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There are plenty of options for parents when it comes to schools and education in Los Angeles. Both the quality and cost of these options vary greatly, and parents should conduct thorough research before settling on a decision.
On the whole, the city's private schools enjoy a better reputation than their public counterparts, but parents are reminded that there are huge variations among schools in both sectors. Reputation only counts for so much, and often doesn't accurately reflect the quality of learning in schools.
It is vital, before enrolling a student at a particular school, to call the principal and ask for a tour of the school and a class visit. Once parents visit a school, they will be able to gauge the suitability of the school for themselves, by judging things such as class size, the types of resources available, and the programmes that are offered.
Public schools in Los Angeles
Historically, the Los Angeles Unified School District has been plagued with high drop-out rates, underfunding, and overcrowding. However, in recent years the situation has begun to improve, and today LA public schools are well worth considering.
Two major advantages of public schooling are the cost (tuition is free) and the fact that zoning regulations require children to attend a school close to home. As a result, children will interact with peers from their own neighbourhood. It is common to find that many parents even pick a neighbourhood to live in based on its proximity to their preferred school.
Furthermore, if expats are seeking immersion into American culture for their child, the public school system will allow them to interact with a wider, more varied, and more representative sample of American kids.
Charter schools in the USA are non-profit institutions that receive less public funding than regular public schools and instead receive additional funding from private sources. There are a number of charter schools in LA. While these schools cover much of the state's curriculum, some also tend to have a more specific focus.
These schools are a popular option among parents in LA. Unfortunately, gaining admission into charter schools in LA is not easy and waiting lists are often long. Many of the schools operate admission lotteries to ensure the allocation of places is fair.
For expats with children who are gifted in a particular area, a magnet school in LA would be a good option. There are a number of magnet schools to choose from in LA, with each institution being geared towards students pursuing careers in very particular fields such as languages, sciences, and the arts. Each magnet school has different admissions criteria.
Private schools in Los Angeles
Private schools are funded by tuition and governing bodies. As a result, they have much more leniency and do not have to conform to educational directives handed down to them by the government, affording teachers the freedom to customise their curricula and teaching styles, which can range from quite alternative to conservative and strict.
Choosing an appropriate private school is important, and will depend on several factors. It is important to remember that the competition for places in top private schools is incredibly stiff; often, parents are forced to battle against limited space and selective entrance requirements to get their children enrolled. It is also worth noting that a large number of private schools in Los Angeles are religious (often Catholic) institutions. These schools are usually cheaper than schools without religious affiliations but may have restrictions on who can attend.
International schools in Los Angeles
There are also a number of international schools in LA, where children may be able to continue the curriculum they initially started in their home countries. Most expats in LA do not feel it is necessary to send their children to an international school as their children can get a good education for a fraction of the price at a good public or private school.
However, the option of an international school is still worth exploring, especially for those who do not plan on staying in Los Angeles for a long period of time. International schools will generally allow expat students to make the transition to life in LA with the least amount of disruption to their education. It's also a great way for both parents and children to meet similar families with shared experiences of relocation and living in a foreign country.
►For some fun ideas for family days out in the city, check out Kids and Family in Los Angeles
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