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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: ALTERNATIVE HIGH SCHOOL FOR SENIOR YEAR??
By Momofonly (Momofonly) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 07:21 pm: Edit

My senior daughter would like to change schools at the end of this month to an alternative accredited high school in our area where she can do her work independently. She is just really at that point where she is DONE (mentally) with high school. She would have to take Calculus at the community college as it is not offered at the alternative high school. She is a good student (3.99 academic GPA), took the SAT I's, II's and ACT with no preparation and got 1180 on the I's and 26 on the ACT (can't remember the II's). She has taken a couple of practice tests this summer with the 10 Real SAT's and got her score up to 1260...hoping for 1300 when she retakes. My question is this: if she transfers to this alternative high school (which is accredited and from which she will get a high school degree), will this in any way harm her chances of getting into a 4-year university? I have researched to the nnth degree and can't really find any reason for her not to do this (except for my own preference that she remain in a "traditional" high school) but would love input from other parents.

Also, another question...any opinions on her final list of schools relating to reach, match and safety based on the above stats (barely any EC's except work...2 summers doing office work, 1 summer babysitting and most recently as a cashier at a small grocery (working 20 hours per week during the school year and 30-40 during the summer).


University of Oregon
University of Washington
Western Washington University
Willamette University
Lewis & Clark
Northeastern University
UC Santa Cruz
UC Davis

Thanks in advance for your help.

By Ilcapo (Ilcapo) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 07:25 pm: Edit

Explain the alternative HS

By Momofonly (Momofonly) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 07:31 pm: Edit

Let's's accredited just like the "traditional" high schools in our area but a student only has to go there once a week to meet with the teachers. They have to complete the same number of required courses and electives as her current high school. THe only difference I can see is that they don't have to attend class every day.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 07:37 pm: Edit

Is in Seattle?
I think it is a good idea, let me explain why.
1st she sounds ready to move on
2nd it will look great to colleges as she is taking charge of education, additionally her class rank will probably be boosted by attedning the alt high school, much easier to be 10th in your class out of class of 40 rather than 400.

By Momofonly (Momofonly) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 07:45 pm: Edit


Wow, I never thought of that (the class rank)!! Thanks! You're right, I think right now she is in the top 10% but she would probably be bumped up there. No, it's not in Seattle, we're in South Orange County, CA. Another question...would it be better for her to wait to start the college app process until the after the transition or would it matter? I can just see this process becoming more and more confusing after being at one high school for 3 years and then changing and having to have transcripts sent from another.

By Lefthandofdog (Lefthandofdog) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 07:58 pm: Edit

Changing after you apply to colleges could get a little tricky. Colleges almost always stipulate that an acceptance is contingent upon the student completing the course work listed on the application. Schools would have an out to rescind their offer if the course work changed, just as they do if grades change dramatically. Also, I'd check into whether they even rank in the alternative high school. I would guess they don't - probably one more way in which they are alternative. Also, I'd like to know why most kids are there. If it's as rigorous academically as your high school and students are there because they've matured beyond traditional high school, that's one thing. If they're there because it's a condition of probation, that's quite another. Try to find out from guidance counsellors what kind of support they offer in college applications and how graduates of the alternative h.s. have done in the past when it comes to admissions. I'd be cautious about making a dramatic change after the school year's begun. Things may develop that you haven't anticipated because the change wasn't planned earlier.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 08:14 pm: Edit

I attended an alternative high school and there are several in our district. Big difference between "reentry" high school, and "alternative" high school.
You are right, they probably don't rank, but neither did my daughters top private prep school. But since scholarships generally require a rank, they are aware of this and can figure it out.
In our area, alternative high schools give students an opportunity to get credit for work and education that they recieve outside the school building.
SAT scores at the alternative high school across from my younger daughters traditional high school are the highest in the district. They win state and National awards at a greater percentage than most large high schools. They are good for students who are overwhelmed with a huge school and needs more supportive environment, they are great for students who are motivated and want teachers who can have the flexibilty to let them go their own path, and not be tied to a particular curriculum.
Seattle as most big cities do, also has "reentry" schools, or schools to which students are not referred to until they have already started to fall between the cracks. Some of these students do very well also, but they arent to be confused with an "alternative" style school.

Don't get me wrong, it can be difficult for students who aren't self motivated, because the work at your own pace can also mean it takes twice as long, but it is very good preparation for college as you are going to have to be much more self reliant there, than students need to be in a traditional school

By Momofonly (Momofonly) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 08:15 pm: Edit


You brought up some good points. I actually don't think that it's the type of school that someone like my daughter normally goes to...I think it's mostly students who have had academic and/or personal problems in the past. But, the question is, if the school is accredited and in our school district, would the colleges necessarily know (outside of our state) that it is an alternative high school? Would she be better off just taking the CHSEP (California High School Proficiency Exam) and starting at the community college? Unfortunately, the CHSEP is only recognized in the state of CA and by going that route, she would be limiting herself to CA colleges. Sorry this is really confusing but you see why I need help/advice

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 08:34 pm: Edit

well she could take her GED. I believe you can take that at 16.
A friend left the prep school that he attended with my daughter at 15, attending a Middle College high school till he was 16, took his GED and took a few community college course and then transferred to the University of Chicago.

She may want to wait till she transfers to begin college apps, i don't think that will be a problem at those schools. Public schools also have later cuttoff dates I think.
Colleges don't always have a diploma as a criterion, although except for community colleges they do have entrance requirements re: course work

By Mom60 (Mom60) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 08:39 pm: Edit

Momofonly- I feel for you. With kids nothing is ever simple. I would try to talk with someone you trust at her present high school and try to find out how the alternative school is regarded. You might look to see if any of the community colleges in your area have a program for high school students who feel they no longer fit in at their traditional high school. I know at our cc they have a program called Middle College and the classes are taught at the cc but the students end up graduating with a degree from their high school.
If it was my D I think I would try to convince her to stick it out. Could she possibly take a min. load at the high school and pick up a few cc courses.

By Momofonly (Momofonly) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 08:54 pm: Edit

Emeraldkity4 - You can't take the GED until you're 18--I already checked. Mom60 - Thanks and I feel the same way. She has been talking about this for 2 years now and I have convinced her to stay up 'til now. I could probably convince her to stay but she is SO unhappy there that I know I would be doing it out of my own selfishness -she's denying me the opportunity to go to her high school graduation! The difference is how you view time at 17 versus 50 (I see it that she's almost at the finish line and that the time will fly by). Also, she is only taking 5 courses this year, starts at 7 AM and is out by 12:30 PM which seems great to me. I will take your advice and see if our community college has a Middle College program...thanks!

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 09:10 pm: Edit

I'm with Mom60 on this one. I think this is difficult for you and I do feel for you. I think you need to look at all the options. Here, the alternative program through our high school is for kids at risk of dropping out or as you mention above who might have academic or personal problems where the regular program does not fit their needs. These are the kids who often are NOT college bound. It appears that the alternative high school in your area of which you speak, is a bit similar in type. If you had said it was an alternative high school meant as an enriching and challenging environment for kids who might benefit from independent studies, I might think differently. But I think this school you are speaking of is a step down in terms of learning environment for your daughter.

I do understand that things are not working where she is at though. Before I read Mom60s post, I was going to suggest what she did above. I think if your daughter could take some college classes, combined with one or two at the high school, she might be able to hack high school better as she won't be there that much but would still get a degree from your high school. I know a couple kids here who did that, including one of my 18 year old daughter's best friends. She is very bright with many strengths but found our high school to not be working for her. This past year (senior year) she only went there for like two classes, one of which was band and jazz band as she is devoted to the saxophone and talented. She may have taken an English course there as well. She then supplemented that with a couple college courses I think, whatever she needed to graduate. She drives so could do that. She mostly worked at a job, however, like your daughter does, many hours per week. As far as college, she barely applied but decided to apply to Hampshire College and is deferring for a year. I believe her parents are making her pay for everything as well. She is still working at the same job now, though I think she wants to get her own apartment this year.

I know one other girl here who did this too. This girl was a top student and very talented in several EC areas, including a top jazz sax player and excelled at soccer, horseback riding/showing, and was pretty good at ski racing. For soph year, she opted to go to an elite boarding school (Milton Academy) out of state on a full ride. She came back junior year to our rural high school in Vermont. Then, I must admit this part is not the same as your daughter (whereas the first girl is more like your D), she just really did a turn around. While she was still involved in jazz music (I'll add that her dad is a jazz musician and he heads the jazz music at our high school), she seemed to start to drop more soccer team (was an elite player) or ski team, etc. While a top student, she did not take that many classes at our high school...mostly jazz band and chorus (is a singer too) and perhaps one other subject and took the rest at a college (she drives). I think she may be taking a year off this year and did not go directly to college.

But my point is that the idea that Mom60 gave, these girls did, and both were very good students, not the kind that alternative schools like the one you described tend to attract. The combo of a couple things at high school and the rest at a college to finish up senior year is what they did. They got the diploma and graduated with the senior class at our school.

Perhaps you can look into that type of option.


By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 09:19 pm: Edit

I'm with Susan on this. Had my S stayed for senior year, he would have taken english, possibly a music class. We did think about spring semester in another country. Anyway, I would have learned what exactly were needed credits to graduate, see if they could be met in one semester, and then find something else to do for rest of year.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 09:25 pm: Edit

I am glad Bookworm suggested that above as another alternative. Do whatever courses she must do to graduate at her high school, maybe a CC course or two if she likes those better, but then find something else worthwhile to do for the remainder. I like this better than changing schools, particularly to one that is not really the right one or not one geared to students like her and might be viewed more negatively by admissions counselors.

I neglected to mention above that my daughter has opted out of senior year all together and is graduating a year early, though that option is too late for you to consider. She will have the courses needed to graduate and to attend college.


By Thoughtfulmom (Thoughtfulmom) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 09:41 pm: Edit

We know of several exceptionally strong high school students who have spent their senior year taking ALL their classes at a local college or community college under a dual enrollment plan that allows them to count the credits toward a diploma issued by their original high school. They are considered seniors by their original high school and the high school issues a transcript--showing the college courses as well as their high school courses for the first three years, but they actually spend NO time on the high school campus (unless they choose to do some extracurriculars there, which many of them do--they remain eligible for varsity sports, the school orchestra, etc.)

This has worked out great for these students--they have a lot more freedom and autonomy on a college campus (no "hall passes" or annoying rules like--"You may not use the library during your free period unless you get a pass issued one day in advance") They also have a lot more schedule flexibility since our local community colleges offer a huge menu of courses from morning through night. And a full-time college schedule typically only requires 15 hours per week of actual seat-time in class.

It's a little late to enroll in full-time college
courses at most colleges for the fall term, but something like this might be possible for the spring.

By Sfe (Sfe) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 10:35 pm: Edit

Momofonly - A student can take the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE) at age 16 -

if the student passes the test, they get the Certificate of Proficiency which "by state law is equivalent to a high school diploma".

In our area of Calif., in Sonoma County, we have different types of alternative high schools. Some are for kids who have had either academic or behavioral problems in the traditional high schools. Others are for kids who are good, self-motivated students, but who for various reasons cannot, or do not want to, attend classes at a traditional school - for instance, I've been told that at a local alternative high school of this second type, they have students who are a)performers with the San Francisco ballet, b)competitors at a national level in gymnastics, c)trying out for the US Equestrian team, etc. - all pursuits which are obviously somewhat incompatible with attendance 30 hours a week at high school. They also have just regular kids who are motivated enough to do the school work on their own after meeting with their teachers once a week. I'm not sure which type of school your daughter is considering.

I have heard via the grapevine that some colleges actually view this second type of alternative school positively, as, when you think about it, it is actually rather like college: a smaller proportion of time is spent in class and a larger is spent on homework/independent work on papers, etc. and it requires the same sort of self-discipline, independence, pacing, etc. that college requires.

I know one family here whose kid took the CHSPE after his sophomore year in HS - like your D he was just "done" with high school. He then took courses for two years at a local junior college (where he met a life-changing professor who inspired him to follow a field he had never considered before), transferred to UC/Berkeley and graduated two years ahead of himself, so to speak. He is now in grad school at Stanford. There are many paths to education! So don't despair if your daughter chooses a road less traveled - it may be a more satisfying one in the long run. I think you are doing the right thing investigating all the ramifications.

By Sfe (Sfe) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 10:47 pm: Edit

A clarification - the alternative schools I'm talking about in the post above are all public schools - affiliated with the local public school district.

By Mom60 (Mom60) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 10:50 pm: Edit

My own D is also not a fan of high school yet she knows that she probably couldn't pull this one by me. She can't wait to grad. and leave which is in contrast to most of her classmates who would love to either go to the local UC or CC. Interestly her list has several of the same schools.

A couple of more ideas. Since you are in Ca she probably only needs to take eng 12 and Econ and Govt as required courses. Maybe she could drop all but the required grad courses and take the rest at the cc. Then she would only be at the high school for 2 periods.

Another idea which while expensive might be a wonderful change. There is a high school in New Zealand that is exclusively set up as a semester abroad. They are small and will tailor a program to continue whatever you had been taking at your home school. The school itself is fairly new but the people who started it are experienced educators who had orginally founded an alternative middle school in Santa Barbara Ca.
I know of a few kids who have already gone and have had a wonderful experience. They have a website, you can do a google search The School Down Under. I know it is an accredited school.

By Mom60 (Mom60) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 11:20 pm: Edit

Correction the school website is
The school is based on the Oxford/Cambridge model where the teacher holds intensive informal seminars with 5 to 7 students at a time. The school also has a huge outdoor program as well as academics.

By Momofonly (Momofonly) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 02:21 pm: Edit

Mom60 - The School Down Under looks incredibly interesting. Good luck to your daughter, too!

Bookworm, Soozivet, Emeraldkity4, Lefthandofdog and Thoughtful Mom - Thanks for all the suggestions and I am already in the process of researching the possibilities.

Sfe - "So don't despair if your daughter chooses a road less traveled - it may be a more satisfying one in the long run." Thank you, you made me feel a lot better!

I am so glad I found this site and I really appreciate all of you who put so much effort into helping with suggestions.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 03:32 pm: Edit

I think the community college route might be worth pursuing. My daughter has a friend, a junior this year, who just enrolled in a special "college-high school" program at a CC here in San Diego. She takes all her classes at the CC and the h.s. district credits them towards her high school diploma. She will graduate in two years with an Associate's degree AND a high school degree. Apparently, other students have done the same thing and not had trouble getting into the UC's. Best of luck with this - sounds like a tough decision.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 03:34 pm: Edit

One more thought - you might want to go to the UC home page and look up how and which classes have been approved for UC credit at the alternative school - if they're not, she may run into problems with getting into one of the UCs. - look for the searchable database of high schools.

By Momofonly (Momofonly) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 04:17 pm: Edit

Thanks, Carolyn. I just looked it up on the UC site and I was pleasantly surprised...they even have Honors and AP classes that are UC approved so maybe I was wrong about the alternative school. Anyway, I have a call in to the guidance counselor there who will be able to answer some of my questions. Thanks again!

By Momofonly (Momofonly) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 04:50 pm: Edit

Correction, Carolyn. I just called the school and they don't offer Honors and AP but they do have the standard UC college prep classes.

By Kokuamom (Kokuamom) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 08:42 pm: Edit

one additional suggestion: There is a "middle college high school" in Orange County on the campus of Orange Coast College ( junior and senior high school students take both high school and college classes on the campus there). Maybe calling one of their counselors about all the options would helpful. I am sure they would be very supportive of your daughter feelings about high school, and they would also be very knowledgable about the options, as well as, being able to give your daughter specifics about class requirements for eligibility at UCs. Hope this helps.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 10:05 pm: Edit

Great suggestion - sounds like the program at Grossmont here in San Diego that my friend's daughter attends.

Momofonly - Don't worry too much about the honors/AP classes, especially if she's already taken a few. I don't know why I didn't think of this before, but the admissions decision for the UC's is based on 10th and 11th grades - then you just have to complete the requirements for the a-g courses and not have your overall GPA drop. If she can do that, she'll be fine. So, I think she should be fine if you go the alternative school route.

By Momofonly (Momofonly) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 11:56 am: Edit

Kokuamom and Carolyn-thanks for the additional suggestion. I have discussed the various options with my daughter but she is talking to her assistant principal today with the intent to go the alternative school route. Hopefully I'll be able to post a positive outcome in April or May when we find out where she gets accepted:) Thanks again.

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