- Download our Moving to Seattle Guide (PDF)
Education and schools in Seattle are highly valued. 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 public schools, Seattle is also home to several government-funded schools offering the International Baccalaureate and immersion courses in a variety of languages, such as Spanish, English and Japanese. There are also some privately run international schools.
See Education and Schools in the USA for more on the national education system.
Public schools in Seattle
Overall, the standard of education in Seattle's public schools is satisfactory. In fact, the state has been shown to have one of the highest rates of high-school graduation in the country. There remain some disparities, though. Seattle is 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 extracurricular activities.
Newly arrived foreign parents will need to bear in mind the standard of schools when choosing which neighbourhood to live in. Catchment areas determine the allocation at public schools in Seattle, and the public school system gives priority to students living nearby.
Newcomers living in Seattle will be eligible to send their children to one of the city's public schools. While public education in Seattle doesn't require tuition, parents must budget for additional costs.
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 less than ten 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
Newly arrived parents 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 that provide a high standard of teaching and greater scope for talented students to excel. Private schools tend to offer a broader range of extracurricular activities than most 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, the cost.
Parents considering this option must budget significantly more for their child's education fees. There are generally scholarships and bursaries available, but international students may not be eligible for these. It's also important to note that most private schools don't offer any specialised support for second-language English 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.
Special-needs education in Seattle
The city's education system is well-equipped to provide for students with learning and developmental disabilities. There are multiple federal laws in place in the US to ensure that children with disabilities have fair access to quality education at no cost, regardless of state.
Both public and private schools usually have special programmes in place to support students with learning difficulties. In cases where a learner's disability is too severe for them to benefit from mainstream education, there are special education facilities that can offer students a special-needs programme tailored to meet their specific requirements.
Tutors in Seattle
Whether a child has fallen behind in mathematics or needs additional support to excel in their college entrance exams, Seattle has plenty of private tutors.
It's wise to start by asking the child's school or other parents in the area for a recommendation. Alternatively, one could utilise the services of established tutoring companies. These companies offer an array of packages, from subject-specific intensive programmes to one-on-one home tuition and small group sessions.
Enlisting the services of a private tutor is an excellent opportunity for students to address any gaps in their knowledge, excel at a particular subject, or simply build confidence in their new environment.
Tertiary education in Seattle
Seattle is a great place for those looking to pursue higher 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.
Are you an expat living in Seattle?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Seattle. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
Cigna Global Health Insurance. 20% off premiums booked before 31st March
Medical insurance specifically designed for expats. With Cigna, you won't have to rely on foreign public health care systems, which may not meet your needs. Cigna allows you to speak to a doctor on demand, for consultations or instant advice, wherever you are in the world. They also offer full cancer care across all levels of cover, and settle the cost of treatments directly with the provider.
International Movers. Get Quotes. Compare Prices.
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.