Parents generally have a choice on where to send their children to school. Factors such as quality, location, cost, and philosophy all play into their decision-making. The options are not just public or private schools. There are various types of other school options, including charter schools, vocational schools, and distance learning schools. Parents also have the option of home schooling, which has some of its own challenges and rewards. FindLaw’s “Types of Schools” section has valuable information on home schooling, including current developments in home schooling alternatives and student access to public school facilities. Click the links below to learn more.
Charter schools are schools run by a private organization; sometimes a nonprofit organization, sometimes a corporation, and sometimes simply an organization of teachers and parents. Since charter schools are not regulated by elected officials the state produces a contract that binds charter schools to meet standards for academic achievement and financial management. States then periodically review the charter school.
Charter schools can help relieve administrators from the bureaucracy of the public school system and increase the accountability of individual teachers and administrators. Advocates argue that charter schools are freed to innovate and that public schools are uninspired by comparison. They also feel that the greater flexibility of charter schools provide a more individually tailored educational experience for students.
Opponents of charter schools say that they are merely private schools masquerading as public schools that sap funds and attention from the public school system to the detriment of the community as a whole. Proponents characterize this tension as healthy competition that drives school districts to offer more and better services to all students.
Vocational schools, rather than providing a general standard education, seek to prepare their students for a specific occupation upon graduation. Vocational schools focus primarily on skilled trades and train students to be auto mechanics, cosmetologists, and medical assistants. Also termed "technical schools," these schools often provide on-the-job training through apprenticeships and internships. Vocational schools do not have the best reputation in the United States and carry a stigma as schools for students that cannot perform academically. However, vocational schools can lead to fulfilling careers for students looking for practical training.
Vocational schools may be structured as a high-school alternative or as a post-secondary institution. Enrolling in a vocational high school may involve an application process similar to the procedure for applying to a community college. Some vocational programs are invitation-only and are sometimes structured to target students who are in danger of failing as a way of engaging them more deeply in the educational process.
Another alternative form of education that is increasingly popular is "homeschooling." Homeschooled children are given an education at home, frequently under the guidance of one of the child's parents. Homeschooling advocates believe that a better quality education is available with the individual attention and assistance available outside of larger classrooms. Others wish to homeschool their children because they feel that the school system's curriculum is inadequate or, in the case of many religious homeschoolers, simply wrong. Homeschooled children are expected to meet certain academic standards, attend structured classes, complete homework, tests, and projects. The specific requirements and how they are met vary depending on the state.