Finding the Best Schools in Washington, D.C., After Moving

Kids drawing in class in one of the best schools in Washington, D.C.

One of the top priorities for parents moving to a new city is ensuring their children attend good schools. Washington, D.C., is home to several educational institutions, each offering unique programs and opportunities. This guide will help you find the best schools in Washington, D.C., after your move.

Utilizing Relocation Services

Moving to a new city can be overwhelming, especially when you need to find the right school for your child. Utilizing the services of relocation professionals can ease this process significantly. These experts can provide valuable insights into neighborhoods with top-rated schools and offer recommendations from personal experiences. Most importantly, they can assist with logistical aspects of the move, freeing up your time to focus on researching and visiting potential schools. Using moving professionals can ensure a smoother transition for your child into their new educational environment.

Understanding the Washington, D.C., School System

Washington, D.C., has a diverse and complex school system. It includes public schools, public charter schools, private schools, and specialized programs. The District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) is the main public school district, while the DC Public Charter School Board oversees charter schools. Understanding the differences between these types of schools is the first step in making an informed decision.

Public Schools 

Public schools in Washington, D.C., are free for residents and funded by tax dollars. The DCPS operates 116 elementary, middle, and high schools. These schools follow a standard curriculum set by the district, but many offer specialized programs such as International Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced Placement (AP), and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

To determine which public school your child will attend, you must know your assigned school based on your home address. You can use the DCPS school finder tool on their website to find your in-boundary school. Some public schools in D.C. have a lottery system for out-of-boundary students, so it’s essential to research and apply early if you are interested in schools outside your designated boundary.

Public Charter Schools 

These schools operate independently of the DCPS and have more flexibility in their curriculum and teaching methods. There are over 120 public charter schools in D.C., serving a variety of educational needs and preferences.

Charter schools often focus on specific areas such as arts, language immersion, or STEM. Admission to charter schools is typically through a lottery system, and applications are usually submitted in the spring for the following school year. The My School DC website provides a common application for both public and charter schools, making it easier to apply to multiple schools at once.

Private Schools 

Private schools are tuition-based and provide various educational philosophies, religious affiliations, and specialized programs. They often have smaller class sizes, which can lead to more individualized attention for students.

When choosing a private school, it’s important to consider the school’s accreditation, reputation, and your child’s specific needs. Many private schools in D.C. require entrance exams, interviews, and detailed applications. Visiting schools and speaking with current parents and students can provide valuable insights into the school environment and culture.

Specialized Programs and Magnet Schools

In addition to traditional public, charter, and private schools, Washington, D.C., has several specialized programs and magnet schools. These schools offer focused curricula in areas such as the arts, sciences, and technology. For example, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts is renowned for its rigorous arts program. At the same time, the School Without Walls High School focuses on a college preparatory curriculum with strong partnerships with local universities.

Magnet schools often have competitive admissions processes, including auditions, portfolios, and entrance exams. It’s crucial to research these programs early and understand the requirements and deadlines.

Resources for Evaluating Schools

Finding the best schools in Washington, D.C., involves thorough research and utilizing available resources. Here are some tools and tips to help you evaluate schools:

  • This website provides ratings, reviews, and detailed information about schools nationwide, including D.C. You can compare schools based on test scores, student demographics, and parent reviews.
  • School Tours and Open Houses: Visiting schools in person allows you to see the facilities, meet the staff, and get a feel for the school environment. Many schools offer tours and open houses throughout the year.
  • Parent and Community Forums: Online forums and social media groups can provide firsthand accounts and experiences from other parents. These insights can be invaluable in making your decision.
  • School Report Cards: The DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) publishes annual report cards for all public and charter schools. These report cards include data on academic performance, graduation rates, and school climate.
  • Word of Mouth: Talking to neighbors, coworkers, and friends who live in D.C. can provide recommendations and insights you might not find online.

Planning Your Move with Education in Mind

When planning your move to Washington, D.C., it’s beneficial to start researching schools early. Here are some steps to consider.

Research Neighborhoods

Choose a neighborhood that aligns with your lifestyle and offers access to quality schools. Websites like provide detailed information about D.C. neighborhoods and their schools. Additionally, researching crime rates, local amenities, and community resources can help you determine if the area is a good fit for your family. It’s also beneficial to visit potential neighborhoods to get a feel for the environment and speak with residents about their experiences.

Contact Schools

Reach out to schools directly to ask questions, request information, and schedule tours. Building a relationship with school staff can be helpful during the application process. It’s also a good idea to inquire about extracurricular activities, special programs, and support services the school offers. This can give you a more comprehensive understanding of what each school can provide for your child. Attending school events or open houses can also provide additional insights and help your child become familiar with their potential new environment.

Prepare Documentation

Gather necessary documents such as proof of residency, immunization records, and academic transcripts. Having these ready will streamline the enrollment process. It’s also important to check if the school requires additional forms, such as medical history or previous school reports. Keeping copies of these documents in digital and physical formats can prevent any last-minute scrambling. 

Final Words on Finding the Best Schools in Washington, D.C.

Finding the best schools in Washington, D.C., after moving, requires careful planning and research. Luckily, Washington, D.C., offers a wealth of educational opportunities, ensuring that you can find the right fit for your child’s academic journey.

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