Choosing a School for Your Child

Published by the United States Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement, Choosing a School for Your Child is a type of decision tool that helps guide adults towards selecting a school that fits the specific needs of the child.

Make sure that you hand-carry your children’s transcripts, birth certificates, social security cards, IEP (if applicable), standardized test results, immunization records, health records, and teacher recommendations.  Almost all schools require a physical examination form that can be completed when you are doing your pre-departure physical. Requirements vary by schools and/or school district.

If you are transitioning to an overseas school, check the Overseas Briefing Center’s Post Info to Go for school documents and entrance requirements. Check with the Office of Overseas Schools for questions on curriculum and availability of special needs instruction. Make sure that the school and the post CLO are aware of your arrival and enrollment plans.

For enrollment in Washington area schools, explore the information below or contact FLOAskEducation@state.gov.

 

Choices for High School: IB and AP

Both the Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs give high school students an opportunity to pursue college-level studies while still in high school. Depending on the college they attend, these courses can lead to advanced placement (skipping entry-level courses) or sometimes even receiving college credit for the coursework completed under these programs. The AP courses are accepted at virtually all U.S. colleges and universities, while the IB program has more limited acceptance within the U.S. but is growing in popularity.

The AP program began in the U.S. to offer more challenging courses to capable high school students. An introductory college level course is offered followed by an examination in May. Students are rated on a five-point scale on the examination which is administered by the Educational Testing Service. Many overseas and American high schools participate in this program. Classes can be taken in just one subject or in a variety of subjects. Also see AP International from the College Board.

Please note that there is a testing fee for each exam.

The IB program was designed through an international cooperative effort and is based in Geneva, Switzerland. This program offers an academically challenging curriculum emphasizing the philosophy of learning and the integration of disciplines. The IB diploma is designed for the last two years of high school. It can be supported by a curriculum beginning as early as elementary school. Because it is a comprehensive two-year program it can be difficult to transfer during that last two years and complete the IB diploma at a different school. Individual tests, however, can be taken for courses completed even if the full diploma program is not completed. Exams are completed in May with all exams centrally evaluated to set criteria by international examiners.

What is the “right” choice? FLO reached out to Kristen Mariotti, a featured speaker at conferences in the United States and abroad on college preparation and the respective advantages of the two programs, to answer the questions we most often receive.

Looking for IB schools in the mid-Atlantic area? Please visit this listing.

 

Public Schools in the Washington, DC Area

Note: For comprehensive and current information on schools and programs, we advise that you contact the school district directly.

In some districts, students coming from foreign countries are referred from the neighborhood school to a central registration office. To avoid this confusion, Foreign Service families returning from overseas should tell school officials that they are U.S. citizens returning from abroad.

District of Columbia

District of Columbia law requires children to attend private or public school from age 5 to age 18. For further information:

Virginia

For statistical information on schools in Virginia, visit the Virginia Department of Education’s School Report Card. This web page provides individual school report cards by pulling down the list of counties, then schools. A variety of demographic and statistical information helps to paint a portrait of a school, including programs within that school. The School Report Card will allow you to compare information about schools.

In addition, to participate in any public school sport activity, the student must have the Virginia Standards of Learning exams (SOLs), which are required of all students graduating from Virginia high schools. Foreign Service high school students take note: If you will be returning to Virginia and will graduate from a Virginia high school, you will be required to take these exams (certain tests, such as Advanced Placement (AP) and the International Baccalaureate (IB), may be substituted for the SOL exam).

FLO is aware of several cases of returning sophomores and juniors who have been required to take SOLs (with little advance notice) over course material that may have been taken overseas or never taken. Therefore, upon return to a Virginia school, it is imperative that the student meet early in the school year with his/her guidance counselor to discuss possible SOL exams. The type of diploma the student will receive and the date of transfer into the school system are factors in determining the number of tests required for graduation. The Virginia Department of Education’s web page, Guide to Graduation Requirements, provides further information.

City of Alexandria

Arlington County

Fairfax County

City of Falls Church

Fauquier County

Loudoun County

Prince William County

Stafford County

Maryland

Maryland law requires children to attend private or public school from age 5 to 16.

The Maryland Department of Education specifies what students level of knowledge should be in the four content areas of language arts, math, social studies, and science from grades K – 12.

Maryland developed a new assessment system in 2003 designed to meet the requirements of the federal legislation “No Child Left Behind.” Visit Maryland’s Assessment webpage which explains how the state curriculum standards will be assessed in order to be in compliance.

Anne Arundel County

Howard County

Montgomery County

Prince Georges County

Extended Day Programs in the Public Schools

For working parents, public school districts offer “extended day” programs whereby children can remain at school, with supervision and a variety of after-school activities, until parents arrive for pick-up at 6 pm.

Additional Resources
  • The Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) – Information about returning to Washington, DC. Links to preschool resources, schools and county programs, organizations for parents, toys stores/book stores/restaurants, libraries, and more
  • Washington Post Education Page – Highlights the latest information about Virginia, Maryland and District of Columbia schools. Click on the School Survey map for an alpha listing of schools. Click on the school of choice for a wealth of information, broken down by subject area. This is a great way to compare stats on Washington area schools.
  • Great Schools.org – Provides information for public, private and charter schools nationwide
  • Homefair.com – Offers a free detailed school report on almost any school in the country using public information sources

Private Schools in the Washington, DC Area

Foreign Service families use both public and private schools in the U.S. Families who choose private schools do so for a variety of reasons: the parents may have attended private schools, the parents may want a religious atmosphere and training, and sometimes parents want smaller or specialized classes for their child.

Tuition at private secondary schools vary from school to school and depend on many factors, including the location of the school, peer tuitions, and the school’s financial endowment. High tuition, schools claim, is used to pay higher salaries for the best teachers and also used to provide enriched learning environments, including a low student to teacher ratio, small class sizes and services, such as libraries, science laboratories and computers. The move from a small overseas school to an independent school in the United States may be easier for some students. Please remember, there is no Education Allowance while posted to the U.S.

Resources for Identifying Private Schools
  • Washingtonian Magazine: “A Private School for Every Student” – Guide to DC-area private schools
  • DC Pages.com – Listing of private schools in the District of Columbia
  • The Association of Boarding Schools – Search for private boarding schools nationwide
  • Maryland Private Schools – Listed by County. Click the county of choice which provides a list of all high school and elementary schools in that specific county. Also provides statistics about the county
  • Virginia Private Schools – Listed by County. Click the county of choice which then provides a list of all high school and elementary schools in that specific county. Also provides statistics about the county
  • Washingtonian – Special needs private schools in DC, Maryland and Virginia
  • The Independent Schools Guide for Washington Area – A copy is available for use at the Department of State’s Family Liaison Office and in Community Liaison Offices overseas
Secondary School Admission Test Requirement

If you have a student looking to enter a private school for the high school years, many of the private secondary schools require a Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) result for admission, at a cost of $116 (in the U.S.) or $225 (international). Contact info@ssat.org  or 609-683-4440 for more information.

At times, an individual test can be arranged overseas. If it is necessary to arrange for an individual test overseas, a family may request a school or embassy official to proctor the SSAT. Provide the following information to the SSATB (Fax: 1-609-683-1702):

  • Name and affiliation of person who will administer test;
  • Complete address of school or Embassy where the materials will be sent;
  • Telephone number;
  • Fax number;
  • Name of student to be tested and current grade; and
  • Statement by administrator agreeing to follow SSATB procedures
Private School Websites

Catholic Schools

Christian Schools

Montessori Schools

Language Immersion Schools

Additional Resources

Transition, Training, and the Foreign Serice Child

Moving again? In order to make the best educational choices for our children, it is important to understand the effect a mobile lifestyle has on them. Experts on the effects of international mobility on adolescents note that young people who spend a significant length of time out of their own culture develop a culture of their own. The new culture is made up of what they bring from their home (or their parents’ home) culture intermingled with those cultural cues and experiences from the other cultures in which they have lived. Sociologist Ruth Hill Useem uses the term Third Culture Kid (TCK) to describe young people who live the Foreign Service lifestyle. All who live abroad are changed by the experience.

The adjustment to life overseas is not without difficulties for some young people. The Foreign Service family needs to plan carefully, set realistic expectations for all family members, and be ready to identify and handle problems as they happen. Children and adolescents often adjust quickly and happily to life overseas. Often the overseas community is smaller and more welcoming, although this varies from post to post,.

The FLO publication Bouncing Back: Transition and Re-entry Planning for the Parents of Foreign Service Youth was written to provide parents with guidance on how to help their child transition to the U.S. The publication, which is the revised version of According to My Passport I’m Coming Home, includes research and resources from professionals in the field of youth mobility and was written by adults and children who experienced the Foreign Service lifestyle first hand.

Foreign Service Youth Foundation

The Foreign Service Youth Foundation (FSYF) is a 501 (c.)(3) non-profit organization providing advocacy, information, educational training opportunities, and programs for Foreign Service youth and their families. FSYF addresses the challenge of the internationally mobile lifestyle and the effect it has on children. This support is extended to youth and their parents in the Washington, DC area, as well as at posts abroad.

The Foreign Service Youth Foundation (FSYF) was established in 1989 with seed money from the Una Chapman Cox Foundation and through the collaborative efforts of the Department of State’s Family Liaison Office (FLO), the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW), and the Foreign Service Institute’s Overseas Briefing Center (OBC).

FSYF participates in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) and you may designate to CFC #39436 (2011) in support of Foreign Service young people. FSYF depends on private contributions to continue to offer innovative programs for FS youth.

Every July, the Family Liaison Office and the Foreign Service Youth Foundation (FSYF) plan the annual Foreign Service Youth Awards Ceremony. The ceremony honors FSYF contest winners and children whose parents are serving at unaccompanied posts. The formal, invitation-only, event has taken place in the Benjamin Franklin room on the 8th floor of the Main State building and is hosted by the Director General of Human Resources. Each year, the children of Foreign Service employees receive awards from company sponsors for their art, video production, essay writing, environment awareness, and community service.

Since 2006, the Department has distributed medals and certificates of recognition to children of parents serving overseas on unaccompanied assignments. This year, more than 500 children have received medals and certificates.

Transition Center Classes

The Foreign Service Institute Transition Center offers courses for Foreign Service youth:

  • Youth Security Overseas Seminar– held throughout the summer
  • Young Diplomat’s Day – held four times in the summer months

The Transition Center also offers courses for adults, including Encouraging Resiliency in the Foreign Service Child and Raising Bilingual Children.

Additional Resources

Suggested Book List for Parenting and Living Abroad

  • Bell-Villada, Gene H. and Sichel, Nina (2013). Writing Out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third-Culture Kids. In this groundbreaking collection, writers from around the world address issues of language acquisition and identity formation, childhood mobility and adaptation, memory and grief, and the artist s struggle to articulate the experience of growing up global.
  • Bender, Margaret (2002). Foreign at Home and Away: Foreign-Born Wives in the U.S. Foreign Service. Writers Club Press. Stories of women born in other countries who, through their marriages to American diplomats, became representatives of the United States. Experiencing immigrant life in a unique way, they share the challenges faces by other women in cross-cultural marriages away from their own countries.
  • Bowers, Joyce M. (1998). Raising Resilient MKs: Resources for Caregivers, Parents and Teachers. Association of Christian Schools International. A comprehensive collection of the best and most current thinking on a wide range of topics dealing with the nurturing and education of “missionary kids.”
  • Brooks, Janet R. and Blomberg, David F. (2001). Fitted Pieces: A Guide for Parent’s Educating Children Overseas. SHARE Education Services. The book offers help for parents in fitting together the important components of educating children cross-culturally. It is designed to help parents make informed decisions about an educational plan that is workable and appropriate for their family.
  • Bushong, Lois (2013). Belonging Everywhere and Nowhere: Insights into Counseling the Globally Mobile. Readers will discover what are the basic characteristics and counseling skills effective with Third Culture Kids (those who have spent the majority of their developmental years outside of their passport country).
  • Chen, Trudy (2012). The BuddhaPest (Third Culture Kid Chronicles Book 1).Marc Gomez finds himself alone in a Hungarian boarding school when his mother, a US Army Colonel is deployed to the Middle East. Soon, he becomes friends with a group of cross cultural misftits which he has nothing in common with except the English language.
  • Copeland, Anne (Ph.D.) and Bennett, Georgia (2001). Understanding American Schools: The Answers to Newcomer’s Most Frequently Asked Questions. The Interchange Institute. This book guides newcomers to the United States, or those who have been abroad for a long time, about the challenges of understanding the U.S. school system. Foreign born spouses might find this book especially helpful. info@interchangeinstitute.org.
  • Fenzi, Jewell with Nelson, Carl L. (1994). Married to the Foreign Service: An Oral History of the American Diplomatic Spouse. Twayne Publishers. 170 individuals offer candid and revealing testimony about the lives and roles of Foreign Service spouses through interviews spanning the twentieth century.
  • Gardner, Marilyn R. (2014). Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging. These essays explore the rootlessness and grief as well as the unexpected moments of humor and joy that are a part of living between two worlds. Between Worlds charts a journey between the cultures of East and West, the comfort of being surrounded by loved ones and familiar places, and the loneliness of not belonging.
  • Hess, Melissa Brayer and Linderman, Patricia (2002). The Expert Expatriate. Nicholas Brealey Publishing/Intercultural Press. An easy-to-follow guidebook full of practical and useful suggestions on successfully relocating overseas.
  • Jehle-Caitcheon, Ngaire (2003). Parenting Abroad. Aletheia Publications. Written by an expatriate, who lived abroad for twenty-six years, this guide provides useful insights on the many and complicated issues that arise as one raises children abroad.
  • Johnson, Spencer (1998,2002). Who Moved My Cheese?, Who Moved My Cheese? for Teens, and Who Moved My Cheese? for Kids. Putnam Press. This is parable about how each of the four characters react differently to change in their lives. The parallels with Foreign Service life are obvious.
  • Kalb, Rosalind and Welch, Penelope (1992). Moving Your Family Overseas. Intercultural Press. The authors of this book are Americans who draw on their personal experiences to balance general advice and detailed suggestions as they explore the major issues in raising children in the internationally mobile lifestyle.
  • Langford, Mary et. al. (2002). The Essential Guide for Teachers in International Schools. John Catt Educational Ltd. A roadmap for future international schoolteachers; a lantern on the road to understanding and interacting with other cultures in an international environment. Insight into what to expect for those contemplating teaching overseas.
  • Maxfield, B. (2000). Up, Up, and Away!!!! Washington, DC: Foreign Service Youth Foundation. FSYF@fsyf.org. Paperback. Mainly for the kids themselves.
  • Meltzer, Gail and Grandjean, Elaine (1989) The Moving Experience: A Practical Guide to Pyschological Survival. Cleveland: Multilingual Matters, Ltd. This book gives practical suggestions for surviving the psychological stresses and challenges of moving for both local and international moves.
  • McCluskey, K. C. (Ed.). (1994). Notes from a Traveling Childhood: Reading for International Mobile Parents and Children. Washington, DC: Foreign Service Youth Foundation FSYF@fsyf.org. Paperback. Writings intended to bring to life, the exciting and challenging experience of the “Foreign Service” life-style.
  • Murray, Taylor (2013). Hidden in My Heart: A TCKs Journey through Cultural Transition. Written as a series of individual prayers to God, Hidden in My Heart tells Taylor’s story as she transparently unloads her grief and anger on Him and, surprisingly, finds Him willing to listen and bring her to a place of healing and-ultimately-joy.
  • Nelson, D-L (2014). Murder on Insel Poel (Third Culture Kid Mysteries). In this TCK mystery, American Annie Young, a technical writer and historical researcher, enjoys freelance work that takes her to new places. Her new assignment sends her to Insel Poel, a remote island in the north of Germany on the Baltic Sea. This unusual mystery features a strong, intelligent female character and a plot that offers historical interest along with contemporary social issues.
  • Ota, Douglas W. (2014). Safe Passage: how mobility affects people & what international schools should do about it. Firmly grounded in psychological theory and cutting-edge neuroscience, Safe Passage maps the challenges of moving and charts a course for individuals, schools, and accrediting bodies to navigate them.
  • Parker, Elizabeth and Rumrill-Teece, Katharine (2001). Here Today There Tomorrow: A Training Manual for Working with Internationally Mobile Youth. Washington, DC: Foreign Service Youth Foundation FSYF@fsyf.org. Lesson plans for guiding teens through constructive discussion about the challenges of transition.
  • Pascoe, Robin (2000). Homeward Bound: A Spouse’s Guide to Repatriation. Expatriate Press. Written to help better prepare the globally nomadic family to gain the greatest benefits from their experiences, this book covers topics ranging from re-entry shock to marketing one’s international experiences to prospective employers.
  • Piet-Pelon, Nancy and Hornby, Barbara (1985). In Another Dimension: A Guide for Women Who Live Overseas. Intercultural Press. Good, solid, practical advice to help women take advantage of one of life’s greatest opportunities… that of sharing in another culture.
  • Pollack, David C. and Van Reken, Ruth (2017). The Third Culture Kids 3rd Edition: Growing Up Among Worlds. Nicholas Brealey Publishing. Based on both research and the personal stories of countless individuals, this book fully explores the various implications of growing up abroad as a “Third Culture Kid” by individuals. In this 3rd edition of the ground-breaking, global classic, Ruth E. Van Reken and Michael V. Pollock, son of the late original co-author, David C. Pollock have significantly updated what is widely recognized as The TCK Bible.
  • Price, Julianne (2018). The Adventurers Club. Moving to a new home can be a tremendous journey for parents and children alike. The Adventurers Club was written to help families god no through that transition. Speaking directly to the reader, the sibling duo of The Adventurers Club invite children to joint them as they turn packing boxes into pirate ships, empty rooms into art canvases, strangers into friends, and a new house into home. Illustrated by Marie Wiscombe.
  • Seaman, Paul Asbury (1997). Paper Airplanes in the Himalayas – the Unfinished Path Home. Cross Cultural Publications. An autobiographical account by a “Third Culture Kid” of his journey from his childhood in Pakistan, to boarding school for missionary kids to the struggle in his adult years to find a sense of belonging. Recounts one mans struggles to find peace with the Third Culture Kid experience.
  • Simens, Julia (2012). Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child: Practical Storytelling Techniques that will Strengthen the Global Family. Provides a step-by-step guide that is designed to increase a child’s emotional vocabulary and emotional intelligence.
  • Smith, Carolyn (1996) Strangers at Home: Essays on the Effects of Living Overseas and Coming “Home” to a Strange Land. Aletheia Publications. The editor of this book is a Foreign Service spouse who understands well the full implications of the international nomadic lifestyle. The compilations of essays by others who have been through it offer many insights, as well as practical suggestions for helping children – especially teenagers – to adjust.
  • Stepanek, Vanessa (2000). Riding the Crosswinds. Johnson Printing “A journey as seen through the eyes of a young girl growing up abroad, always moving and travelling, as she is exposed to the hidden messages of the world.”
  • Summerfield, Ellen (1997). Survival Kit for Multicultural Living. Intercultural Press, Inc. An insightful examination of the cultural and ethnic cross-currents that have swept the United States. The author offers concrete steps the reader can take toward successful multicultural living.
  • Taber, Sara Mansfield (1997). Of Many Lands: Journal of a Travelling Childhood. Washington, DC: Foreign Service Youth Foundation FSYF@fsyf.org. A journal for people brought up on foreign countries, the author allows the reader to record his/her international experiences with samples of her own journal entrees.

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