Types of Schools for K-12 Students: Families Have a Choice
When you hear terms like charter school, online learning, and magnet school, are you confused, intrigued – or a little of both? Different types of schools offer a variety of teaching styles, curriculum, philosophies, and learning opportunities.
The good news is that, whether your child is starting kindergarten, middle school, or high school, you have the power of choice in your child‘s education. The key to choosing the best school is to know your child and to know (and understand) your school options. Read on as we demystify the many types of schools you can choose from.
Other Types of Schools
These schools are funded by the government, so families pay no tuition. Public schools must follow state education regulations and curriculum (although this varies, as explained below).
What makes them special: Attending a neighborhood school can make it easy for your child to get to school, to work with classmates on group projects, and make friends who live nearby.
- Your local school district will assign your child to a particular school in your neighborhood.
- Some school districts allow intra-district transfers, meaning you can request that your child attend a different public school in your district.
- If you’d rather your child attend a school outside your district and closer to your workplace or your child‘s after-school caregiver, you may be able to request that.
- In cities that offer school choice, families apply to have their children attend schools (public and private) of their choice, anywhere in their city. Vouchers may be granted to help pay private school tuition.
What makes them special: Charter schools are set up independently by teachers, parents, and others who desire better learning opportunities.
- Students are not assigned to charter schools; parents must request enrollment.
- Parents, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs, and others are free to create their own curriculum and programs.
- Emphasis is on parent involvement.
- Charter schools are not ruled by the local and state regulations that apply to traditional public schools. Designated local, state, or other organizations monitor their quality
- These schools have strict accountability for academic results and financial practices.
What makes them special: A magnet school has a specific focus, such as science, technology, or the arts.
- Magnet schools are designed to attract students from diverse social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds.
- Some magnet schools require students to take an entrance exam or demonstrate knowledge or skill in the school’s specialty to qualify to go to the school, while others are open to students who express an interest in the school’s focus.
What makes them special: Students learn by using a computer through a virtual (online) school rather than in a traditional classroom.
- Virtual schools have an organized curriculum.
- Depending on the state and district, students can take the full curriculum or select classes.
- Online schools allow students learn at their own pace.
- Virtual education can provide specialized or advanced courses in remote areas that don’t have local access to such classes.
What makes them special: These are rigorous academic courses. Students who take Advanced Placement (AP) courses may earn college credit if they score well on the national AP exam.
- High school students can choose to take Advanced Placement courses in one or several subject areas.
What makes them special: These are challenging academic programs that are recognized worldwide.
- Students who complete this type of program earn an International Baccalaureate diploma recognized by colleges and universities all over the world.
- Students may choose not to take the full IB curriculum but earn certificates in specific subjects.
- Some elementary and middle schools offer elements of the IB program.
Private (non-public) schools support parents' specific beliefs about how their children should be educated. Tuition is required.
What makes them special: Many of these schools are affiliated with specific religious denominations, local churches, or faiths.
- Most private schools are religious, so they are widely available.
- Students are not always required to practice a certain religion or belong to the church to attend the school.
What makes them special: There are several types of schools in this category, designed to match the values, academic goals, and budgets of individual families.
- These private schools have no religious identity or affiliation.
- “College prep” schools are designed to prepare students for college.
- Some private schools are based on a unique educational philosophy or approach. Examples include Montessori and Waldorf schools.
- Certain private schools focus on educating students with disabilities.
Other Types of Schools
Students who don’t learn and thrive in traditional school settings may find a better fit in one of the following types of schools.
What makes it special: Parents teach their children at home, using a flexible curriculum tailored to the child and family.
- Rules and requirements for homeschools are determined by each state’s department of education. Parents should know what their state requires.
- There are national companies and organizations who provide materials and support for parents who homeschool their kids.
- Families can enrich their education experience by joining local homeschool groups and utilizing local resources, including some through the public school system.
What makes them special: These are smaller educational settings in which teachers can provide more individualized support, counseling, transition goals, and life skills training for students who are at-risk and some special education students.
- These schools work with the public school system.
- Students who didn’t “fit in” academically and socially at other schools often feel more comfortable here.
What makes them special: These schools connect school to work through targeted education and work-based learning.
- Many students are motivated by the practical focus of this curriculum.
- Students receive training in trades and careers that interest them.
- Students earn a high school diploma and a solid foundation for college and/or career.
What makes them special: Older students who have dropped out of high school can earn the equivalent of a high school diploma in a non-high school setting.
- GED programs are often part of an adult education setting with smaller classes, individualized instruction, and a shorter school day.
Now that you’re aware of the various types of schools that exist, you can make a more informed choice about your child’s education. Refer to these articles for more information:
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