Several factors must be weighed when choosing a high school for your child. The pros and cons will be different for different students. The most important thing to consider is the child’s ultimate goals for the future. Once that is determined, compare what each available high school offers in the way of curriculum and activities, and choose the school that will best help to meet those goals. If you choose a smaller high school, or if a smaller school is your only option, there are certain advantages and disadvantages that will be common among most.
Smaller high schools support fewer students. This often allows for smaller class sizes and more individualized attention. Smaller class sizes are more manageable for the teacher, thus, fewer disruptions are likely to occur. Fewer students in a classroom allows for a greater number of “hands-on” activities which help students retain learned information for a longer time. In smaller high schools, assistance in academic areas where your child may be struggling is more readily available.
Stronger social bonds tend to be formed in smaller high schools. Often the students attending these high schools have been together throughout elementary and middle school as well. Drugs, violence, and other similar concerns can be found to some degree in most high schools. These problems, however, tend to occur less often in smaller high schools. This can be a very difficult time for young people, and a strong support system can help teens deal with the struggles common to their age group.
Smaller high schools do face their share of difficulties. Teacher salaries are often considerably lower and, consequently, do not usually attract educators with specialty skills. Special curriculum for gifted students is becoming obsolete in these schools. And specialty courses in wood shop, automotive, and other industrial arts are often eliminated due to the lack of qualified instructors. Furthermore, smaller high schools are often limited in the number of extra-curricular activities they are able to offer due to a lack of funding and manpower.
Although smaller high schools are also suffering from the budget cuts that are affecting all of the nation’s schools, they continue to try to provide a strong academic foundation for their students. Many are now connected to larger schools and technical colleges through a program known as ERVING, which allows students to take specialty courses by satellite.
When choosing a high school, do your homework. Find the school that is the best fit for your son or daughter. If your child is required to attend a district high school, find out what is available there. If you feel your child’s goals require more than the school offers, talk to the school administration regarding your concerns. They can often lead you to others who can provide for those needs. If enough students have a similar need, the school may be able to add to their curriculum through grants or careful budget adjustments.