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.
Before enrolling a student at a particular school, it's a good idea 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. In recent years, however, 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 free-to-attend non-profit institutions that receive less public funding than regular public schools and instead receive additional funding from private sources. They have more freedom in teaching methods than state schools and are often considered a better alternative.
There are a number of charter schools in LA. Due to high demand, 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. Admission criteria can vary from school to school depending on its specialisation. For instance, music students will usually need to partake in an audition. Not all magnet schools require admissions testing, though, in which case lotteries are used to place students.
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. This allows 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.
Still, the option of an international school is well 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.
Special-needs education in Los Angeles
The Los Angeles Unified School District has a robust special-needs programme run by the Division of Special Education.
More than a third of special-needs students in the district have a diagnosis of Specific Learning Disability (SLD), while Speech and Language Impairment (SLI) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) each account for around 20 percent of students. In many cases, a mainstream school environment can accommodate these students by means of extra support and resources. Particularly severe cases and conditions that require more a higher level of care may instead call for the use of specialised resource centres and special schools.
International schools often offer some form of support for students who need it, especially for mild learning disabilities or language proficiency. This typically comes at an additional cost to regular fees. The degree of support and the conditions catered for vary widely.
Tutors in Los Angeles
For newly arrived families adapting to life in LA, tutors can be an immensely useful resource, especially for those moving from overseas. Tutors can help build proficiency in English where needed or can be hired to maintain an expat child's mother tongue, if they're being taught in another language full time.
For many, a new city also means adjusting to a new curriculum, and playing catch-up can be tough. The process can be eased with tutoring, and specialised assistance is also available for trouble subjects like maths or science. In addition, teenagers on the cusp of graduating can benefit greatly from doing exam prep with a tutor.
The best way to find a reputable tutor is to ask other parents or the school for recommendations.