However, parents will need to spend time investigating the standard of schools and decide whereabouts they’ll set up home according to the proximity to good schools.
These are semi-autonomous public schools that still receive public funds and operate under the appropriate school's district. While the governing bodies at charter schools do have some flexibility in terms of school management and assessment, they still follow the state-mandated curriculum. There are fewer catchment area restrictions when it comes to admission to charter schools.
Like charter schools, magnet schools are also partially funded by the state. However, because they receive external funding too, they aren’t strictly bound by the US national curriculum and therefore have the opportunity to develop a more subject-focused curriculum.
Typically, these schools focus on a particular subject area such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), the performing arts or languages. As teachers at magnet schools are required to be specialists in a given area, the standard of teaching tends to be better.
Private schools in Phoenix
Another schooling path prospective residents may wish to choose for their children is the option to attend a private school. There are over 200 private schools in the wider Phoenix area which cover students from pre-K to 12th grade. The standards at private schools tend to be better that one would find at the average public school in Phoenix. Students have access to good-quality facilities and a range of extra-curricular activities such as sports, music and the performing arts. Class sizes also tend to be smaller so students can get more attention, if necessary.
The downside of private school attendance is the cost. In addition to paying tuition fees, parents will need to factor in other expenses such as the cost of textbooks, extra-curricular activities, uniforms and field trips.
International schools in Phoenix
There are a handful of international Baccalaureate (IB) schools in Phoenix. Attending one of these schools is a good option for expats relocating to Phoenix especially if their children have previously studied at an IB school overseas. Those that plan to relocate overseas in the future might also consider this option for their children as the IB is one of the most widely recognised academic qualifications at a global level.
While some IB schools are public schools, these tend to be very oversubscribed so Phoenix residents need to apply well ahead of time to increase the likelihood of securing a place. There are also a number of private IB schools where parents will be required to pay tuition fees so those will need to be factored into the equation when making a decision to apply.
Special needs education in Phoenix
The support available for students with special needs and disabilities in Pheonix is pretty good. The Arizona Department of Education offers a range of support features for students with learning difficulties and a variety of service delivery options. There is an Individualised Education Program (IEP) Team that assesses students to determine the level of support needed. Where possible, measures will be put in place to accommodate students within the mainstream public schooling system. In cases where disabilities are more severe, there are more specialist facilities available to help.
Phoenix has a wide variety of specialised schooling options that cater for the unique needs of students with learning difficulties or those that suffer from various developmental, emotional and behavioural issues. While some of these schools are publicly funded charter schools, others are tuition-based private schools. Families who can’t afford to send their child to a private special needs schools can apply for financial assistance through various government programs.
Tutors in Phoenix
Whether a student needs to catch up in a particular subject or they want to get ahead with some support for the college entrance exams, there are lots of private tutors on hand to help in Phoenix.
The best place to start the search for a good private tutor is by asking at the child’s school or talking to other parents in the neighbourhood. The alternative would be to utilise an established tutoring service. Upper-Class Tutoring and Parliament Tutors are examples of established tutoring companies in Phoenix. These companies offer a range of packages from one-to-one tuition in the comfort of the students home to small group sessions held at a training centre.
The additional support provided by private tutors can allow students to address any gaps in their knowledge, progress in a certain subject area, or simply build confidence.
►Read our See and Do in Phoenix page for some insights into best attractions the city has to offer
Are you an expat living in Phoenix?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Phoenix. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.