Guide to School Choice in Rhode Island

By: National School Choice Week Team

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

If you’re looking for a great school for your child, you’re not alone. Thousands of other Rhode Island parents are making K-12 educational options for their children every year. You can do it!

There are a variety of K-12 education options available for Rhode Island families. Knowing these options can help you find a learning environment where your child is able not just to “get by” at school, but to learn and thrive.  

In Rhode Island, families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.

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Rhode Island Traditional Public Schools

Most Rhode Island families choose traditional public schools, which are operated by school districts, free to attend, open to all students, and funded by federal, state, and local government. Rhode Island spends, on average, $15,320 per public school pupil each year. 

In Rhode Island, the state allows each district decides 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. Rhode Island 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. Open enrollment can be a valuable form of public school choice, widening parents’ options and ensuring that their zip code isn’t the sole determiner of their children’s education.

Rhode Island Charter Schools

Rhode Island families can currently choose from about 30 public charter schools. Like traditional public schools, charter schools are public, free, and typically have no requirements for entry. What distinguishes charter schools is that they have extra freedom to innovate with learning methods and are accountable to authorizing bodies for results. 

Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves. That could be providing a STEM program or offering a rigorous, literacy-based curriculum. If there are more families seeking admittance to a charter school than there are seats, a lottery system (like drawing random names out of a hat!)  is usually used to determine admittance. 

Rhode Island Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are free public schools that allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, such as engineering or the performing arts. Magnet schools teach all subjects through the lenses of that track. If you live near one of Rhode Island’s magnet schools and its theme interests your child, it could be an exciting option to consider. 

Rhode Island Private Schools

Families can also choose private schools. These are nonpublic schools that charge tuition and come in all shapes and sizes. Private schools offer a unique learning environment that may be smaller in size, pass on a faith tradition, or provide a curriculum not available in your district school. 

At Providence Hebrew Day School, for instance, students receive an education rooted in Jewish tradition. “My perspective is never on removing or taking away from the public schools, but much more just to highlight the strengths of a strong private school education and how the kids end up and where they go,” said dean Rabbi Scheinerman. “Every parent should be entitled to pick and choose the education that works best for their kids.”

Rhode Island families below a certain income level qualify for a state-run scholarship program. Also, effective in 2018, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts.

Rhode Island Online Learning

Don’t overlook online learning! It offers a uniquely flexible learning environment that meets a variety of family needs. Whether your child wants to accelerate learning or needs a quieter, stress-free environment to focus in, you may be interested in trying virtual school. In some Rhode Island districts, students in grades 3-12 can enroll in online courses. But, they must register through their local school district. Contact your local public school for more information on tuition and enrollment.

Rhode Island Homeschooling

Rhode Island families can also choose to homeschool, a great option if you are looking for high levels of personalization in learning. All 50 states allow homeschooling, which is the process of parents educating students at home. You can learn more about Rhode Island homeschooling at the state’s Department of Education page, or check out this great how-to from the Home School Legal Defense Association

Education Resources for Rhode Island Parents 

For additional information about school choices in Pennsylvania, visit these resources: 

School Choice Celebrations in Rhode Island

National School Choice Week 2021 will take place January 24 – 30, 2021. We encourage all schools, homeschool groups, organizations and individuals to join the celebration. Click here for ideas, inspiration, and more information! 

Rhode Island celebrated National School Choice Week 2020 with a record-breaking 169 events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Rhode Island.

Visit State Page


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