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Where should my child go to school? What class or grade will she/he be in? Is the system of education in the USA compatible with that in my home country? This section aims at providing this information to you.

We also recommend the book "Understanding American Schools" by Anne P. Copeland and Georgia Bennett. You can obtain a copy from the Interchange Institute online, by calling 617-566-2227, or by sending a fax to 617-277-0889. You may also borrow one from spouses&partners; contact Jennifer Recklet for information.

How does the school system work?

The United States education system can be divided into 4 stages: Elementary, Middle School, High School, and College. Elementary school generally begins at the age of 5 (although the starting age can vary from town to town). Kindergarten is typically considered a part of elementary school. Due to age cutoffs some children may spend 2 years in kindergarten, Junior-K and K.

Please note: Preschool is for children aged 2.5 - 5 years and is the stage before Kindergarten.

Some elementary schools go from Kindergarten to Grade 5, and thus middle school start from Grade 6. For other towns, elementary schools include Grade 6, and there are only two grades in Middle (Junior High) schools, 7th and 8th. The final four years of school are called High School. At the end of high school, students in Massachusetts take the MCAS exam to graduate from school.

After high school, students can continue their education by going to a college or university for an undergraduate degree (Bachelors) and graduate degrees (Master’s, PhD).

While most children attend public schools, there are also many private schools in the area. Public schools are run by the local city or town and are free to those living within the area. Private schools, including international, parochial or religious schools, are independently-run and the tuition fee varies. Another type of school is charter schools; they are funded by the state but have their own independent curriculum.

For more information please consult:

MIT Work-Life Center
The office is a good source of information regarding this subject. They provide you with information about the school system in general as well as information about the particular school systems in the different cities in the greater Boston area.

Cambridge Public Schools

Which areas have better schools? How do I choose a school for my child?

In the United States, your child can attend public school only in the school district or town where you live. In the Cambridge public school system, there are 12 elementary-only and elementary-middle schools and 1 high school. If your child is of lower-school age, you can select your top 3 school choices and your child will be assigned to one based on space availability and other factors.

The Cambridge Public School website has some information to help you choose a school.

As with any other place, some schools are better than others and some districts have better schools than others.

Some parents find school rankings helpful. There are websites that provide rankings based purely on the schools’ performance in academic standardized tests (MCAS). Others take into account student-teacher ratios and other factors. However, a school that is highly ranked may not be a good fit for you and your child. Taking a tour of the school and talking to the teachers who may be teaching your child is another way to help you select a school. Also, try to connect with parents who have school-age children. FamilyNet is a place where you can post your questions.

We suggest that you contact:

MIT Work-Life Center
Building 16-151
Phone: 617-253-1592

The office can provide you with public and private school listings as well as community and school district data on academic achievement, student teacher ratios, etc. They also have a list of school profiles in the Boston area, including Cambridge, Somerville, Arlington, Belmont, Lexington, Newton, Waltham and Boston.

Cambridge Public Schools Family Resource Center
15 Upton St, Cambridge 02139

Other sources of information are:

Massachusetts Department of Education and their school profile website.

Local City Websites:

I want to put my child in Kindergarten. What do I need to do?

For the city of Cambridge, any child aged 4 on or before March 31 may enter kindergarten in September of that year.

Prior to making your decision about which school to send your child to, you can schedule a school tour. Schools offer tours and open houses from October through December. If you miss this period, you can call the schools directly for an individual appointment. Each school has a Family Liaison 

The first registration cycle is in January. By registering early you might have a better chance at choosing the school you prefer. Each month afterwards is considered a new cycle. Classes begin in September.

Before beginning school, your child will have to meet certain health and immunization criteria. Please contact the school for more information.

For further information about the enrollment process, contact:

Cambridge Public Schools Family Resource Center
15 Upton St, Cambridge 02139
Phone: 617-349-6551 

For registration forms, school policies, meals programs and more, see:
Cambridge Public School District - Parents, Family & Community

For detailed information about other towns, check these resources at the Massachusetts Department of Education:
School Profiles (search schools by town). Parent Information Center:1-800-297-0002.

How does the school transport system work?

The school transport system is generally very reliable. School buses are usually available for school-age children, elementary through high school. We suggest, however, that you contact your child's school for more specific details, such as "how?", "where?", and "when?" It may also be useful to introduce yourself to the bus driver and attendant of your child's bus.

At the beginning of the school year, you will receive a letter from your school stating the bus your child will be on (some are designated by a poster on the window such as Red Lobster, Purple Dragon, etc), the place where the bus stops (for Westgate, it is the corner of Audrey & Vassar streets), and the times for pick-up and drop-off. If you enroll in the middle of the school year, your child’s school will arrange this for you.

Learn more about Cambridge Public School Transportation.

Please note that preschool children are not accommodated by the school bus system in most towns and cities.

Last Updated: April 2010