- Your State
Last Upated: April 15, 2021
Massachusetts parents, this post is for you. Each year you face one of the biggest decisions you can make on behalf of your child: Where to send your child to school.
Each child is unique. So, the “best” school for your neighbor’s child may look different than the “best” school for your child. Knowing all your K-12 options can help you find a school where your child is eager to attend and actively learning.
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Massachusetts’s traditional public schools are operated by school districts, free to attend, open to all students, and funded by federal, state, and local government. Massachusetts spends an average of $14,529 per public school student each year.
In Massachusetts, each district decides whether it will participate in open enrollment. “Open enrollment” allows parents to send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located. If you are interested in transferring your child to a different public school than you are assigned, you should talk to your local school district to learn whether it is available for you. Open enrollment is a valuable option for parents because it gives them more opportunities within the public school system, allowing them to select the school that best matches their child’s needs.
Parents are generally responsible for transportation when their student is participating in open enrollment, unless the transfer addresses racial imbalances or the student qualifies for free or reduced price lunch.
Find out more about public schools in your state here: Massachusetts’ Department of Education.
Also, Massachusetts families can choose charter schools! These schools are tuition-free public schools that are also open to all students; charter schools differ from traditional public school in that they are allowed extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods. Massachusetts currently has more than 70 charter schools that parents can choose from.
Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves, whether that be providing a language immersion program or offering a rigorous, literacy-based curriculum. Charter schools are also held accountable to authorizing entities. If there are more families seeking admittance to a charter school than there are seats, an old-fashioned lottery system is usually used to randomly determine admittance.
Learn more from the Massachusetts Charter School Association.
Depending on where you live, you may have access to a third type of public school: magnet schools. These schools are free public schools that allow kids to focus on specific themes, like science or the performing arts. Massachusetts has just a handful of magnet schools, such as Worcester Arts Magnet School and Tatnuck Magnet School. A magnet school may be a good choice if your student learns best by diving deeply into a subject they are passionate about. Contact your school district to learn if there any magnet schools or programs near you.
Families in Massachusetts can also consider private schools, nonpublic schools that charge tuition. Private schools may offer a unique curriculum, smaller class sizes, or a faith-based tradition. Massachusetts’s private schools come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs. There are more than 500 private schools across the state.
The average tuition for private schools in Massachusetts is $21,668 per year, but keep in mind that schools often are more affordable at the elementary level than high school. Unfortunately, there are no state-run scholarship options in Massachusetts at present, but private scholarships may be available. Also, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts.
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. Students in Massachusetts may attend one of two free public virtual schools, either full-time or part-time, with an agreement from the local school district. Private virtual schools are also available.
As of December 2020, Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School is accepting applications, with a waitlist for grades K and 3 only. At TEC Connections Academy, places are available in grades 9-12.
At Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School, a Chromebook is available to every student enrolled. At TEC Connections Academy, one laptop and internet subsidy can be requested per household.
Homeschooling is another school option for Massachusetts families; this is a great option if you are looking for a hands-on, highly-customizable approach to your child’s education. All 50 states allow homeschooling, which is the process of parents educating students at home.
In Massachusetts, notice of your intent to homeschool is required in most districts; however, it does vary depending on your zoned district so check into their guidance. It is recommended that you formally withdraw from your public school so your student is not marked truant. In the case that you decide to return to public school in the middle of the school year, your school requires notification within 30 days of your intent to switch. Public high schools will not accept homeschool credits.
Check out great resources about homeschooling specific to Massachusetts. You may also want to check out the Massachusetts Home Learning Association or the Massachusetts Homeschool Organization of Parent Educations (MassHOPE).
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 Massachusetts. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA here. Note that homeschoolers may still be eligible to participate in classes, sports, or activities at local public schools.
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. You can read more about what Massachusetts 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 free public virtual schools that are available to students statewide and private online schools available for a fee.
In Massachusetts, the state allows learning pods of up to five families to operate without a license, as long as one parent is present at all times and payment is limited to compensation for food and materials.
For additional information about school choices in Massachusetts 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!
Massachusetts celebrated National School Choice Week 2021 with 436 virtual events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Massachusetts.
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