Education has always been a priority for the people of Austin. With numerous national accolades and a strong sense of community, the schooling infrastructure in Austin is robust, and it's no wonder the city is a popular destination for families.
Newcomers to Austin will need to take several factors into account when making decisions about their children’s schooling. These factors include the type of school, the curriculum, the standard of teaching and the proximity of the institution to their home and place of work.
Schools in Austin, as is the case in the rest of the USA, are split between three levels: elementary school (pre-school to Grade 5), middle school (Grades 6 to 8), and high school (Grades 9 to 12).
Public schools in Austin
The standard of public schooling in Austin varies quite dramatically, and parents will need to invest a considerable amount of time exploring their options before committing to a school and deciding where to live in Austin.
There are 29 public school districts that serve the residents of the Austin metro area. Within these school districts, there are a few options, ranging from the traditional public school to magnet and charter school options.
Students who are legal residents in Austin can attend a public school at little to no cost. In the case of most public schools in Austin, admission is based on catchment areas, so parents will need to consider this when deciding which areas and suburbs to live in.
Charter schools in Austin enter into a contract with the school's district, which outlines how the schools are to be managed, the methods of assessment and the goals. These schools still receive some public funding, but they aren’t strictly required to follow the state’s curriculum and are allowed some room to manoeuvre when it comes to curriculum design. There are fewer admission restrictions, and these schools often accept students who live outside their catchment areas.
A magnet school is a type of public school that offers specialised curricula based on the student's strengths. Typically, these schools focus on a particular subject area such as languages, performing arts or STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). Unlike regular public schools, admission requirements at magnet schools aren’t restricted to schooling zones, and they allow students from a wider geographic area to attend as long as they meet the entry requirements. Although these schools are primarily state funded, they do receive additional funding from external sources, which is what affords them greater autonomy when it comes to developing their curricula.
Private schools in Austin
There are over 100 private schools in Austin, many of which have a religious affiliation. In general, private schools are known for offering a higher standard of education, better facilities and superior extra-curricular activities than most public schools. Class sizes are generally also smaller, which means that each student gets more one-on-one attention.
The downside to private education is the costs, and parents need to consider the often astronomical tuition fees when drawing up a budget. The average tuition at private schools in Austin is upwards of USD 11,000. In addition to school fees, they’ll also need to factor in additional expenses such as uniforms, textbooks, extra-curriculars and field trips.
International schools in Austin
Expats moving to Austin or Americans who want their children to have a broader and globally recognised education may opt to send their children to an international school. There is a handful of these in Austin, most of which offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) qualification. Most international schools in Austin are privately funded and as such parents who opt to pursue this option will be required to pay the exorbitant tuition fees.
Special needs education in Austin
Students with special needs are well catered for in Austin. The state of Texas endeavours to provide quality education to all children, including those with special needs, at no cost to their parents. Where possible, the education department will try to accommodate the child within a regular school framework as far as possible.
In cases where it is deemed unproductive to have the child in a standard classroom setting, there are several specialist schools that are better equipped to help those with more severe learning disabilities or behavioural issues to meet their full potential.
Tutors in Austin
Being based in a city that prioritises education, parents will find ample additional support when it comes to their child’s learning. Whether a student is having trouble keeping up in class or requires some extra help preparing for university exams, private tutors can really give them the extra edge. Thankfully, there is no shortage of good tutors in Austin.
The best starting point in finding a suitable tutor would be to enquire at a child’s school. The school should be well placed to recommend tutors and support services. There are a number of well established tutoring companies operating in Austin. Some big names include HOFT Institute – House of Tutors, Mathnasium and Frog Tutoring. Parents should do thorough research before parting with their cash as some agencies focus on particular subject areas while others offer a broader range of services including private lessons, small-group classes and online tutoring.