The traditional neighborhood school isn’t the only option for many kids. There are other models of public schools in some areas. These include magnet schools and charter schools. Private school and homeschooling may also be options for some families.
Here’s more information on different types of schools, and how they can help kids who learn and think differently.
Neighborhood public schools
In most states, homes are zoned to a local school district. So many kids go to the school that’s closest to them, along with other kids in their neighborhood. Public schools have some important benefits for kids with learning and thinking differences. These include:
- Free school evaluations for special education services
- and with accommodations and services for kids who qualify
- A wide variety of special education and related services
- Specialists like counselors, social workers, and often speech-language therapists
- More than one teacher per grade level or subject (which may give you the option of changing teachers if one isn’t a good fit for your child)
- Many sports and often extracurricular activities where your child can excel outside of academics
Researching schools in your area? Use the GreatSchools ratings tool to find a school that will be a good fit for your child’s needs.
Magnet schools are specialized public schools within a school district. Because they’re part of the public schools, they’re free to attend. Also, your child can get an IEP or a 504 plan if eligible. Other possible advantages of a magnet school include:
- Focus on a specific area your child may be passionate about or strong in, like math and science or the arts
- Access to special education services and specialists in the school district
But keep in mind:
- Applications are often required, and it can get competitive.
- Waiting lists may be long because of high demand and limited enrollment.
- Your child may need to travel if the magnet school is far from your home.
Charter schools are independent public schools. They’re run by nonprofit groups, private companies, or community organizations. Charters are free to attend. And they exist in most states, although there may not be one near where you live.
Charter schools don’t have to follow all the rules that traditional public schools follow. But they are required to follow special education law and provide IEPs and 504 plans to kids who qualify.
Read more about charter schools and students with learning and thinking differences.
These schools are run by private organizations, outside of the public schools. Private schools can give you a lot of choice over the kind of school environment your child is in. But you have to pay for tuition, and it can be expensive.
See a chart that lays out the differences between public, charter, and private schools.
Some states may give parents vouchers to pay for a private school. But it’s important to know that school vouchers generally don’t cover the full cost of tuition.
Independent schools for students with learning and thinking differences
Some private schools specialize in teaching students with learning and thinking differences. They typically offer your child more comprehensive and individualized support. But tuition can be high. However, sometimes a state or public school district will pay the cost of private school if a child can’t get an appropriate education in the public schools.
One last school option is homeschooling, which is to teach your child at home. Every state allows homeschooling. But of course, it’s not available to everyone if all the adults in the family work outside the home.
About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
Kristy Baxter, MA taught at the Churchill School, an independent school in New York City for children with learning disabilities.