- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals San Francisco Guide (PDF)
In true West Coast spirit, the San Francisco public education and school system is a little left of centre when compared with the rest of the country. There are also plenty of private schools to choose from in San Francisco, including international schools offering foreign curricula.
Public schools in San Francisco
Unlike most school districts in America, children in San Francisco do not necessarily attend public schools based on their residential address. The city tries to maintain even demographics in each school based on income, race and language.
Despite these attempts at equalising schools, some have much higher test scores than others. Families can choose a number of preferred schools in San Francisco, and the school board assigns their child to one of them. Most of the time, children can attend a school from among their top choices. For this reason, it is even more important than usual for parents to research the best options available when choosing a school for their child.
Private schools in San Francisco
Many expats opt to send their children to one of the many private schools in San Francisco. Choosing and being accepted into one of these is often a difficult process that involves testing and interviews.
Parents should begin to search for a school as soon as they are able, and it is recommended they do so far in advance of the move. Specialists can be hired to assist families with the process.
Private education is expensive in San Francisco, though there may be scholarships available to help finance children's private school education. Some of the Catholic schools in San Francisco could provide a less expensive option.
International schools in San Francisco
International schools in San Francisco are popular with expats as they can accommodate students previously studying in different curricula. This includes schools offering French, German and Chinese education. Teaching is typically in the language associated with the school's country of origin so that expats can be taught in their home language.
Expat parents favour international schools because they can provide a sense of continuity and familiarity. They also ensure that children keep up with their peers back home and earn the same certification in case they return. This is especially important for expat families who don't intend to settle in San Francisco permanently.
Homeschooling in San Francisco
Homeschooling is legal in the state of California and, for the most part, parents are free to conduct their child's education as they wish. Regulations do require that all children are given some form of schooling from ages 6 to 18.
The Department of Education regards homeschooling as a form of private schooling. Parents will need to complete the Private School Affidavit (PSA).
Generally speaking, the state doesn't take a hands-on approach to homeschooling and advises parents looking to homeschool their children to tap into non-governmental resources such as local homeschooling organisations.
Special-needs education in San Francisco
Children with special needs are well provided for in San Francisco as there are a number of resources available.
If parents with children in the public school system think their children may have special educational needs, they should notify the school. An evaluation will be carried out to determine eligibility. If declared eligible for special education services, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is drawn up by a specialist team. Parents are included as part of this specialistic team and therefore have input in planning the way forward.
A child's IEP is reviewed at least once a year and any child with a disability is completely re-evaluated at least once every three years in order to make sure that current interventions are still appropriate.
When it comes to private schools, some have more robust special-needs departments than others, so it's worthwhile taking this into account when picking a school. Many schools are able to accommodate and provide assistance for children with learning difficulties such as ADHD or dyslexia. That said, not all private schools are equipped to assist with more severe disabilities.
Tutors in San Francisco
Tutoring services are easy to find in San Francisco. A wide range of subjects and grade levels are catered for. It isn't uncommon for older students facing their final exams to enlist the help of a tutor to ensure that they are fully prepared.
For expats, tutors can be helpful in aspects such as English-language development, maintenance of home language skills and getting up to speed on a new curriculum.
►For a list of recommended schools, see International Schools in San Francisco
Are you an expat living in San Francisco?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to San Francisco. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
Cigna Global can tailor an international health insurance plan to perfectly fit the needs of you and your family. With 86 million customers 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.