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Last Upated: May 24, 2022
Choosing where your child goes to school is one of the biggest decisions you face. While it may feel intimidating to navigate your school options in New York and make a choice, you can do it. The best starting point for choosing a good school fit is knowing your options. This post will break down the six main learning environments available in your state.
Looking for special education options? You can learn what special education services are available in New York at the Ultimate Guide to Special Education.
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Most children in New York (and in America) attend traditional public schools. Traditional public schools are free to attend, open to all students, operated by school districts, and funded by taxpayers like you. Each year, New York spends an average of $25,519 per public school student. You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.
In New York, each district decides whether it will participate in open enrollment. Open enrollment is a valuable choice that refers to whether parents can send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located or what their zip code is.
If you would like to participate in open enrollment, check with your local school district to see if this is available. If so, you can visit and select from a wider array of public schools. For example, the New York City Department of Education lists several reasons families may request school transfers. These include an accessibility need, a sibling being at a different school, a travel hardship or move, or a safety concern.
You may also want to visit the New York Department of Education website, learn about New York City’s non-resident enrollment policies, or check out our profile of one sixth-grader at a traditional public school in Buffalo, New York.
You can also choose from charter schools. These are another type of tuition-free, public school open to all students. Charter schools are distinct from traditional public schools in that they have extra freedom to innovate and determine their own policies. As one New York City charter school parent described, “There is a tremendous amount of variety among charter schools… Shop around to find the school that is the best fit for your child’s learning needs.”
As they innovate, charter schools can share the fruits of their innovation with traditional classrooms. In New York, charters are accountable to authorizing entities for student achievement. If there are more families seeking admittance to a charter school than there are seats, a lottery system is usually used to determine admittance.
New York’s first charter school opened in 1999 in Harlem. Today, there are more than 350 charter schools across the state, with many of these located in New York City. Currently there is a cap limiting the number of charter school licenses available in New York City, and there are no more licenses available under this cap.
Magnet schools are free public schools that allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, such as an International Baccalaureate program or the performing arts. At a magnet school, all the subjects are taught through the lenses of that specific track. If there is one near you with a theme that interests your child, it could be a great option to consider.
New York has several magnet schools throughout the state. You can easily search magnet schools in New York City at NYC Magnet Schools. The website offers families application info and information about magnet schools in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens. Other districts with magnet schools or programs include the Rochester City School District and the Buffalo School District. You can also search your local district to learn more.
New York’s private schools feature diverse learning methods. One of the private schools we spoke to, The Learning Tree Cultural Preparatory School, offers students an award-winning drumming program and takes eighth-graders on international trips each year. “Our philosophy is that inner-city children should be able to experience anything that other children experience,” says founder Lois Gregory.
While there are no state-run scholarship options in New York, many private schools, such as The Learning Tree Cultural Preparatory School, work with scholarship-granting organizations to keep tuition affordable for all families who are interested.
Additionally, New York City students with disabilities may be eligible to have private school tuition paid for or reimbursed by the Department of Education when there is not an appropriate public education able to serve their special learning plan. According to WNYC, “Because children with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate public education under federal law, the Education Department may recommend a nonpublic school program if it is unable to provide the services mandated for your child in his or her Individualized Education Program.”
Learn more at the Children’s Scholarship Fund – New York, BISON Children’s Scholarship Fund, Tomorrow’s Hope Foundation, Advocates for Children of New York’s Guide to Special Education, and Private School Review: New York.
Online learning is sometimes overlooked, but it offers a uniquely flexible learning environment that meets a variety of family needs. Whether your child wants to accelerate his or her learning or needs a quieter environment in which to focus, you may be interested in giving virtual school a try.
While most states offer a free, full-time online learning program, New York does not currently do so. However, in some districts, students with medical exemptions may be able to access remote learning programs.
There are also paid online school options that are available to students in New York and all 50 states. These include George Washington University Online High School, The Keystone School, and K12 International Academy.
To read more about online learning in New York, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.
Homeschooling is another school option in all 50 states. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home.
In New York, notice of your intent to homeschool is required within 14 days of starting and annually by July 1. Families in New York City should submit their paperwork to the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Homeschooling. Families outside of New York City should submit to their district’s superintendent. While homeschooling, families should also submit an annual individual home instruction plan and quarterly reports.
Homeschooling parents are required to teach specific subjects (such as reading, writing, and physical education) and assess their child annually. In general, children who are homeschooled may face roadblocks if they want to participate in public school sports or activities in New York. However, other sports leagues and activities are available.
In the case that you decide to return to public school, the school will determine your student’s placement based on records, potential assessments, and the principal’s decision.
If you are looking for a highly customizable and flexible education for your child and think homeschooling could fit the bill, view these resources about homeschooling specific to New York.
Micro-schools, pods, pandemic pods, and learning pods all refer to the same concept: students gathering together in a small group – with adult supervision – to learn, explore, and socialize. Pods themselves can take a variety of legal forms, but in general they can be separated into two categories: self-directed pod (homeschool, homeschool collaborative, or micro-school) and learning support pod. It’s important to understand what kind of pod you are signing up for and the requirements that go along with it. Learn more about learning pods.
If your learning pod or micro-school is choosing its own curriculum and each family is directing their own children’s schooling, it likely qualifies as a homeschool in New York. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA.
If your learning pod contains more than two families and will have teachers leading unique classes just for your school, it may qualify as a private school. The NY Department of Education says that, “Where groups of parents organize to provide group instruction by a tutor for a majority of the instructional program, they are operating a nonpublic school and are no longer providing home instruction.” You can read more about what New York classifies as a private school, how they’re regulated, and how to start one.
If your child is going to be enrolled in remote learning through your local public school and supervised by an adult in your learning pod, you do not need to register as a homeschool or private school. Keep in mind that you have multiple online learning options, including enrolling in a full-time private online school for a fee.
For additional information about school choices in New York, visit these resources:
National School Choice Week 2022 will take place January 23 – 29, 2022. We encourage all schools, homeschool groups, organizations and individuals to join the celebration. Check out ideas, inspiration, and more information!
New York will celebrate National School Choice Week 2022 with 1,339 events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in New York.
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