State: Rhode Island

Rhode Island State Guide

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 parents are making school choice options for their children in Rhode Island 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 learning, homeschooling, and microschooling and mix-and-match learning.

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

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, $18,366 per public school pupil each year. In Rhode Island, 79.4% of all K-12 students are enrolled in traditional public schools.

In Rhode Island, 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. 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. In some cases, the state provides transportation for students who attend a school outside their city or town. 

The transfer process and timeline will vary by district. For a real-world example, check out North Providence School Department’s guidelines for transfers within the district.

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. You can find out more about public schools in your state at the Rhode Island Department of Education. You can also learn more about open enrollment at “Public Schools Without Boundaries: A 50-State Ranking.”

Rhode Island Charter Schools

Rhode Island families can currently choose from about 35 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. In Rhode Island, 8.1% of all K-12 students are enrolled in public charter schools.

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.

The application period for charter school enrollment in Rhode Island is typically late-November through mid-March. In 2022, a record number of families applied to Rhode Island charters — schools received 23,263 applications for 2,353 available seats!

Rhode Island first passed charter school legislation in 1995. Charter schools may be authorized by school districts, nonprofit organizations, colleges, or even the mayor of a city or town.

Free transportation is provided to all Rhode Island charter school students living within their school district’s bus route. Out-of-district students may also receive transportation if they reside within the bus route of the district and submit a yearly request.

The bus regions are as follows:

Region 1: The towns of Burrillville, North Smithfield, and Cumberland, and the city of Woonsocket

Region 2: The county of Kent, except the town of West Greenwich, and the towns of Foster, Glocester, and Scituate

Region 3: The towns of Lincoln, Smithfield, Johnston, North Providence, and Barrington, and the cities of Cranston, Central Falls, East Providence, Pawtucket, and Providence

Region 4: The county of Washington and the towns of Jamestown and West Greenwich

Region 5: The towns of Little Compton, Middletown, Portsmouth, Warren, and Bristol, and Tiverton, and the city of Newport

Students with special needs and an Individualized Education Program (IEP) are eligible for transportation assistance.

Learn more about the state’s charters at The Rhode Island League of Charter Schools.

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. Rhode Island has just a couple of magnet schools at present, such as Classical High School in Providence, which focuses on study of the arts, languages, and humanities.  If you live near a magnet school 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.”

There are about 170 private schools across the state of Rhode Island. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $13,492 for elementary schools and $27,082 for high schools.

Rhode Island students whose family incomes are at or below 250% of the poverty level ($69,375 for a family of four in 2022-2023) are eligible for private school scholarships of varying amounts. In 2022, nearly 500 (0.3%) students participated in the scholarship program and received an average of $2,890 in scholarship funding. 

Learn more at the Diocese of Providence Catholic School Directory, the Rhode Island Scholarship Alliance, and Private School Review: Rhode Island.

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.

While most states offer free, full-time online learning, Rhode Island does not currently do so. Rhode Island Connections Academy offered a free, full-time online learning option for Rhode Island students in 2021 and 2022, but closed at the end of the 2022-2023 school year. 

However, there are paid, full-time online learning options available to students in all 50 states, Rhode Island included. These paid options include George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy.

Plus, most Rhode Island students can enroll in part-time online courses through their local school district. You can contact your local public school to ask whether there are free or paid online options available to you. The Rhode Island Department of Education’s All Course Network is one option for taking individual online courses.

Finally, some districts offer hybrid programs, including the Village Green Virtual Public Charter High SchoolNowell Leadership Academy, Pleasant View Elementary School, Highlander Charter School, and Providence Career and Technical Academy.

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

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.

In Rhode Island, 1.2% of all K-12 students are homeschooled. It is required that you provide notice of your intent to homeschool prior to starting. The state requires homeschooling parents to teach certain subjects (like reading, writing, and physical education), but does not require homeschoolers to take standardized tests. Note that homeschooled students in Rhode Island may still be eligible to participate in sports, activities, or classes at local public schools, though restrictions may apply.

Formally withdrawing from public school is required in some districts and recommended in all. In the case that you decide to return to public school, notify your district committee. 

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

Rhode Island Microschooling and Mix-and-Match Learning

Today, many Rhode Island families are mixing and matching school options to come up with new ways to personalize education. Microschools are one of these ways. A microschool refers to students gathering together in a small group – with adult supervision – to learn, explore, and socialize. Microschools can take a variety of shapes and legal forms, from homeschoolers coming together at an enrichment center to a private school committed to small classrooms. What microschools share in common is a commitment to small-group learning and close-knit relationships, along with an emphasis on children as individual learners. 

Here are real examples of microschools and related resources in your state:  



  • Orchid Montessori is a Wildflower Montessori-affiliated microschool for young learners  in East Providence.


Remember, microschooling is more a mentality than a specific legal distinction in most cases. Often, a family participates in a microschool while legally homeschooling, or being enrolled in a private or online school. 

Download the School Choice Snapshot for Rhode Island

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What is School Choice

How can it empower parents and help kids achieve their dreams?

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Choosing the Right School

Tips to help you find a school where your daughter or son will learn, succeed, and be happy.

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School Type
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.
Grade Levels

Microschooling and Mix-and-Match Learning

How can it empower parents and help kids achieve their dreams?

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7 Step Guide

Tips to help you find a school where your daughter or son will learn, succeed, and be happy.

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Education Resources for
Rhode Island Parents

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

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