Education plays a central role in Dallas. The city is a major centre of education for much of the South Central region of the USA. Each year thousands of Americans and people from abroad head to Dallas to attend one of the city’s universities, colleges or trade schools.
The Dallas Independent School District oversees the provision of education in the city and is one of the largest school districts in the USA. The standard of schooling in Dallas is good and there are plenty of options for students moving to the city from abroad.
Those moving to Dallas will need to carefully evaluate their priorities for their children’s education when picking schools. It's necessary to consider cost, the proximity of the school to home and the workplace as well as the curriculum and teaching style followed by the school.
Public schools in Dallas
The standard of public schools in Dallas is varied. On one end of the spectrum, Dallas boasts many excellent charter and magnet schools that cater for gifted students and produce outstanding results; on the other hand, the city is also home to some schools that don't perform as well.
For this reason, parents choosing to send their children to a public school in Dallas will need to do extensive research into a school’s standards and facilities. A good starting point is to check the Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) reports, which outline the school’s rating as evaluated by the state’s education agency.
One major advantage of choosing a public school in Dallas is the cost, as no fees are charged. Since public school attendance is based on zoning, it also gives children the chance to mix with local kids from the neighbourhood, which is especially useful for expat families new to the US.
Charter and magnet schools
Other options falling under the public school system in Dallas are charter and magnet schools. Both types of schools are associated with high achievement and a broader cultural outlook. They're great options for parents who are looking for a higher standard of education for their child.
Charter schools use state funding and uphold the state curriculum. That said, these schools have more scope to be flexible in their teaching methods than traditional public schools.
Magnet schools also use state funding but follow an alternative, more specialised curriculum focusing on a particular subject area such as languages, science or the performing arts. Dallas is home to some of the top-performing magnet schools in the country.
Competition for places at these schools can be fierce, with long waiting lists. Lottery systems are used to confirm enrolment for both charter and magnet schools in Dallas. Charter schools requiring a skill, such as those with music programmes, may also require an audition.
Private schools in Dallas
New arrivals in Dallas also have the option of sending their children to one of the city’s private schools. Private schools generally follow the state’s curriculum but tend to have some degree of flexibility when it comes to teaching styles. Teaching at these schools is often through a religious lens, such as Christianity, or an alternative education philosophy, such as Montessori.
Private schools in Dallas provide a high standard of teaching and lots of scope for gifted students to flourish academically. They also tend to offer a more varied range of extra-curricular activities. The downside of sending children to private schools is the high fees.
International schools in Dallas
Unlike in other major US cities, there aren't many international schools in Dallas. Most expats from English-speaking countries find that sending their child to a public or private school is a viable option, and there therefore isn't a huge demand for international schools in the city.
Expats from Germany and France, however, will be pleased to know that they can send their children to international schools that follow the national curriculum from their home country. There are also many private and magnet schools in Dallas that offer the option of studying for the International Baccalaureate.
Demand for places in international schools is high and there are long waiting lists, so it's best to start the application process early. Fees at international schools can be extremely expensive. Expats considering this option should factor this into their negotiations with regard to their employment package.
Homeschooling in Dallas
Homeschooling is legal in the state of Texas. Children who are taught at home are exempt from the compulsory attendance requirement in the same way as students who are enrolled in a private school.
Parents who homeschool their children in Dallas need to follow certain rules, which they should make themselves familiar with. Parents also need to keep in mind that the public school district may ask them to provide assurances in writing that they intend on homeschooling their child.
Special-needs education in Dallas
The city of Dallas welcomes special-needs children and adults with open arms. In recent years the city has had constant inclusion initiatives with adaptive programs popping up in all areas. The city has accessible playgrounds, sensory-friendly museums and many other options to keep special-needs individuals in Dallas entertained.
Texas is one of the few states with strong Early Childhood Intervention programs. There are professionals who can analyse a child's circumstances and determine the appropriate course of action such as setting up a personalised learning plan, getting access to early intervention therapists and getting assistance with transitioning into public schooling. Dallas also has several schools specifically catering to those with special needs.
New parents can contact the Texan Department of Education for more assistance. There are also groups like The Down Syndrome Guild where parents can connect with those who have children enrolled in a range of special needs programs in the city.
Tutoring in Dallas
Tutoring services are commonly used in Dallas. There are a vast number of options available to students who require extra help with specific school subjects. For expat children, tutoring can be invaluable for catching up with a new curriculum and covering possible knowledge gaps. Non-English-speaking families may find hiring a tutor to be a useful way of helping their children to pick up English, or to maintain their mother tongue if their full-time schooling is in English.
A number of reputable tutoring services can be found in Dallas. There are also a number of private tutors in the city, ranging from retired teachers to university students.
► Read Areas and Suburbs in Dallas for some recommendations on the best neighbourhoods to live in
Are you an expat living in Dallas?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Dallas. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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