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.
- Traditional Public Schools
- Public Charter Schools
- Public Magnet Schools
- Private Schools
- Online Schools
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, 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.
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. 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.”
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 students participated in the scholarship program and received an average of $2,890 in scholarship funding.
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 School, The 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 School, Nowell Leadership Academy, Pleasant View Elementary 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, 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:
- Providence Hybrid Academy is a Charlotte Mason-inspired hybrid academy for children in the Greater Lehigh Valley.
- Sometimes learning pods are even district-run. For example, the Central Falls School District won a grant to develop an innovative learning pod model to give highschoolers a more flexible path to a diploma.
- 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.
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