As high school looms, a lot of homeschooling parents have the same questions: Should I use a charter school for high school? If I do, which is the best charter for my student?
When you choose a charter, your student is attending a public school. That means funding and special education services, but it also means there are requirements and standards to meet. However, while all schools must follow requirements, their philosophies and options differ significantly.
There are typically two main routes a student can take through a homeschool charter high school: A-G and customization. Both can lead to college, and both can provide a good education, but the student’s path looks different depending on which you choose.
A-G classes are subject requirements for admittance to the University of California and California State University systems. Courses that are labeled A-G have been approved as college preparatory by the University of California and can be used to fulfill UC and CSU entrance requirements. A-G subject requirements are only for the California public university systems; they aren’t required by private or out of state schools. However, the A-G approved courses offered by homeschool charters are rigorous and will be accepted by colleges and universities nationwide. If you want to be certain your child is eligible for (acceptance is not guaranteed) the UC and CSU systems, A-G is the route to choose.
A-G course offerings vary greatly from charter to charter. Some charters only offer online options, while others offer A-G courses through textbooks, face to face learning, or outlines. Charters that have multiple options will typically allow families to mix and match the delivery of courses. One way to find the scope of a charter’s A-G options is to look directly on the University of California website. You can search for a specific school here.
Customization means that the student’s high school path can include A-G classes but can also include learning center, parent directed, online self-paced, and online teacher led classes. These options vary by school. Some charters will automatically push a student into A-G courses if the parent says the child is college-bound; however, students can take a customized path and still be ready for college. With customization, a student can create a rigorous college preparatory course, but they will not receive A-G credit for that course unless it is already A-G approved. That does make acceptance to the UC and CSU systems more challenging, but a knowledgeable charter high school counselor or director can help you find acceptable alternatives to A-G courses, including SAT subject tests and dual enrollment, to improve your student’s chances for UC and CSU admission. And customization is more flexible; you can build a high school path for your child that more closely responds to their needs, wants, and interests.
Finding the Right Charter School
Some charters use outlines that describe course requirements. Some have specialized programs. Some encourage parent/student choice, while others limit it. All schools require learning samples every 20 days, typically one sample from each subject, but the contents of the learning samples vary between schools, sometimes significantly. So how does a family choose? Here are some questions that you can ask prospective charter schools; the answers will help you understand their options and make the right choice for your student.
- Does the charter have a dedicated high school counselor or director that is an administrator and does not carry a student roster?
- Does the high school director
- Have experience with traditional homeschooling through high school?
- Have experience with students who are not from virtual or brick and mortar schools?
- Does the charter have a college specialist who:
- Has experience with traditional homeschoolers, not only virtual or brick and mortar students?
- Understands University of California and California State University admission requirements and application procedures?
- Knows alternative options for fulfilling A-G besides courses?
- Is familiar with private college admissions requirements and application procedures (the Common Application or Coalition Application)?
- Is familiar with testing beyond the ACT and the SAT?
- Understands dual enrollment, including transferring between a California Community College and the California University system?
- Are the charter’s education specialists or facilitators trained in high school graduation and college admission requirements?
- What options does the school have for A-G courses (online, textbook, parent directed, project based, etc.)?
- What options does the school have for non A-G courses?
- If a course is not working, can the student switch out?
- Who grades an online course — parent or school?
- Does the school offer face to face classes?
- Does the school award A-G credit for learning center courses?
- Can a parent create their own course?
- Can a parent create an honors course?
- Does the school offer AP or UC approved honors courses? How many?
- Can an AP designation be placed on the transcript for a course not offered by the charter(College Board approved AP courses through Blue Tent, CTY, Stanford’s Gifted and Talented, etc.)?
- What are the options for my student for Credit Recovery? To what extent can the school work with a student who is behind?
- What are the learning sample requirements?
- Are there specific assignments that must be turned in?
- Are learning samples writing intensive or can students use other methods to show learning (projects, multimedia, etc.)?
- When meeting with an education specialist/facilitator, are families expected to present coursework alongside the learning samples – notebooks, images, workbooks, etc.?
Grades and Transcripts
- What grade scales does the charter use? Are pluses and minuses used on transcripts?
- Does the charter calculate a weighted GPA and attach it to a transcript?
- Who decides on the final grades and does the charter use a traditional grading system?
- How are online courses graded?
- How is course rigor indicated on the transcript?
- Who decides the weighing of course requirements – is it different for A-G vs customized courses?
- Will the school allow a narrative transcript to be added to the traditional transcript?
- How does an IEP or 504 plan affect high school at the charter?
- Does the guidance counselor have experience with ACT/SAT accommodations?
- What kinds of changes can be made to online courses according to the accommodations on a student’s IEP or 504 plan?
- What kinds of changes can be made to learning samples according to the accommodations on a student’s IEP or 504 plan?
- Is there a limit to the number of credits that can be used to fulfill high school requirements?
- Are there age limitations regarding who can participate in the Dual Enrollment Program?
- How many classes does a student have to take with the charter school if they are also dually enrolled?
- How many college courses can a student take per semester, or how many units?
- Does the charter pay for dual enrollment textbooks?
- Is there a specialist with knowledge of the dual enrollment transfer system who can advise on course choice?
Choosing a charter for high school is intimidating, but finding an educational program with a supportive staff, one that is a good fit for your student, is worth the effort. Your student has access to high quality options and sometimes the only way to find out about them is by asking many, many questions.