North Dakota School Choice Roadmap

By: National School Choice Week Team

Last Upated: January 19, 2023

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

 If you live in North Dakota and are making a decision about K-12 education for your child, this post is for you. Where you send your child to school impacts whether they are inspired, happy, and equipped for success! While North Dakota offers fewer options than most states, there are still choices. You can choose from traditional public schools, private schools, online academies, homeschooling, and learning pods. North Dakota does not currently have public charter schools and public magnet schools, but it may in the future!

Looking for special education options? You can learn what special education services are available in North Dakota at the Ultimate Guide to Special Education.

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Traditional public schools do not charge tuition. They are managed by school districts and do not require students to pass tests to enroll.
Public charter schools do not charge tuition. They are usually managed by nonprofit organizations and do not require students to pass tests to enroll.
Public magnet schools do not charge tuition. They are managed by school districts and focus on themes, such as math, science, technology, and the arts.
Private schools charge tuition, but scholarships are often available via state programs or by individual schools. Private schools are privately managed and can be faith-based or secular.

      North Dakota Traditional Public Schools

      Most North Dakota families choose traditional public schools. Operated by school districts, these are free to attend, open to all students, and funded by taxpayers. On average, North Dakota spends $14,242 per public school student each year. You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.

      In North Dakota, the state allows each district to set its own open enrollment policies. Open enrollment refers to whether parents can send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located. North Dakota parents wanting to transfer their child to a different public school than the one they are assigned should contact their local school district to see if this is an option. For an example of what the transfer process may look like, check out West Fargo Public Schools’ in-district transfer request guidelines.

      Open enrollment is an important form of public school choice, widening parents options and ensuring that their zip code isn’t the sole determiner of their education. In some cases, such as when a transferring student was a victim of violence, transportation assistance may be available

      Find out more about public schools in your state at the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

      North Dakota Charter Schools

      North Dakota is one of only five states that have not yet passed laws allowing public charter schools. Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that are allowed the freedom to innovate while being held accountable for student achievement. The school’s charter describes what unique community need the school seeks to fill, and the school may be authorized by a governing body, a college, or a school board. 

      While North Dakota families cannot yet choose public charters, this may be an option in the future. 

      North Dakota Magnet Schools

      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. Unfortunately, there are no freestanding public magnet schools currently in operation in North Dakota. There may be magnet programs in traditional public schools, and the law allows for independent magnet schools, so stay tuned in the future! 

      North Dakota Private Schools

      Families in North Dakota 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. There are more than 50 private schools across the state of North Dakota. These schools come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs.

      The average tuition for private schools in the state is $4,010 for elementary schools and $6,950 for high schools. Unfortunately, there are no state-run scholarship options in North Dakota at present, but private scholarships may be available. Also, since 2018, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts.

      Learn more at Private School Review: North Dakota.

      North Dakota Online Learning

      Don’t overlook online learning, which 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 there is not currently a free full-time option for North Dakota students statewide, elementary through high school students may enroll in part-time or full-time courses through the North Dakota Center for Distance Education for a fee. Families can enroll in courses at any time throughout the year, and most courses do not have a set deadline. The Center for Distance Education offers more than 400 different courses, including Advanced Placement courses and career and technical courses. The organization  does not supply free technology and wifi to families, so students must have access to these at home.

      Besides the North Dakota Center for Distance Education, students can also consider other paid online school options, like George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy.

      Additionally, some North Dakota districts offer blended or online programs, such as Mandan Virtual Academy. In some cases, out-of-district students can transfer in through an agreement with the student’s home district.

      To read more about online learning in North Dakota, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

      North Dakota Homeschooling

      Homeschooling is another school choice in North Dakota. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home; all 50 states allow it.

      In North Dakota, notice of your intent to homeschool is required at least 14 days prior to starting or within 14 days of moving and annually after that. Also, it is recommended that you formally withdraw from your public school so your student is not marked truant.

      The state requires homeschooling parents to teach specific subjects (like reading, math, and physical education) and also requires standardized testing in certain grades. If you are interested in participating in sports or activities at your local public school, contact your district to ask about their policies – in some cases, homeschoolers may be eligible. In the case that you decide to return to public school, you may submit record-keeping documentation to the superintendent of your school.

      If you are looking for a highly customizable and flexible education for your child and think homeschooling could fit the bill, check out a great how-to about homeschooling in North Dakota. You may also want to check out the North Dakota Home School Association.

      North Dakota Learning Pods

      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.

      Self-Directed 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 North Dakota. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA.

      If your learning pod contains more than two families and will have parents or other teachers leading unique classes just for your school, it may qualify as a private school. You can read more about what North Dakota classifies as a private school, how they’re regulated, and how to start one.

      Learning Support Pods:

      If your child is enrolled in an existing online school or local public, charter, or private school, and uses that school’s curriculum under the supervision of an adult in a learning pod, you do not need to register as a homeschool or private school.

      a child in a scarf celebrates school choice in North Dakota

      Education Resources for North Dakota Parents 

      For additional information about school choice in North Dakota, visit these resources: 


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