Local high schools offer something for everyone

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Local high schools offer something for everyone

A mom looking at all of the high school choices for her 8th grader and ponders which one will be best.

A mom looking at all of the high school choices for her 8th grader and ponders which one will be best.

Audrey Boyce

A mom looking at all of the high school choices for her 8th grader and ponders which one will be best.

Audrey Boyce

Audrey Boyce

A mom looking at all of the high school choices for her 8th grader and ponders which one will be best.

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Bobby sits in class struggling to understand the first problem on the worksheet. His eyes dart across the room but the teacher is not available to help. On the other side of the classroom, Richard has completed the entire worksheet in the first five minutes of class and has moved on to next week’s assignment.

For many years, students like Bobby and Richard only had two options for high school: private or traditional public schools. As the 2000s emerged, a third option was created: the non-traditional public charter.

According to EdSource, high schools across California are implementing new teaching methods, such as personalized learning. However, whether it is effective or not being researched.

Everest, Summit Prep, and Design Tech High School (Dtech) are among these non-traditional public charter high schools that stress personalized learning.

At Summit and Everest, the curriculum is taught largely using an online platform which students choose from a playlist of learning tools and online instructional videos. Students take tests only when they feel as if they have mastered a topic.

Teachers play an advisory role rather than lecturing the students.

“I went to a public middle school, and I think at Everest the teachers are more involved in helping students learn because they make sure everyone gets what they’re teaching,” said Fernanda Gamino, a student at Everest.

For some, this style of personalized learning is beneficial, but others prefer a more traditional style.

“I didn’t really learn much at Dtech. The curriculum was not very structured. I also had too much free time every day that I didn’t know what to do with,” said Patrick Zheng, a sophomore at Carlmont.

While individual students have varying opinions, schools districts rely on aggregate data that measures overall performance to compare different teaching methods. This data is necessary to evaluate how well non-traditional schools are preparing students for college.

According to U.S.News, the performance of charter schools depends on the organization that is running it, and results vary.

According to Greatschools.org, when comparing the SAT scores of two high schools in the Sequoia Union District (Summit and Carlmont), the average SAT score of Summit is 1011 whereas Carlmont’s average SAT score is 1174.

However, when comparing the English and Math proficiency state testing, Summit’s average scores exceeded that of Carlmont.

According to research conducted by the Stanford University Center For Research On Education, the performance of Charter Schools is still mixed nationally, despite many innovations such as student-centered learning and online courses.

“We are fortunate to live in an affluent area with a strong public education system. I don’t worry about the quality of education my children would receive at any schools in the area,” said Dawn Brozek, a mother of three children who attend school in San Mateo County.

Charter schools are also relatively new.

“Charter schools turn 25 this year. Are they working the way people thought? That’s hard to say because there have been multiple competing theories about how charter schools would lead to better education outcomes,” said Greg Richmond, the president and CEO National Association of Charter School Authorizers.

Although the academic outcomes of Charter Schools vary, there is evidence that they offer a good option for a student with attention disorders.

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, the style of personalized learning better caters to children with these challenges.

“Of course, with every educational choice, there are trade-offs. As a parent, I appreciate that the large traditional high schools can offer a broader range of core courses, electives, and extracurriculars. Additionally, for some students, having a large group of students makes for better social opportunities,” Brozek said.

Within San Mateo County, there are 24 high schools that are A-rated schools according to Niche.

“I appreciate living in this part of the Peninsula, where the educational system is not only excellent but also offers many options so that high school students can find the best setting that will help them thrive,” Brozek said.

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