Education in Seattle is given great importance and is considered highly valuable. This is partly due to the high concentration of jobs in the technology, engineering and medical sectors, which require a high level of education.

Alongside regular public schools, Seattle is also home to several government-funded schools offering the International Baccalaureate as well as immersion courses in a variety of languages, such as Spanish, English, and Japanese. There are also a few privately run international schools.

As is the case in the rest of the USA, the Seattle schooling system is divided into three levels:

  • Elementary schools – Kindergarten to Grade 5
  • Middle schools – Grade 6 to Grade 8
  • High schools – Grade 9 to Grade 12

Public schools in Seattle

Overall the standard of education in Seattle’s public schools is good, and children often go on to successfully graduate from college – in fact, the state has been shown to have one of the highest rates of high school graduation in the country. However, there are still certain disparities which have not been fully overcome. Seattle remains somewhat divided along ethnic lines, with more ethnic minorities living in the southern part of the city. Because school attendance is based on zoning, those in more disadvantaged areas often only have access to substandard schooling. In wealthier areas, public schools offer an excellent standard of teaching along with a host of extra-curricular activities.

Expat parents will need to bear in mind the standard of schools when choosing which neighbourhood to live in. The allocation at public schools in Seattle is determined by catchment areas and the public school system gives priority to students living nearby.

Expats living in Seattle will be eligible to send their children to one of the city’s public schools. While public education in Seattle is fee-free, expats will need to budget for additional costs. 

Charter schools

Charter schools are public schools that are governed by a non-profit board, allowing them more flexibility in terms of curricula and teaching methods than regular public schools. There are currently only a few charter schools within Seattle. Enrolment at a charter school is done by a lottery, which is open to anyone living within the school district.

Private and international schools in Seattle

Expats moving to Seattle will have the option of sending their children to a private school. Many private schools have a religious affiliation. There are many good private schools in Seattle which provide a high standard of teaching and greater scope for talented students to excel. Private schools tend to offer a wider range of extra-curricular activities than most public schools.

Similarly to specialised public schools, some private schools in Seattle offer dual-language immersion programmes or the International Baccalaureate curriculum. The major difference between public and private international schools is, of course, cost.

Expats considering this option will need to budget significantly more for their child’s education fees. There are generally scholarships and bursaries available, but expat students may not be eligible for these. It's also important to note that most private schools don't offer any specialised support for English second-language speakers. In the case that this is required, it's often best to consider one of Seattle's public international schools with language immersion programmes.

The most popular private schools in Seattle are oversubscribed so it is best to apply well in advance, even before moving to the city. 

Tertiary education in Seattle

Seattle is a great place for those looking for opportunities in further education. The city is home to one of the USA’s top universities, the University of Washington, which is the largest university in the Pacific Northwest and is well-respected in academic circles.

Apart from the University of Washington, other options in the city include Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, and City University of Seattle. There are other smaller educational institutions scattered throughout the city that focus on specific areas such as business or fine arts.

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