School Choices for Parents

What are the choices under No Child Left Behind and other federal legislation? These descriptions help to explain the range of choices available to parents. Specific definitions of terms, however, vary from state to state, so the state department of education should be consulted for official definitions and guidance on practices in the state.

Public School Choice

If a child attends a Title I school that has been identified by the state for school improvement, corrective action, or restructuring, parents can choose to send the child to another public school that is not so identified. Districts must let parents know each year if their child is eligible to transfer to another school, and districts must give parents more than one transfer option if more than one exists. Districts must pay for students' transportation costs, giving priority to low-income, low-achieving students if there are not enough funds available to pay for all students.

In addition, the Voluntary Public School Choice Program supports efforts to establish or expand intradistrict, interdistrict, and open enrollment public school choice programs to provide parents, particularly parents whose children attend low-performing public schools, with expanded education options.

For more information:

Supplemental Educational Services

Low-income families can enroll their child in supplemental educational services if their child attends a Title I school that has been identified by the state as in the second year of improvement, in corrective action, or in restructuring. The term "supplemental educational services" refers to free extra academic help, such as tutoring or remedial help, that is provided to students in subjects such as reading, language arts, and math. This extra help can be provided before or after school, on weekends, or in the summer. Districts must also provide parents with a list of state-approved supplemental educational services providers in the area and must let parents choose the provider that will best meet the educational needs of their child.

For more information:

  • Supplemental Educational Service website

Charter Schools

Charter schools are public schools that operate with freedom from many of the local and state regulations that apply to traditional public schools. Charter schools allow parents, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs, and others the flexibility to innovate and provide students with increased educational options within the public school system. Charter schools are sponsored by local, state, or other organizations that monitor their quality while holding them accountable for academic results and responsible fiscal practices. As of 2004, 40 states and D.C. have charter school laws. Nationally, there are about 3,000 charter schools, serving over 750,000 students.

For more information:

Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are designed to attract students from diverse social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. They focus on a specific subject, such as science or the arts; follow specific themes, such as business/technology or communications/humanities/law; or operate according to certain models, such as career academies or a school-within-a-school. Some magnet schools require students to take an exam or demonstrate knowledge or skill in the specialty to qualify to go to the school, while others are open to students who express an interest in that area.

For more information:

Private Schools

Most private or nonpublic schools in the U.S. are religious, and many are affiliated with a religious faith, denomination, or local church. Many nonpublic schools without a religious identity or affiliation are private schools designed to prepare students for college. Other independent schools are based on a particular educational philosophy or approach to learning, such as Montessori or Waldorf schools; have a special needs focus, such as schools for students who are deaf or blind; or have a specific subject matter specialty, such as science and technology or the arts.

For more information:

Home Schools

Homeschooled children may be taught by one or both parents, by tutors who come into the home, or through virtual school programs conducted over the Internet. Some parents prepare their own materials and design their own programs of study, while others use materials produced by companies specializing in homeschool resources. Accountability for homeschooling is coordinated with the state in which the family resides.

For more information:

DC Choice

Opportunity scholarships of up to $7,500 are provided to eligible, low-income students in the District of Columbia to attend private schools.

For more information:

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Last Modified: 01/14/2009