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Dropping Out of High School

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > School & Preschool > Dropping Out of High School


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Allowing teen to quit HS and take GED

Jan 2013

Hi Parents of teens, Happy new year to one and all.

I'm looking for info based on your experience w/ a similar situation as ours.

Our son is a junior at a private high school for kids with learning differences. He'll be 18 in June. Most of his friends are graduating this year and he would be if we hadn't held him back in 2nd grade.

Our son does well enough in school but really dislikes his school. His school has changed since he started there in 9th grade, as the head of school has changed and many of the fabulous teachers have left.

He presented us with the idea of quitting school after his junior year and taking the GED in the summer or fall. Next fall he would go to community college and/or take other local classes in subjects he is interested in. He's a great hands on learner but reading/taking notes/writing papers....Not so good and not self motivated in that way.

My husband and I are actually not opposed to this idea. We doubt that our guy will be going to any kind of academic college, likely not go away to college at least not now, and much more likely go to community college locally and/or go into a trade program. NOt to mention we'd love not to pay another year of private school.

I don't think transferring to our local public high school would be the best idea, even with an IEP, which we'll be getting anyway. I think he would fall through the cracks in a big high school. A year of independant study may not be the best idea either.

Our son is a great kid. We have no problems with him...we get along, we know his friends and many of their parents and we have good communication between us. I'm not sure what another year of high school will give him and I think this could be a beneficial thing for him.

Have any of you gone this route? I'd love to hear how it went, how the process was, how it turned out.We're just exploring this option at this point but have to decide by Feb. Thanks in advance for your input. anon mom


I graduated a semester early from high school and went to community college while waiting for my first (fall) semester to start at SFSU. I was done with high school, socially isolated, and really needed to move on. My parents were concerned about me just hanging around the house, but I already had a part-time job and was very happy working at that and taking some low-pressure classes at Skyline College.

However, I was a very motivated student and didn't have any academic challenges. When I think about my son who has learning differences and motivation problems, I think how hard it would be to get him to attend community college and prepare for the GED instead of doing a senior year of high school. If he was already 18, I think it would be impossible.

It really comes down to your relationship with your son, and your goals for him. Can you set and maintain firm boundaries? What is your backup plan if he just plain refuses to take his GED? Will you have a requirement that he work, pay rent, look for his own place, etc.? You need to have a contract with him that reflects that you will support him financially as long as he holds up his side of things. plan this carefully


My daughter got tired of high school by her junior year and took the CHSPE, which I understand is a bit more rigorous than the GED and more respected by other agencies. She passed it and started at Berkeley City College in what what have been the spring of her junior year in high school. She was quite happy to be in a different environment and, after a semester or two where she realized that you really have to study to do well in math classes, she has done really well in college. College and high school are much more blended than they were when I was a student. There are a lot of people still in high school who are taking individual college courses, and more and more people are doing what my daughter did and your son would like to do, and have opted to leave high school early and move into college. BCC has writing tutors that come in handy your first year. You need to be pro-active when it comes to choosing classes....meet with counselors as early as you can to decide what to take, because the courses fill up early. I'm sure it depends upon the maturity of the student, but sometimes all they need is a bit of motivation and they rise to the challenge. Also scope out the teachers by using Rate My Professor....not that comments shouldn't be taken with a grain of salt, but it will help in avoiding teachers who are universally panned. There are some excellent teachers in community college. Liz O
My point of view comes from being in your son's shoes, somewhat, and also from the perspective of a homeschooler. I hope that you find at least some of it applicable and helpful. My junior and senior years in high school were a complete waste of time. To test out of high school and to move on to a CC would have been ideal. In your situation, I see no reason to pay such extraordinary costs for private school when it is not working for your son. From the homeschool perspective, parents pull their kids out of school all the time because it is no longer a good fit for their children. Why waste your son's time at this school when he could move on to a new path in his educational life. It sounds like he is ready for a change. If your family does decide that leaving school is the right decision, I would suggest that you allow your son to decompress from school life after he tests out. The decompression period serves many purposes. To name two, it gives them time to withdraw from being told what to do and gives them the opportunity to become responsible for their own education. It also gives them time to withdraw from the school-induced pressure to learn (including external rewards) so learning becomes enjoyable and its own reward. This could set your son up for great success if/when he enters community college. Good luck with your decision. Marianne F
I was in a similar situation ... My son did not want to continue attending high school...after many confrontations he finally agree to do independent studies. He only did it for one period. Now he wants to go back to regular high school setting and graduate this year with his classmates. What I learned from this experience is; that I was afraid of the known, but my he was not! He was brave to explore new pathways in his educational journey... Note: Make sure that bullying is not the issue... ofelia
Our son was actually younger than most of his classmates. He took the CHSPE and transferred to Laney half way through his Junior year and enrolled in one of their vocational programs. He did quite well but switched to an academic program about half-way through when he found classes that he really enjoyed. He does have ADD but I don't know what effect that has had. He doesn't take a full course load and now he's also working part time. He has other friends who left high school early and enrolled in a community college vocational program but I'm not sure how successful or dedicated they've been. It sounds like your son has what it takes to do well. B.P.

My 17 year old wants to drop out of school

Jan 2011

My son is 17 and suffers from anxiety (we all suffer from his anxiety). He is on medication to control it for the most part. He finally has his first girlfriend and we had him get a PT job to pay for his dates. They broke up and he doens't want to keep the job and said he is strongly considering dropping out of high school. Although I explain to him the consequences of having no diploma and that he will struggle the rest of his life to get ahead (because most companies worth a darn want to see at the very least a HS diploma), he is trapped in the moment of failing geometry and working his job and being tired all the time. I told him we will get him a tutor for the geometry and he says ''great, more work....if this is how life is going to be, I'd rather not be in it''. I'm really conflicted as to what my next step should be: * let him quit the job and make him stay home (no dates)....* Keep pushing him to do it all and hope he doesnt have a breakdown? Any advice is appreciated I need nerve pills


Your posting raised some red flags for me. Given the recent break-up, his low energy level and feelings of overwhelm around school, i wonder if he is depressed. Is the quote you offered an indication of that and does he think about self-harm? I hope someone competent is monitoring his meds and can help evaluate his mood further. Seems like his emotional life is the priority here. Anon
There is a middle solution: take the CHSPE exam and enroll in a community college. My son did this and it was really a great solution for him. He started out working towards a certificate in one of the trades at Laney, and is currently working towards his AA so he can go on to the Calif State University system. The CHSPE is not a difficult exam but my son's counselor at BHS said it was meant to weed out kids who cut class all the time and don't learn anything. Francesca

17-year-old won't graduate from HS - what's available?

Jan 2009

My son is 17 and has not done well in school for the last 3 years; passing only half his classes each year since 9th grade. He is a senior now. He needs probably 5 courses to graduate from BHS. BHS does not let kids stay on to finish so... I am looking for alternatives. I am not sure where to look. We don't have a lot of money but can afford a nominal fee.

He's a great kid, very smart, but hates organized classrooms. He works almost everyday in the theater; loves lighting, sound, productions. Wants to work in theater professionally and thinks he will go to community college whenever he finally gets out of high school.

Does anyone have advice on what alternatives are available? Worried Mom


Children can get credit at junior colleges for high school-- look into the nearest junior college
1. Summer School. My boyfriend's daughter was also very into theater tech, low academic achiever, and failed a class senior year so she couldn't walk the stage. She went to summer school with kids from all over the district(they are in San Jose) and they had a mini graduation for them mid-summer when they finished their requirements.

2. Do you think he could pass his GED if he just took it? It is mostly math and english.

3. I used to volunteer with East Bay Conservation Corps in W. Oakland and they had a program called something like ''Young Businessmen'' that helped young men who hadn't finished HS to get their GED. They use a proven method and have very nice, patient volunteers to work with.

Good luck to both of you. kl


It is wonderful that your child has a passion. In our community, there is an Adult School associated with our school district that helps students complete their high school degrees - this may be a place to go to get advice. We also have independent study programs. Our middle school aged son did independent study last year because he hated traditional school, which felt pointless to him. He is in school this year, but we may resort to independent study again in the future. We have had to consult literature on the gifted for alternatives to traditional schooling. You are not alone. Anon
You should call the Piedmont Adult School (www.piedmontadultschool.org). They can work with your son to get the credits he needs to finish.
just have him take the CHSPE exam (google it). Like the GED but for kids 16-18 (and easier bc only English and math). There are practice tests online. Even if he doesn't pass it, he can still enroll in community college once he is 18. best wishes
Your son should consider taking the California High School Proficiency Exam. If he passes, it's equivalent to a high school diploma. Check out the California Department of Education's website: http://www.cde.ca.gov. Search for proficiency exam. The next administration is on March 21, 2009. He must sign up in advance and pay a fee. There are prep materials out there. Good luck. High school is not the be all and end all.
Why don't you try California Virtual Academies or Insight Schools? These are tuition free online public high schools. Their website addresses are www.caliva.org and/or www.insightschools.org. Good luck! Maria
I believe your son could attend Berkeley Adult School to complete his GED, and can get a high school diploma too by passing the high school exit exam. http://bas.berkeley.net/academic.html Perhaps combining this with a private tutor and a part time job in the theater world would get your young adult off to a good start next school year. They also offer independent study where your son would just meet with a teacher once a week. I'm kind of aghast that your Berkeley High School teachers/counselors haven't made this option clear to your family but it seems like the most direct route. ''The play's the thing''

Will a high school dropout be able to get a job?

Dec 2008

I've been struggling to try and get my 16 yr old foster son to stay in school, but it may be to no avail. Does anyone know whether a kid who drops out of school can get a job? He wouldn't have a work permit because that comes through the school district. D.


my son dropped out of school and has gotten 3 jobs since then (ages 16-17). No one has asked for work permit. Encourage your son to take the CHSPE exam... hang in there

Options for 16-year-old who is dropping out

Nov 2008

My foster son is 16 and is dropping out of high school--partly because academically he's so far behind, and partly because he isn't up to it emotionally. Does anyone have any suggestions (besides job corps) of programs for 16 yr. olds to work towards GEDs? Also, he'd like to work part-time, but how can I get him a work permit if he doesn't go to school? I'm confused about how to help him with this. This was not my first choice of how things would go, but he is in the 9th grade for the third time and failing it and I can see why he wants to drop out. D.


I know thre is an independent study oiption at Berkeley High, which is taken by students that find the emotional aspect of going there too much, by students with learning disabilities, as well as by students who are bored with the regular school, so, a broad range. Also, reading the post, have you ever assessed your foster child for learning disabilities? Researchers have estimated 20 percent of students have dyslexia, and from my experience and that of many other moms, BUSD is not very helpful picking up on this or helping, but at any case the first thing to do is send a letter and ask, in writing, for an assessment. try to finish however he can
I'm sorry your local high school has failed your son. So many kids don't fit the ''cookie cutter'' curriculum or image that so many high schools expect of our kids.

I have 3 places for you to check out; all in Oakland. Oasis High is specifically designed for kids who have dropped out. They work with your son to develop a program that meets his needs and interests. Civicorps Academy is a high school recovery program that is hooked in with the conservation corps. And my daughter goes to one of the many charter schools in Oakland - Envision Academy. It is more academically motivated, but with a student-teacher ratio of 15-1, no one slips into the cracks. We don't have ANY 3rd year 9th graders, and your son can attend the mandatory summer program to make up for missed credits. We too have some older than grade level kids, but I have seen kids that 2 years ago were way below grade level (more than 2 years) catch up, and now you would never know how far behind they once were.

A lot of times, kids, especially boys, want to drop out, or just plain give up because of a totally shattered academic self esteem. Teachers expect these kids to ''get'' the concepts they teach, by teaching every kid the same way. It has been my experience that very few non-alternative high school teachers have updated their methods, or updated what we now know about teenage development, and how the brain works and processes information. And even if a teacher does want to change the way things are, they are usually the lowest person in a department of dinosaurs. (I've been there-in middle school, with ex-high school teachers teaching 8th grade)

And don't even get me started on how much money is wasted on administration in traditional high schools. How many non-teaching vice-principals can we get rid of and take that money and hire 2 teachers for each vice-principal. Lower class size=fewer behavior problems=no need for vice-principals.

Sorry off subject - good luck to you and your son. Jenny


Is there another way to get a high school diploma?

August 2006

My son is attending a therapeutic boarding school program and would only have to wait until March to finish his entire high school program, diploma in hand (They attend school year round, so he would, in fact, finish high school three months before his peers here at home). He has many home visits that last for two weeks at a time. He will be coming home in a few weeks for one of these visits, and then for Thanksgiving, and then two weeks over the Christmas holidays, etc. However, he is saying that coming home for good is the most important thing to him, and when he turns 18 in late November, he legally has the right to do so. We can't seem to reason with him about the benefits of waiting just 10 more weeks to finish everything at his current school.

I have checked the California High School Proficiency Exam date, and it is given in October, when he will not be here. I believe the only requirements he has to finish high school, and meet the California criteria for graduation are English and a science course. I have looked at the GED, and honestly feel he would struggle to pass it - he's not good at taking tests, and has a learning disability as well as ADHD. Besides encouragement for him to wait it out, is there another way he could get a high school diploma here locally, and start in late November?? By taking these courses at community college, does that automatically give him a diploma? , or, after meeting the requirements for graduating high school in California, must he take the GED?

Any insights/help/suggestions would be appreciated.


I'm part of a group of educators and psychologists who have just opened a school in this area called School For Independent Learners. The original school has been open in Los Altos for the past five years. The school is WASC accredited and helps high school students complete courses for their diploma. The teaching is one-on-one, and uses mastery learning, so if your son fails a test, they will reteach and retest. He can start at any time, since all the teaching is individualized. If you'ld like more information, you're welcome to email me directly
snunan[at]mindspring.com
In reference to your question about other ways for your son to get his high school diploma - yes, there is another route. He can get a high school diploma through your local Adult Education district. Most programs that offer the GED also offer a high school diploma. Of course, this being California, your son would need to pass the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) in addition to completeing the course work required by the state of CA (which could be slightly different from that which is required by the state where he is currently attending school). If indeed he only needs two course, he could probably start in November when he comes home and finish by January or February. If you have more questions about going the Adult Ed. route to a HS diploma, you can email me directly. regards,
Sara (program co-ordinator for an independent study high school)
The situation you describe is very difficult, and I'm empathetic. I was in a situation with my child that was somewhat similar, but not completely. Feel free to write to me if you'd like a listening ear.
parent who's been there
One of my foster kids is taking the proficiency exam in October. She got a lot of great advice re logistics and rules from the Drop Out Prevention Center in San Francisco. Claudia

Logistics of Teen Dropping Out

May 2003

My almost 16 year old daughter has decided after 4 years of fighting middle school and high school to drop out and take the California High School Proficiency Exam. She wants to go to community college in the fall and start working.

I totally support her because this is an organic decision arising out of her experience but I also have some concerns about logistics and technicalities. Since the exam is not until November (and I don't know when results will come), I'm wondering if she can go to community college in September? I think she might end up falling through the cracks and not be in school and not be able to go to community college either. Anyone with experience in this area, please feel free to give your two cents on the situation. Thanks.


you can get info about the chspe at www.cde.ca.gov/ statetests/chspe/ it says that it is unlawful to drop out before you pass the test if you are under 18. if she takes the 11-15-03 test they mail results 12-19-03. basically your daughter needs to go to one more semester of high school. nina
I know from having worked at SF City College for 20 years in the past, that students who do not graduate high school can take the GED exam to get a high school equivalency and then simply enroll in a city /community college I have a friend whose daughter is now a grad. from UCSan Diego, she left high school, took the GED, enrolled in Laney College did well for two years of courses and transferred to UC San Diego I have a friend with an engineering degree from UCB who never graduated high school just contact the registration office at Laney or your closest city/community college to confirm this Good Luck!
I believe one can attend CC at any time, regardless of high school graduation status. Of course, you would have to call the CC of your choice and find out, some might be ''pickier'' than others.

My experience is with Solano Community College and my teenage son, who attends classes there in addition to HS. We anticipate his leaving HS at the end of December '03 (his Junior year) and entering there full time. Solano CC staff and faculty have been so encouraging, and he loves it. They treat him with respect, something sorely lacking at his HS. Good luck, sounds like you're going in the right direction.


Some time ago, a post in a UCB parents newsletter stated that Mills College does not accept applicants who have substituted the GED for high school graduation. Given some of the recent discussions here, I thought it worth mentioning that this is incorrect: Mills College does in fact accept the GED, and offers a wonderful and welcoming environment for all women, including those who choose alternative paths. Our motto is, after all, ''Uno destinatio, viae diversae.'' (One destination, many paths.) http://www.mills.edu/ sreilly

Troubled daughter has stopped going to school

Jan. 2002

My 15-year-old daughter has stopped going to school. She has some emotional problems and we are considering a residential boarding school. Does anyone have recommendations about that? In the meantime, I am looking around for a Wilderness program or something of that nature for her to do. Any suggestions?


To the parent seeking information about therapeutic boarding schools: one of our boys spent 18 months in a residential treatment center and is home now, doing well. We tried a lot of differents things before sending him off, but his running away several times was what finally impelled us to take this drastic step. It was a lifesaver for all of us. I'd be glad to talk with with you. Debbie

Additional Recommendations received:

  • Educational Consultants & Therapists
  • Deer Hill Ranch ropes course
  • Oak Meadow Homeschool Program
  • UC Berkeley Online Extension Classes

    17 year-old wants tutor, not high school

    Sept. 2000

    I have a 17 year-old son who is a junior. He would like to take charge of his own education: choosing topics to read about, research and write on in greater depth than is possible in school.

    I don't feel competent to home school him. Do you have any suggestions as to how we could set up a program to meet his learning style? Any resources anyone could refer me to? He'd like to work with a tutor like in the old days. Anonymous


    Talk with Carl Brush, the principal at Independent Study. I am sure there are teachers there that would love to have him as part of their student population.

    Flora Russ -- Computer Science Dept, BHS

    (recommendation for Berkeley Independent Study is Here)


    Two very different possibilities come to mind:
    1. Independent Study Program. Call Carl Brush, administrator at 644-8592.
    2. Read "Real Lives," a collection of self-taught teen autobiographies; and "Teenage Liberation Handbook" subtitled, How to Quit School and Get a Real Education; both by Grace Llewellyn.

    Self-schooling or unschooling is not the same as homeschooling. You needn't do the teaching. As your son realizes, tutors can be found everywhere. Many uschoolers start college early, some later. Your son can easily earn a high school diploma now, by taking the California High School Proficiency Exam, and continue to learn in whatever way he does best.

    Michael


    Son has decided to drop out and take the equivalency exam

    April 2000

    After a six-month struggle, we could no longer fight with our son to stay at Berkeley High and he has made the decision to leave school, take the high school equivalency exam and go to community college as an alternative route to university. I have heard many stories of people who have done this successfully and, although it would not have been my choice for him, I think he will ultimately do well. But I would be interested in hearing from other parents whose kids have taken this route. TIA. Miriam


    This is in reply to Mariam's concern regarding her child's choice to take an alternate path. I can speak to that concern from the point of view of one who took that path. My parents were extremely distressed 25 years ago when I chose not to go to college after finishing high school early. I was throwing away an opportunity they'd never had. However, after a few years working and taking night classes from a local community college, I decided to go back to school full-time at a community college and then transferred to UC Berkeley. Without the support and encouragement I received at the community college level I would never have attempted to go to a UC nor would I have done as well. I can understand how difficult it is to watch a child take an alternate path, but there are many roads to success and we each need to find our own way. Community colleges are wonderful jumping off points with dedicated teachers.....not to mention much cheaper. Fern

    17-year-old has dropped out - what are his options?

    Oct 2001

    My 17 yr old son has always had difficulty in school (since middle school). He has struggled up to the 11th grade with poor attendance and even poorer grades. He knows that he does not have enough credits to graduate next school year and thus has dropped out. I have pushed, threatened, begged, pleaded and enticed him to continue in school, but since i am a single parent I must work and cannot be at home to make sure he goes off to school. He is not playing hookey or hanging out elsewhere during school hours and knows that I do not allow him to go out in the evening if he didn't go to school. So there he is, at home, all day and night, 24/7. He says that he wants a high school diploma but we don't know what his options are. The school he is suppose to attend has no other alternatives other then attending classes there. We have spoken about attending an adult school and obtaining his GED but he feels strongly about finding other ways to get a high school diploma. I am at a loss. I can't understand how he expects to earn a high school diploma without going to school. Do anyone out there know of alternatives to a high school education without attending school?? Note: I live in Albany and we have explored all options there already.


    The situation with your son sounds almost identical to ours. Our son will be taking the CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Examination) in November. This test is essentially the GED for students 17 and younger. You can receive the information on the internet, along with sample tests, and then sign up for the tests which are given only twice a year at local sites (El Cerrito High School is one of them). Purchase the CHSPE Handbook at the local bookstores so that he can prepare for the test. It is a pass/fail test and the registration is $50. We are totally frustrated with our son, as his attitude sounds just like your son's, and we have talked ourselves blue in the face about the importance of an education, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah, and it has gotten us nowhere. He does want to enroll in community college if he does pass the test (which he says he will). He has gone one year to Independent Study and it only worked for one semester. Everyone tells me that he will eventually learn (the hard way) on his own that what we've been saying all along is true. He definitely beats to a different drummer, as all of his friends are on track to graduate in June. He has two older sisters who are doing extremely well in college (one is a Harvard graduate student now). Substance abuse is part of the problem, which maybe your son's problem also. Good luck.
    My 17-year-old daughter also dropped out of school last April at the end of 10th grade....she took the CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Examination) passed...and has started Junior College...she loves her classes and is playing 2 sports...she plans to transfer to a State College in 2 years...for more info on the CHSPE here is the website:www.chspe.com.....or call:(916-383-9506....FAX:916-383-8657) the address is P.O.Box 1478...Rancho Cordova,CA 95741-1478...the test is given 2 times a year (April and November) at many locations in California.
    I am extremely sympathetic. Our son dropped out of BHS after 11th grade at age 16. We were able to get him into college (Rory Bled at BHS was so helpful), but he always was and still is a marginal student. Schools don't work for many kids. If your son wants something that stands in place of the diploma, he can take the California High School Proficiency Exam and then go on to community college.--see http://www.chspe.com/. But if he wants to take high school courses, have you explored transfer options - could he enroll in Independent Study or the Alternative High School in Berkeley? Or, while he waits to take the CHSPE, he could work -- perhaps it would be healthy for him to take a break and be productive in another way. From what you say, it seems he spends all his time at home--if he has anxieties and fears that keep him at home, it sounds as if he needs counseling or at least a respite from years of struggling with school issues. It must be so difficult for you as a single mother, and I hope that other parents who respond can give you suggestions that will put you and your son on the right track.
    This is very common problem for the young men (and young women) at BHS. There is not an established way at BHS to support/ teach those who haven't gotten the necessary educational skills to continue with their high school education. It is a very sad situation that I have seen repeatedly. We have fine teachers and tutorial projects, but teens, especially boys drop out. I wish we could help these really wonderful young wo/men find a way to grow and flourish in our society. It seems such a wasted time for them.

    I suggest you try the Albany or Berkeley Alternative High Schools. This works for some kids. It allows them a place to go and have a more 1 on 1 experience with a teacher. I think you can also send your kid to Vista. I would try having a tutor come and work with your son, in basics -- math/writing and/or music/choir-- social things outside of school environs, where they can build positive self esteem. Some way to give them a grasp on something positive - a lifesaver to a seemingly drowning person. I would pray and I would stay positive and not worry....... as roses do bloom at different times. Linda


    Have you checked out the California High School Proficiency Exam? It's something he could study towards, and is the equivalent of a regular high school diploma (NOT a GED). I'm an Oakland school social worker; a few of my former students with a lot of school failure experiences took and passed this test. The fact that they did, succeeded at it, and could use it to apply for jobs and college made a huge difference to them. They (CHSPE) might have a website, but I know there are also books to prep for this test, and high school counselors do know about it! Wendy
    This is the web site for the California State High School Proficiency Exam: http://www.chspe.com/main.html. Your child must be over 16 and completed credits for the 10th grade. The next date for the test is April. This test doesn't require your son to take any more classes.
    Hi, I'm replying to the mom of the 17 year old who is dropping out because my 16 year old is doing the same. You could get a cross district transfer into BHS Indipendent Studies (although there is a waiting list I think). My son is signed up to take the California High School Proficiency Equivalency Exam on November 17, which, if he passes, will give him a high school diploma. You can still enroll in high school to get the regular diploma even if you have passed this exam. Two and four-year colleges in California recognize the CHSPEE as a high school diploma, so your son could go ahead and take classes at a junior college, which is what we are encouraging our son to do. He could also get a job with the diploma and then sort out his options. At least he would have some structure to his life. Has your son been evaluated for any type of learning problems that might have made his journey through high school more difficult? Good luck. Mary Lee
    To the mother whose son has dropped out of school -- Especially if she has Kaiser Permanente coverage, she should be referred to the previous information on the e-tree (last spring/early summer) about the Parent Project workshop for dealing with teens engaged in destructive behavior. Her options are not easy but she can learn and use new tools for the destructive behavior of dropping out of and failing school. I hope you have in the archives my comments at that time and the additional comments from the Rhona in Richmond. Nicolie

    Editor Note: the postings about the Parent Project are here: http://parents.berkeley.edu/recommend/therapy/parentproject.html


    I know Berkeley has an alternative school, an independent study school. Hopefully someone else can tell you how to make contact. My son didn't get as far as dropping out, but might have arrived there if we hadn't found an independent study school for him where we live. Last year he'd go in once a week for a meeting with his teacher, turn in his work and get new work. He could earn grades separately from units and did indeed make fewer units than he should have last year. But he can work with his teacher to make them up this year. This year he hangs out there practically every day. It has made an incredible difference. He's happy this year! Barbara

    16-year-old wants to drop out & take the GED

    My daughter is 16 and went to a private school thru to 8th grade. She received a national award for her SAT scores during the seventh grade and is very bright. She then went on to Berkeley High and although began both freshman semesters very strong, she ended up slipping out with failing grades or incompletes expressing boredom and frustration with group projects. She pleaded to go to Independent Studies and has also not been able to motivate herself and so far has received incompletes and f's. I have tried counseling, academic coaching, therapy, meetings with the "truancy officer" and to no avail, she is still slipping and struggling unless I am constantly checking in with teachers and even then they are discouraged. She wants to take the GED or the Ca. Equivalency since she is only 16 and start taking classes at community colleges. She is very talented in art and theatre. I fear if she cannot succeed in independent studies, how will she at Vista. Any suggestions or experiences with this kind of situation? Any names or leads on an "academic therapist" or career coach etc? anonymous
    My daughter has also struggled with buying into high school. I have to admit, I share some of her skepticism. We tell them to think about their future and take responsibility for it, so I feel they should be making a lot of the choices. I feel if they come up with a viable alternative, we should support it. Clearly, the current approach is not working for your daughter and if you force her to continue on that path and it doesn't work out, she could blame you. On the other hand, if she makes the decision to try something else, that will be her responsibility. I think you can help her by making sure she has as much information about what taking the test and attending junior college will involve. It will take some time for her to take the test, get the results, and enroll in junior college. By then she will be older -- closer to the age of other junior college students -- and have had additional time to consider whether this is the best choice for her. Betty
    To the person whose daughter wants to take the California High School Equivalency Exam and go to community college: your story sounds so similar to what I went through with my son last year. He did end up taking the CHESPE and getting out of high school. It was not what I would have preferred, but I have heard many stories of people who have done that and done well. He is currently working and taking a couple of community college courses this year, hoping to go to college next year. So, we're very much still in process, but I would be very willing to talk to you if you want to e-mail me privately. Miriam
    Re: California High School Proficiency Examination

    Take the California High School Proficiency Examination (CHSPE) rather than the GED. The CHSPE gives you a high school diploma from the State of California. One of my former students (class of 2000) completed her sophomore year and started her junior year but she really wanted to get out on her own as quickly as possible. She took the CHSPE and passed and started school for massage therapy. When her classmates got their high school diploma last June she was finishing the certification for her massage theray program.

    Another student had a lot of issues about school and the restrictions of school. She, too, took the CHSPE and passed and is currently working. I hope that some day she will return to a post-secondary program to explore fields that might interest her.

    Information on the test may be found on the State of California website at: http://www.chspe.com/main.html. I believe the deadline for registering is next week and the test is during the first part of November, prior to the 16th.

    Good luck to her. I'm sure she will pass and can then decide what path she wishes to take.

    Flora Russ --
    Berkeley High School


    my daughter went through 1 year at berkeley high and began thinking seriously about dropping out. she was very depressed there and hung out with kids that scared me. then we heard about the school of the arts, in san francisco, which is a regional public high school open to kids from all over northern california who are accepted, either through audition or by portfolio. the entire school is only 400 kids,but they are all passionate about their art. there are various depatments, including theater and visual art. my daughter is now in her 3rd year at sota, planning on majoring in theater in college, and in love with life. if you think your daughter might be interested, their phone is 415-469-4027. Barbara [this recommendations is also on the page for San Francisco School of the Arts]
    I hear your pain. The pattern of a bright child starting off well each semester, and then failing, sounds all to familiar. We too have tried many, many things to motivate our teen academically, most to little or no avail, including both public and private schools, living with us, and living with another relative, etc etc etc. After her suicide attempt last spring, however, we were forced to conclude that standard schooling was failing her, bigtime. At the suggestion of a friend, we decided to embark upon "unschooling"-- a method of self-directed learning especially appropriate for teens. The marvelous book "The Teenage Liberation Handbook" has been recommended on this list before, and you might want to read it, or better yet hand it to your teen. It can be slightly preachy about the topic, but it's worth wading through that, IMO.

    I can't tell you yet whether or not this is working (from an academic standpoint), since we've only been doing it a few months. The book suggests that you let your teen take a "break" of indeterminite time when undertaking this process. This is to allow them to "recover" from the damage inflicted by the current system of schooling, which according to the author (with lots of convincing evidence) was desiged not to foster a love of learning, but to turn out good, unthinking factory workers. I know this is controversial (just listen to the ads pro and con about Prop 38!), but it made sense to us after all our struggles, and watching her becoming more and more frustrated with school. I *do* know that the moment we told her we would do this, she became the active, animated person that I knew her to be in the past. And I would say she's already moving toward some serious learning on her own. She applied for and got a great short-term job with Zeum over the summer. She did a summer theater production. She read Brave New World last month, and we talked about it. She went to England with her aunt and uncle, and saw a lot of theater (one of her passions). She's starting a teen drama group, which is a REALLY big project that I totally support. I heard her last night discussing a book with another homeschooled teen, something that I've never read, but that sounds REALLY interesting, about early american history. She's done several sewing projects, developed an interest in the Oakland A's, applied for a job with the Athletics, and now is the person to do all the data entry and keep our entire household budget. The results are, academically, a bit intangible. But it sure looks to me like she's learning all kinds of things, and this will be a positive experience. And all of this is during her "break"!! She plans to start a couple of community college classes next spring, and wants to go live in Europe for a while in a year or two.

    Regarding taking the exam and then doing community college--you might want to do it slightly differently. In California you can file something called an R-4 Affadavit, and become your own private school. Once you have done this, your child can take classes at the Community College *FOR FREE*. (You, as the school officer, sign the recommendation allowing them to take classes "concurrently" with their "regular" high school curriculum). They get credit just like they would if they had taken the equivalency exam, but you don't have to pay the tuition. If your child is already interested in taking Community College classes, this might be an option that you strongly want to consider. And it may be that the higher level of classes, and the fact that your child can choose *exactly* which classes to take, will allow them to succeed where "traditional" high school has not.


    Yes, definitely let your daughter take the CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Exam). She will pass it easily and will be free to take community college classes if that's what she really wants to do. Otherwise, she will be just plain free.

    For alternative education get a copy of Grace Llewellyn's Teenage Liberation Handbook, How to Quit School and get a Real Education--it is full of ideas for education outside of school. It sounds like your daughter may be a candidate for self-schooling, since other forms of school don't work for her.

    My own kids (16 and 18) both have a CHSPE diploma, and are self-schoolers (or unschoolers), though when in school they have done well, i.e., gotten good grades and good test scores. However, both are very independent, and pursue their own interests, preferring not to follow a canned curriculum and format usually presented by schools.

    My 16 year old daughter is also pursuing theater, and looking forward to college level classes in dance and theater. Your daughter might enjoy classes at ACT (though expensive), but the best involvement might be in a community theater--whatever is nearby: Actor's Workshop at Live Oak Theater, Contra Costa Civic Theater in El Cerrito, Masquer's Playhouse in Point Richmond, Chanticleer in Castro Valley. She can audition, volunteer, paint sets, whatever. My daughter finds the community theater her home-away-from-home, including a crew of theatrical friends to hang out with. Sometimes she is in plays, sometimes on crew, sometimes managing the house.

    Though our family is a distinct minority, especially in this educational institution-crazed town, there are other ways to get an education than in school; and there are positive, constructive, educational opportunities everywhere in life. I'd also be interested to find a career counselor who can think outside the box of school diplomas and degrees.

    Michael


    It sounds like you have done everything you can to help your daughter. I do have a question, however; were all these steps done "cooperatively," i.e., with her input? I, too, have a daughter about her age. Although she didn't go to private school, we moved here for me to attend Cal and she had some difficulty adjusting, to say the least. Now that she is in high school (Albany), she is often less than enthused about the school itself, although she has had a few teachers she likes and done well in those classes. She and I talked at length over a period of time about her dissatisfaction with her particular high school and high school in general. She is planning on taking the CA equivalency exam next spring when she turns 16. If her high school experience is still unchallenging for her, she wants to go to community college also and work part-time to save money to transfer to a four-year. There is also the possibility that I will do my graduate studies stint at Cambridge, so an equivalency will allow her some freedom to pick a program in England. The reason I tell you all this (probably unnecessarily) is that I think it's really important that your daughter feels she has options. She sounds unchallenged and/or unhappy with public high school and I think we're fortunate that our kids have educational options that we often didn't. I think my lack of option and say in my education led me to a long series of dead ends, culminating in a return for my bachelor's degree in my late 30's. I think if your daughter has expressed interest in attending community college, you should consider exploring that option with her. I think a different level of expectation and academic freedom might make all the difference, even if her educational path seems outside the "norm" to you. Believe me, I know it's hard to watch your daughter struggle. Whether community college is the answer, perhaps it's more important that she is making the choice herself for her future. Good luck to both of you.
    Sincerely,
    Karen
    Dear Parents,
    Having just reviewed all the responses above and found that most were from parents of girls, I thought I would share a bit about our 18 year old son. Thanks to a previous response from a father of a son, we first learned about the CHSPE option. The staff at the CHSPE office are remarkably cordial and humane, and provided helpful telephone information the two times I called. They said that thousands of kids have taken the exam which has existed for more than a decade, and it is quite rigorous---as 40% who attempt it do not pass. The student must have taken or mastered three years of math (two years algebra, one of geometry) to be able to pass. After passing, within three to four weeks, the student receives a frameable "diploma" and an explanation quoting California state law that all California institutions of higher education and agencies must recognize the CHSPE certificate as the equivalent of high school graduation.

    We have a smart, stubborn, independent 18 and a half year old who seemed to emotionally fall apart at the start of senior year in a local small private high school. He simply could/would not do any home work, and let a 3.4 GPA slip into Ds and Fs. He claimed that he should have been in the public high school, although after all 8 grades in public school, he was also starting to go down dangerous paths, and we felt the need to find more structure for him when starting high school. By November of his senior year, he simply left high school and home, and after two months, had parlayed his weekend job into a full-time job.

    He has now passed the CHSPE, works full time for all his own "projects" (cars) and spending money, lives at home with us, and plans to start local community college to give it a try in the fall. He seems happier, proud of his accomplishments, and behaves mostly like an adult with respect to his work responsibilities.

    Although this is still a "work in progress", and we had our hearts set on a UC or CSU right away after high school graduation, it was just not meant to be. The pressure with SATs and applications throughout fall of Senior year was simply excessive for this boy, and he has honorably found another path which we are now supporting. Communication and caring at home has vastly improved, although sometimes it seems that we have a young tenant who only accepts the most minor guidance, whom we see about twice a week, rather than the son who requires parenting----so we feel that we are learning these new "hands off" skills. The pressure in our community to be able to share information with our own peers about high school graduation, GPAs, SAT scores, and college admission is off the charts---and very hard when your child does not select that path.

    If nothing else, parenting teens teaches us humility......

    good luck, loosen those reins----
    Anonymous


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