Parents beware before sending kids to charter schools

     As the director of Upward Bound, a federal grant dedicated to providing fundamental support to participants in their preparation for college entrance, I am amazed at how often students transfer to a charter school without knowing the full ramifications of that decision on their future. There are so many reasons to begin high school in, and graduate from, a traditional brick-and-mortar school for a student's future. I would like a moment to point them out.


     First, teachers are to be “highly qualified” at brick-and-mortar high schools. They must have either passed a test or have specialized knowledge in the field they teach. Not everyone can or should be teaching physics or music.

     Charter schools exist because they had education code waived. At the local charter schools, which are classified as independent study, the parent is the teacher of record. Parents thinking of any charter school would be wise to ask if the person (s) who will be assigned to your student has 1) a single subject teaching credential and 2) if they are highly qualified in each subject area they will be teaching or advising. Ask at your local school too.

     Second, at Plumas Unified the majority of students are completing the courses necessary to attend college; of 58 counties in the state they are ranked ninth. Students are also scoring very well (scores of 800) on the standardized tests used to measure the progress of not just students, but also how well schools are educating their total populations. Parents may log on to the California Department of Education website to see for themselves that the various local charter schools do not have the same success in testing, especially in math.

     Why is this important? Many colleges use these scores to determine if a student is prepared for college level math and English courses. In any economy, who wants to begin paying for college courses that are simply make-up work? I would encourage all parents to ensure their student is completing all assignments in all classes daily to learn the subject matter. Most students will need some type of post-secondary education to find a good-paying job, much less a career they will enjoy.  

     Third, many parents do not know high school diplomas are not equal. Some charter school diplomas are not equal to a traditional diploma, but are instead equal to a GED. Graduates from some of the schools operating in Plumas and Lassen counties will not be allowed to register for the military without first completing 15 transferable college units. Parents need to check if the alternative school their student is attending is one of them. 

     Even grants from the state recognize that diplomas are not equal. Graduates from all charter schools wishing to apply for a CAL -Grant must submit scores from a GED, SAT or ACT. Students graduating from traditional brick-and-mortar high schools are not required to submit scores.

     Last but not least, going to a brick-and-mortar school teaches a student the basic discipline necessary to get out of bed five days a week and show up to a designated place on time, a fundamental skill in any workplace.

     There are legitimate reasons for alternative and charter education, such as dropout prevention, credit recovery, enrichment and for religious objections to state curriculum.

     For a student who is going to any type of college, trade school or the military, I see many more reasons for parents to continue supporting all of the local brick-and-mortar high schools. Talk to your local school principal and counselor. I think you will be amazed at what they can, and will, do for your student.


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