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What is a Continuation High School?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A continuation high school is an alternative grade 12 diploma program for students aged 16 to 18 who haven't already graduated and are at risk for not graduating. The purpose of continuation high schools is to give students, who may have family, drug or other problems such as depression, an alternative to complete their education. A continuation high school is career-focused and offers students more flexibility than traditional secondary schools.

For instance, a student who is skipping classes at a regular high school and is risking being expelled may be given a workable study schedule to be completed during hours considered non-traditional at most schools. Individual study plans and smaller class sizes are features of a typical continuation high school. School days may also be shorter in length.

It's important to note that continuation high school students often work at a faster pace than those at traditional secondary schools. In many cases, these students are behind with their classes when they transfer to the continuation school. Students come from diverse backgrounds and have many different reasons for attending the alternative school model.

Some academically gifted students choose the continuation high school model so they can work at a faster pace than most traditional schools allow. Many pregnant teens and young mothers attend continuation high schools so they can schedule needed classes around their child care responsibilities. Alternate school models also give young people in the same situation a chance to connect with other students in similar circumstances.

While most traditional high schools do have student counseling available, a continuation school is even more focused on providing students with guidance. Continuation high schools help students prepare for careers and/or college. They may also work with youth and scholarship programs to financially help students go on to college or enter a career. Individualized plans and counseling are done within the context of completing traditional high school curriculum. It's important to note that the graduation requirements are the same for continuation schools as they are for traditional high school.

Unlike a traditional secondary school, completing coursework online at home is usually acceptable at continuation high schools. Most exams must be taken in person at the school. While most students apply to continuation high schools themselves, courts in youth delinquency cases may refer students to these alternative diploma programs.

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Discussion Comments

By sneakers41 — On May 16, 2011

@Cupcake15 - I agree with you and I also wanted to say that I am glad that schools like this exist for at risk students. A teenager that just had a baby has so much to worry about that working in an alternative setting like this with no distractions would allow many of these students to get an education and consider going to college.

In addition, the students in the program would be similarly situated so there would not be anyone gossiping about them and making them feel uncomfortable like you would see in a traditional high school.

By cupcake15 — On May 13, 2011

@Donna61 - I know what you mean. There is a continuation high school in my town that is strictly for gifted students because although they are finishing up their eleventh and twelfth grade years of high school, the material that they are presented with is college level material which is much too difficult for the average high school student.

These programs are great because children that are gifted need a constant challenge in order to feel stimulated if not they get bored. If they stay bored for too long, they will lose interest in school altogether and never live up to their potential.

This is what happened to a cousin of mine who was gifted. His parents did not want to separate him from his friends although the school suggested that he go to another school that offered a gifted curriculum. He ended up being a C student and never went to college.

By donna61 — On Feb 14, 2011

This is a great alternative for a child that does not fit into the "traditional" way of learning. My son is very gifted, but was bored in our high school. We contacted the principal and he recommended the continuation high school in our town, also known as an alternative high school. We had a great experience, I truly believe a student can learn more if their learning is self-directed as in the case of continuation or alternative high schools. This type of learning is not for the faint of heart as typically they are required to be more responsible than those in the traditional high school.

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