Education in Seattle is 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 as well as immersion courses in a variety of languages, such as Spanish, English and Japanese. There are also a few privately-run international schools.

As is the case in the rest of the US, the Seattle schooling system is divided into three levels:

  • Elementary schools – Kindergarten to Grade 5
  • Middle schools – Grade 6 to Grade 8
  • High schools – Grade 9 to Grade 12

Public schools in Seattle

Overall, the standard of education in Seattle’s public schools is good. 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 extra-curricular activities.

Expat parents will need to bear in mind the standard of schools when choosing which neighbourhood to live in. The allocation at public schools in Seattle is determined by catchment areas, and the public school system gives priority to students living nearby.

Expats 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, expats will need to budget for additional costs. 

Charter schools

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 only a few 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

Expats 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 wider range of extra-curricular 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.

Expats considering this option will need to budget significantly more for their child’s education fees. There are generally scholarships and bursaries available, but expat students may not be eligible for these. It's also important to note that most private schools don't offer any specialised support for English second-language 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 person’s disability is too severe for them to benefit from mainstream education, there are special education facilities that are able to offer students a special-needs programme tailored to meet their specific requirements.

Tutors in Seattle

Whether a child has fallen behind in maths class or is in need of additional support to excel in their college entrance exams, there are plenty of private tutors available in Seattle.

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 certain 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.