4 Alternative High School Options for Your Teen in Connecticut

As a parent of a teen, or even a teen yourself, you already know how important high school can be. The bonds made with peers, the academics that capture interests and spark investigations, the extra-curricular activities, clubs, and sports; these building blocks will become a part of your teen’s identity. Not only that, but they’ll influence future planning, such as considering college.

It comes as good news that these days, there are so many more options for teens beyond their district-zoned, public high school. Instead, they can select a high school program that celebrates their individuality. For teens growing up in Connecticut, there are several alternative high school options available. Here are some basics that make each of these alternative high school options stand out:

Magnet Schools

Magnet school programs are an exciting possibility for upcoming high school students who have an interest in a specific subject. They are public and free, yet different from traditional public schools in that they integrate the entire school curriculum under an umbrella theme. Some themes include math, science, technology and engineering, the arts and performing arts, or foreign language programs. Theme-based learning is extremely beneficial. In fact, sources show that students in theme-based high schools surpass the levels of achievement they would have otherwise reached in their district-zoned schools.

Can you guess why magnet schools are named after powerful forces of attraction? Well, this type of alternative school was first founded in the 1970s as a desegregation tool, because it sought to “pull” students from different zip codes and encourage a diverse student body. Today, in order to be considered for admission, students need to enter a lottery process, which often makes acceptance rates competitive yet fair.

In general, magnet schools are designed to help shape students into positive future citizens of society. They strive to foster community engagement and real-life experiences. Magnet schools will often form partnerships with local businesses and cultural institutions, offering students internships and opportunities to be part of collaborative projects. Thanks to this aligned mission, you can feel an environment of teamwork, acceptance, and innovation at most magnet schools.

For pre-teens who have an interest in sustainability, including environmental science or advanced manufacturing, Connecticut River Academy could be the right magnet high school choice. Connecticut River Academy is a sustainability-themed, technology magnet school – where students are granted hands-on learning experiences and the opportunity to earn tuition-free credits towards their college degrees.

Charter Schools

Charter schools are also free and part of the public-school system, but in many ways, are very different from traditional public schools. Charter schools establish their own administration and can be either non-profit or for-profit. Organizing entities can be the state or local school districts, Universities, community leaders, businesses, parents, social entrepreneurs, or anyone else who submits a charter school proposal to their state’s authorizing entity. Charter schools design their own policies, calendars, and class schedules, and are able to claim exemption from certain state requirements. Some parents and administrators may say that charter schools provide the perks of private school, without the tuition costs.

Charter schools are built on the concept of choice: families elect to attend them. Students need to apply via lottery, similar to the magnet school admissions process. Although charter schools exercise more autonomy than traditional public schools, their purpose is to increase student performance, and different approaches may be applied based on charter schools’ individual governing missions. For instance, charter schools may promote a strict academic structure, or college preparedness. If they fail to promote academic achievement, and falter at demonstrating financial and organizational stability, charter schools run the risk of being closed. This is very different from the way that federally and state-supported public schools are governed. Learn the difference between magnet schools and charter schools here.

Private Schools

Private schools are probably the furthest alternative to public high school. The most distinctive differing qualities between public and private schools are cost, promotion of values, and autonomous curriculum.

The average cost of a private high school education in Connecticut for the 2017-18 school year is $31.5k: more than double the national average private school tuition of $14k. Private high schools also may be selective based on religion or gender. This is a deciding factor for some – in fact, about 10 percent – Americans who want a negotiated atmosphere for their children.

Private schools are known for their high standards and expectations for student excellence. They are exempt from state-standardized curriculum, because they are funded independently through tuition, grants, and alumni (in contrast, public schools are funded by the government and taxes). Private schools also may not have special education programs. Parents have a lot to think about when considering the investment of a private school in Connecticut!

Early College High School

Early college high schools are exactly what their title implies: they prepare students for college.

Jobs for the Future proposes that one-third of students who enter college are ill-prepared and require extra help before they can achieve. This is one reason why early college high schools exist: to promote college readiness at the high school level, through focused and accelerated coursework. Early college high schools are public and free, and they may operate under a theme, similar to magnet schools.

Many early college high schools, such as Connecticut River Academy, offer transferable college credits and combine academic support and mentorship for students. This education model combats all of the circumstances that too often create barriers for high schoolers who want to attend college, and ensure a more successful future for students. At Connecticut River Academy, students are given the opportunity to take college courses in high school and earn up to 30 transferable credits towards their college degrees – tuition-free! If college is definitely in the future for your teen, help them get ahead by pursuing an early college prep high school like Connecticut River Academy.

Considering all the alternative high school options available in Connecticut takes a significant amount of time, thought, school visits, and perhaps even testing and applications. Learning all that you can about your options, and getting started early, can take some of the pressure off of your teen – not to mention, poise them for a successful Freshman year. To learn more about Connecticut River Academy in the Greater Hartford area, sign up for a parent information session or apply today!