Understanding Greater Phoenix K-12 School System

Learn about the school system in Arizona and Greater Phoenix, including the required levels of school, grading systems, types of schools offered and how to begin enrolling your student.

Primary Levels of School

Children are typically divided into grades based on their age, ranging from kindergarten (5 to 6-year-olds) and first grade (6 to 7-year-olds) for the youngest children to twelfth grade for the oldest children (17 to 18-year-olds). Students in the United States may attend college or university after graduating from high school (12th grade). “Higher education” refers to college or university studies.

Between the ages of six and sixteen, children in Arizona are required to attend school. Below are the grade levels and groups corresponding to each year within this range.

Elementary School

Elementary school typically includes kindergarten and grades one through five. In Arizona, children are normally five to six years old when they begin elementary school at the kindergarten level.

Middle School

Middle school, also known as Junior High, usually starts at grade six and ends at grade eight. School categorization of middle school can vary — some school consider grade five through eight middle school, while others only include grade seven and eight.

High School

High school encompasses grades nine to 12. There are names for each grade level in high school:

  • 9th grade: freshman 
  • 10th grade: sophomore
  • 11th grade: junior  
  • 12th grade: senior

Types of Schools, Grading & Enrollment

Elementary School Classroom

Public vs. Private Schools

The majority of children in Arizona attend traditional public schools. Traditional public schools are open to all students, free to attend, run by school districts and are funded by taxpayers.

In Arizona, there are approximately 450 private schools. These private schools offer a variety of specialties, ranging from religious schools to schools to those designed for children with special needs. Cost can also vary based on the type of private school.

U.S. Grading System

Official copies of your student’s academic work are called academic transcripts. This includes class “grades” and a “grade point average” (GPA) in the United States, which are measures of academic achievement.

Percentages are commonly used to grade courses, which are then converted into letter grades. A, B, C, D, and F are the most common letter grades awarded for course participation (from highest to lowest). A+, A, A, B+, B, B, C+, C, C, D+, D, D, and F are all variations on the traditional five-grade system. D is usually the lowest passing grade in primary and secondary school. However, some schools consider a C to be the lowest passing grade, so the general rule is that anything less than a 60 percent or 70 percent, depending on the grading scale, is considered failing. Learn more about school letter grades from the Arizona State Board of Education.

school library

How to Enroll Your Student

Public school enrollment in Arizona is unrestricted — this means regardless of where you live or where the school is located you can send your child to any public school in Arizona. The open enrollment policies of each district are available in both English and Spanish. 

To enroll your child in public school, you will need to provide proof of age and identity, proof of residence and immunization records. While most private schools ask for the same requirements, their admission requirements can vary. Contact private schools directly for confirmation.

There are 58 school districts in Maricopa County. To find your school district visit the Maricopa County Recorder interactive map.

To find more data about schools including enrollment, attendance, and trends see the MAG Schools Data Center.