New arrivals in Indianapolis will need to take a few factors into account when choosing schools for their children, including proximity of the school to their places of residence and work, the standard of teaching, the type of school and, of course, tuition fees.

The schools of Indianapolis, as in the rest of the US, are divided into three levels: elementary school (pre-school to grade 5); middle school (grade 6 to 8); and high school (grade 9 to 12).

Parents will also have to decide whether to enrol their children in a public school, private school or a private special-needs programme, and whether to obtain the services of a tutor.

Public schools in Indianapolis

The quality of public schooling in Indianapolis varies, and parents will have to explore options thoroughly before committing to a school.

Eleven public school districts serve residents of Indianapolis, the biggest of which is Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) serving more than 30,000 students, making it the second largest public school district in Indiana. The 11 districts operate a range of traditional public schools, as well as magnet and charter schools.

Admission to public schools in Indianapolis is usually based on zones – students living in a local area may enrol at the school in that area at little to no cost, but if students wish to attend schools outside their zone, they may be required to submit academic records (of a certain level), references and perhaps even pay tuition.

Charter schools

Charter schools are considered semi-autonomous public schools that receive public funds. Charter schools in Indianapolis operate under a contract with public school districts, which details how the school will be organised and managed, methods of assessment, goals, and programmes. Charter schools do need to follow a state-mandated curriculum, although there is more flexibility as to how it is designed. Students may choose to enrol in a charter school regardless of where they live and whether they fall in a particular school zone. If there are more enrolments than places available, students are admitted using a lottery system. 

Magnet schools

Magnet schools are classified as public schools, but with specialised courses or curricula, and typically offer bespoke subject matter in the fields of science, technology, engineering, maths, performing arts, or languages. The term “magnet” refers to how these schools typically draw students from across normal boundaries such as school zones. There are magnet schools at elementary, middle, and high school levels, and these are primarily state funded, but they do receive additional outside funding and aren’t bound by US curricula and are instead able to develop their own. 

Some Magnet schools may have admission requirements that allow them to select their students. This could be in the form of an entrance exam or an audition. That said, the vast majority of Magnet schools accept all applicants or, like at Charter schools, use a lottery system. 

Private schools in Indianapolis

Newcomers to Indianapolis may choose to enrol their children in a private school. These provide a higher quality of education, better facilities, advanced placement and honours programmes, superior sport programmes, and a wider range of extra-curriculars than public schools. Student to teacher ratios are also much lower in private schools, with the average in Indianapolis being around 13:1.

Private education does come at a cost though, and parents will need to factor the often exorbitant tuition fees into their budget, along with additional expenses associated with private schooling, such as uniforms, books, field trips, and other extracurricular-related fees.

Indianapolis has more than 120 private schools of differing standards and price ranges, serving more than 27,000 students. The average tuition fee is upwards of USD8,000, and the average acceptance rate is around 80 percent.

Most private schools in Indianapolis (more than two thirds) are religiously affiliated, generally Roman Catholic and Christian.

International schools in Indianapolis

Expats relocating to Indianapolis may prefer to have their children continue the curriculum of their home country. One institution in Indianapolis, the International School of Indiana (ISI), offers students access to certified full-continuum International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, and immersion programmes for its students in Spanish, French and Mandarin, with students picking up a third language in grade 6.

Founded in 1994, ISI offers high-quality education for three-year-olds through grade 12s, and serves more than 600 students. The school plays a vital role in the increasingly global business community of Indianapolis, and provides an environment where students can associate with other expat children.

Special-needs education in Indianapolis

Indianapolis law stipulates that each local school corporation must make available special education and related services to all eligible children ages 3 through 21. This law guarantees all students with disabilities the right to a free appropriate public education designed to meet their individual needs. It also offers protection for the rights of students with disabilities and their parents.

Public and private schools in Indianapolis make provision for special-needs students, including support structures and programmes for children with mental, developmental, behavioural or physical disabilities. If the disability is too severe for the child to attend a public or private school, Indianapolis has several special education centres and facilities that are specifically geared towards children with special needs.

Tutors in Indianapolis

Whether your child is having trouble comprehending grade 4 science, or whether they require some help tackling university entrance exams, private tuition can be of great help, and Indianapolis has no shortage of good tutors.

Schools will often be able to recommend reputable private tutors in the field that extra help is required, or parents could approach any of the many tutoring companies operating in Indianapolis. Web portals could also point parents in the direction of legitimate and vetted tutors, but they are advised to do thorough research on the company before admitting their child into their care.

Tutors can be a great source of mentoring, confidence-building, and individualised learning, and sessions can be conducted at a learning centre, at your home, or via video call.