More than ever, families are expressing school choice preferences in various ways, and policy needs to accommodate this growth with guardrails that protect quality and equity. This collection provides information state policymakers need in order to have a firm understanding of the policies at their disposal for providing families with educational options. One of the briefs in the collection looks specifically at how these choice policies play out in rural settings.


School choice is not well understood by parents, educators, and even policymakers. There are multiple ways of providing educational choices to families and students, and policies vary from one state to another. The National Comprehensive Center has developed this portfolio of seven briefs that provide foundational information for Regional Centers and states to use as they consider choice policy options in their specific contexts.

Guiding Questions

What are the various options for school choice?

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Charter Schools

Charter schools are public schools governed by a charter, or contract, between two entities: those who run the school (typically the charter school’s board) and an authorizer (an independent entity that approves the school’s existence and holds it accountable for academic outcomes).

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When families choose to homeschool, they make a deliberate decision not to educate their children in a traditional public or private institution and instead educate them at home.

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Virtual Schools

Students in fully virtual schools take their entire course load online via an independent, charter, or district-sponsored program.

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Private Schools

There are four types of private school choice programs: vouchers, tax credit scholarships, education savings accounts (ESAs), and individual tax credits and deductions. Each of these programs allows the use of public funds to support families in paying partial or full tuition at private schools.

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District Open Enrollment

Intra-district open enrollment allows students to transfer to other schools within their residential district, while inter-district open enrollment allows students to transfer to schools in another district.

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Dual Enrollment

Dual enrollment programs allow high school students to earn postsecondary credits through partnerships between secondary and postsecondary institutions. They provide high-achieving students with access to more rigorous coursework and can offer them a glimpse of the postsecondary experience.

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Various forms of school choice are being implemented in rural communities in spite of the unique challenges of that context. Under the right policy conditions, parents and students living in rural America can be provided with expanded educational choices.

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