People often think of the word “school” as a catchall term with few subcategories. In reality, there are many different types of schools at the K-12 and college levels alike.
In this post, we will break down and explain the 46 types of schools and how they fit into the educational system.
1. Public Schools
A public school, also sometimes called a state school, is a secondary or primary learning institution that educates students without parents having to pay a fee.
Schools of this kind are primarily funded through taxation. Public schools exist in many areas worldwide.
However, their educational programs and structures vary significantly from one to the next.
2. Elementary Schools
Elementary schools, in most cases, cover kindergarten to fourth, fifth, or sixth grade, depending on various factors, such as the area where the school is located and the community’s size.
Therefore, elementary school may be a four, five, or six-year venture.
Regardless of this differential, elementary students who graduate from such schools successfully typically proceed to junior high school.
3. Middle Schools
Usually, a middle school is an educational institution offering a sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade curriculum.
Middle schools focus on teaching students organizational, emotional, social, and interpersonal skills.
Educators at such schools try to motivate students to explore various subjects for the purpose of building confidence in their abilities and boosting their knowledge of the subjects in which they’re interested.
4. Junior High Schools
Junior high schools are similar to middle schools but primarily focus on preparing students for the rigor of high school.
These schools typically cover grades seven and eight, but the ninth grade is considered a junior high grade in some states.
The curriculum is focused on traditional reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as information processing skills, memory, and cognitive ability.
5. High Schools
High schools cover the final grades before students move on to college, technical school, or enter the workforce.
Students usually complete four years of study in such schools.
The curriculum typically includes seven to eight core subjects and electives, and these vary significantly from one high school to the next.
Students must usually earn at least 30 credits to graduate, but other requirements may also exist.
6. Private Schools
Cost is the primary factor that differentiates private schools from public learning institutions.
Public schools are typically run and funded by the government, while private schools are funded by tuition payments from the student’s parents.
Elementary, middle, junior high, and high schools can all be private. There are also private universities and colleges.
Costs vary considerably from one school to the next, sometimes depending on the school’s location.
7. Charter Schools
Charter schools operate independently and, therefore, can meet their students’ needs in nontraditional ways.
For example, charter schools have the freedom to design learning environments that are tailored to the students attending the school.
All schools of this type operate under contract with charter school authorizers, which are typically independent, nonprofit organizations.
These organizations hold the schools accountable to their outlined standards or “charter.”
8. Magnet Schools
As the name implies, magnet schools offer specific curricula designed to attract many students from various racial backgrounds.
A magnet school may also focus on a particular study area, such as performing arts or science.
Ultimately, schools of this type are learning institutions with a particular focus on certain types of students.
Essentially any kind of school or college can be a magnet school.
9. Montessori Schools
A Montessori school is a type of learning institution in which a specific hands-on learning environment is created.
However, the curriculum ultimately focuses on the topics and subjects the child is interested in.
This completely contrasts conventional schools, where students of the same age are all taken through a scheduled, structured curriculum that does not vary much from one student to the next.
Montessori schools view students as expeditioners with diversified interests and do not believe that all youngsters learn in the same manner or at the same pace.
10. Waldorf Schools
Waldorf schools aim to inspire each child’s spirit while using educational artistry to train them academically.
Students at such schools develop a respect and understanding for different world cultures and celebrate seasonal festivals throughout the course of the school year.
Separateness in practice and belief is shunned in lieu of celebrating common humanities.
The environment of such schools typically extends outside, as Waldorf schools embrace engagement with nature and hands-on learning.
11. International Baccalaureate–IB–Schools
The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, in most areas, is a two-year educational curriculum that’s usually aimed at students between 16 to 19-years of age.
More than 140 countries across the globe have such schools.
The curriculum aims to provide an education that helps students understand the world’s complexities and equip them with the perception and skills they need to act responsibly in various situations.
Homeschooling is essentially parent-directed education, and as its name implies, it is completed in the child’s normal home environment.
It is education that takes place outside the parameters of traditional private or public school environments.
For some families, for instance, “schooling” involves conventional books and worksheets.
While other families take their children out and about, allowing them to learn from their community’s resources or with other homeschooled children.
13. Online or Virtual Schools
Online education, or “virtual schools,” are essentially synonyms for what is more commonly known as distance learning.
It simply means the child or college student learns in a virtual environment, typically online, as opposed to visiting a bricks and mortar campus or classroom on a daily basis.
Online schools share some similarities with homeschooling because, in most cases, students learn from within their own homes.
However, with virtual schools, parents provide support, but teachers do the instruction.
14. Special Education Schools
Special education schools are customized to the needs of students with physical or mental disabilities.
There is no standard curriculum. Rather, special education schools focus on assisting children in learning in spite of any hindrances stemming from handicaps.
Therefore, the curriculum is highly tailored, and the process used to teach one student at such a school may vary greatly from another.
These schools focus on the individual child and provide the resources that the child needs to learn successfully.
15. Early College High Schools
Early colleges can fall under various categories, such as charter management organizations, high schools, traditional school district partnerships, or two-year college programs.
They are essentially dual enrollment programs designed to prepare and support students to succeed in college.
Such schools help students select courses, find financial aid, and help get them ready to transfer to a four-year university or college.
16. Career and Technical Education–CTE–Schools
Career and Technical Education–CTE–is booming around the world, particularly in the United States, as there has been an increasing need for qualified individuals to fill certain job openings.
These schools focus on teaching specific career skills to students in middle school, high school, and post-secondary learning institutions.
Most CTE schools diversify into approximately sixteen career clusters, each of which applies to various careers for which there is high demand.
Some examples are information technology, health science, human services, business, and law.
17. Language Immersion Schools
Language immersion schools use innovative methods to teach students a second language, which is accomplished by using that language during teaching.
For most of the day, students at such schools speak, hear, and learn in a language other than their native one.
One of two models is typically used. The first model has the second language used 90 percent of the time.
The other model follows a 50-50 pattern, where the target language is used 50 percent of the time, and the student’s native tongue is used the other 50 percent.
18. Single-Gender Schools
Single-Gender schools, as their name indicates, essentially segregate the two sexes, teaching females in one environment and males in another.
This may be accomplished in various ways, such as holding classes in separate rooms, buildings, or even schools.
Certain experts believe that single-gender educational environments may be helpful in reducing behavioral issues in certain students.
19. Military Schools
Military schools are usually private prep schools that are modeled after famous United States military colleges, such as Annapolis or West Point.
Students who need or desire structure to prepare for a potential career in the military often find these types of schools very helpful.
They are also considered good choices for students who may need more discipline and structure than is found in traditional private or public schools.
20. Religiously Affiliated Schools
Although many public schools and colleges offer coursework in religious studies, religiously affiliated schools focus on various world religions.
Rather than taking classes in a specific religion’s literature, practices, and history, most religiously affiliated schools teach various aspects of all religions.
Therefore, these schools differ from Catholic or Christian schools, which focus primarily on one religion.
21. Boarding Schools
A boarding school is generally a traditional school, with the only exception being that the youngsters live at the school and receive their education at the institution.
Boarding schools today are quite different from what they were many decades ago and are sometimes excellent choices for troubled teens or children of privilege whose parents prefer to place them in a supportive, inclusive academic community.
Some experts argue that boarding schools help students to achieve success at higher rates than public or private day schools.
22. STEAM/STEM Schools
STEM School begins with an acronym that refers to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education–or Arts–as is the case with STEAM schools.
The two are very similar. They use an interdisciplinary approach to help students focus on the exact topics and subjects necessary for success in their future careers.
The curriculum typically centers on a problem-based learning structure and hands-on education.
A prep school is a variety of high school that focuses on preparing students for college life.
Sometimes referred to as academies, as opposed to schools, most are private institutions that require an application while the child is still in middle or elementary school.
Schools of this kind may or may not have a religious affiliation, and some may be single-gender, while others are open to both male and female students.
24. Schools for the Gifted
Schools for gifted children are learning institutions that employ specially trained teachers who can gear curriculum toward children with exceptional talents or intelligence.
Gifted schools have smaller classrooms and often feature acceleration programs with more rigorous academic experiences.
It’s also common for such schools to allow highly advanced students to proceed to higher grade levels by skipping over grades or courses deemed unnecessary due to the child’s abilities.
25. Fine Arts Schools
Fine arts degrees are offered by many traditional colleges as well as most art and design schools.
However, some schools specialize in fine arts and offer undergraduate or advanced degrees in this category.
The curriculum can vary from institution to institution, but most include theory and criticism, art history, and liberal arts.
They also usually let students choose a specific curriculum if they plan to specialize in one area, such as painting, animation, drawing, photography, and sculpture.
26. Democratic or Free Schools
Democratic schools, also called free schools, are not defined in any specific way but usually share a common commitment to allowing young people to design and organize their daily school activities freely.
Free schools focus on democratic decision-making, engagement in the wider community, and social justice.
Such schools are most often found in major cities.
27. Vocational Schools
Vocational education, sometimes called “vo-tech,” is a type of learning that allows students to focus on one specific trade or craft.
This is instead of taking “required courses” that may or may not have anything to do with the field in which the student wants to work in eventually.
Ultimately, vocational or technical education is focused on preparing students to become gainfully employed due to having thoroughly learned the requisite skill.
28. Therapeutic Schools
Therapeutic schools were created to assist troubled children, the latter of which are often teenagers, with numerous problems, including emotional disorders.
There are many types of schools in this category, and a variety of things must be considered when selecting one.
Often, it is in the parent’s best interest to seek the advice of a therapist or educational consultant to determine if this kind of school benefits their child or teenager.
29. Outdoor or Expeditionary Learning Schools
Expeditionary Learning Schools–ELS–are based on German educator Kurt Hahn’s scholastic ideals.
Hahn was the founder of Outward Sound, and students at such schools are taught imagination, self-reliance, fitness, craftsmanship, perseverance, and similar disciplines, with a theory that this will better equip them to face various life challenges.
The curriculum uses project-based expeditions, where students learn these skills outside of the traditional classroom.
30. Dual-Language Schools
Dual-language schools teach the curriculum in two languages that have existed for roughly two centuries.
In the United States, these schools reached the peak of their popularity in the 1970s but have declined recently due to actions of lawmakers who have sought to limit their use.
There is conflicting research on the benefits of such schools and many ideological disagreements, which have led to diminished support and funding.
However, they do still exist and are an option.
31. Bilingual Schools
Bilingual schools are somewhat similar to dual language schools, but they focus on teaching youngsters in their native tongue, while also teaching them to learn a language that is more common in the country in which they live.
Varying levels of each language are used, which depends on the ultimate goal for that particular group of students.
Most states have bilingual schools, but this option does not exist in every city or town.
32. Tribal Schools
The National Indian Education Association–NIEA–mainly advocates for native education and tribal choice.
Tribal schools are culture-based, tribally led, and are different from traditional public schools.
Rather, they seek to fulfill native students’ needs through unique models, which are frequently changing based on various factors.
School choice laws allow parents to seek this type of educational program for their Native American children if they feel their youngsters are best served by such a program.
33. Agricultural Schools
Not surprisingly, agricultural education schools employ educators who can competently teach students about natural resources, food, agriculture, and water.
However, they can also teach students a broad range of skills, including technology, leadership, management, communications, math, and science.
Agricultural education generally has three main components: leadership education, experiential learning, and laboratory instruction.
34. Title I Schools
Title I is a term that refers to a federal education program designed to support the country’s low-income students.
Monies are typically distributed to schools in high-poverty zones, as determined by the specific number of attendees qualifying for reduced-price meals or free meals during school hours.
These funds are then distributed to the schools to be used for various things, such as summer school programs, equipment or materials, software and computers, and the hiring of additional educators or teacher’s assistants.
35. Community Schools
The term community school refers to a type of publicly funded learning institution in the United States that functions as both a community center and an educational institution.
This partnership between educators and community resource professionals is relatively new and is not offered in all states.
However, trends appear to be changing, making this option potentially more popular as time goes on.
36. Residential Schools for the Deaf or Blind
Residential schools are an alternative for parents who do not want to place blind or deaf children in traditional, local schools.
Some educators and parents feel it is better for blind or deaf children to learn in an environment where they are surrounded by children who share their disability.
For example, parents who are deaf or blind frequently choose residential schools for their children so that they can take part in deaf or blind lifestyles and culture.
37. University-Model Schools
University-Model schools are a type of hybrid educational institution, and not all of them are precisely the same.
They embrace a combination of homeschooling and public or private schooling, and the patterns vary greatly from one school to the next.
Some families send their children to public school two days a week and homeschool them the other three, or reverse that pattern.
Obviously, during homeschool days, the parent is in charge of the teaching, and teachers have this role on public or private school days.
Microschooling is essentially the one-room schoolhouse reinvented, where class size is significantly smaller than what is typically seen in most private or public schools.
Also, age groups are mixed together, with children of various grades learning different things simultaneously in the same room.
Curriculum and class schedules with micro-schools differ from those of traditional private or public schools.
They do not always meet the classic five-day school week, but the days attended may vary from one week to another.
39. Reggio Emilia Schools
The Reggio Emilia approach is a pedagogy and educational philosophy that centers on primary education and preschool.
It’s a constructivist, self-guided curriculum that’s used by the students of these schools, and the environment is essentially experiential learning.
Reggio Emilia schools are well-known for their artistic, multidimensional spaces with an inspirational feeling, as opposed to a conventional, mechanical ambiance.
40. Progressive Schools
Progressive education is also a pedagogical movement dating back to the late 1800s.
Its name was chosen to differentiate it from the traditional curriculum, rooted in social class distinctions.
In contrast, progressive schools have their roots in the post-industrial era and use a more modern, all-inclusive approach to education.
Because these schools can be vastly different from one to the next, parents are wise to visit the school in person when making a decision about enrollment for their children.
A cooperative school usually refers to a college or high school where students can complete programs that include real-life work experience.
These are often similar to those offered by vo-tech schools.
Although teachers play a decisive role at such learning institutions, the work experience segment also directly affects grades.
42. Sudbury Schools
Sudbury schools usually take students from kindergarten through 12th grade, and at each level, the responsibility for the child’s education falls on the child.
These unusual schools are run democratically, where staff and students are “equal” and play a 50-50 role in the decision-making.
The philosophy behind these schools is that humans learn more efficiently when they are not coerced or forced.
There are only a handful of these schools in the US.
43. Outdoor Schools or Forest Schools
Outdoor schools and forest schools are not exactly the same, although many people are under this impression.
Both establishments conduct classes outside the traditional school room, many times outdoors.
However, forest schools focus on human connection, with the goal of sparking a natural interest in learning, while outdoor schools have a more regimented approach.
This is sometimes described as transformational versus transactional.
44. One-Room Schoolhouses
One-room schoolhouses were once the norm in countries like America, and as their name indicates, consisted of a single room.
Multiple grade levels were taught, so diversified lesson plans were implemented by one teacher throughout the day.
The school often doubled as a church, with the blackboard covered by a curtain every Sunday morning.
There are fewer than 400 of these schools in the United States as of 2023, most of which are found in rural, western regions.
45. International Schools
International schools primarily provide education for children of expat families.
For example, UK families often send their children to international schools in Great Britain.
But other schools of this type follow a similar curriculum to those in Germany, France, or the US.
It simply comes down to the preferences of the parents or adult decision-makers.
46. Community Day Schools
Community day schools are relatively new in the US and other areas and are most frequently used for students who have problems with behavior or attendance in traditional schools or who have been expelled.
Although they are run by school districts in most cases, they offer a varied curriculum designed to teach important skills through challenging classes.
The professionals and counselors are essentially there to serve troubled students in any way possible.
In the US, California and Florida have the most community day schools.
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