There are only a handful of schools available to sixth through eighth graders living in the west side of San Francisco, and for many students, they simply won’t do. The SF Unified School District (SFUSD) schools in the area are at full capacity, with 135 Sunset District students alone on waiting lists. But that is not the only reason local teens are opting instead to attend California community colleges.
12 on the first day of his ninth college course, is a competitive gymnast who trains at Stanford University six days a week. His 13-year-old neighbor dropped out of her local private school due to bullying. Both of them felt stifled by their peers.
Another Sunset resident, who at just 16 recently graduated from UC Berkeley, chose to at- tend both in-person and online college courses, beginning at age 11. His ADHD, and other behavior-related needs, were not being met by traditional schools. But, in his online classes he no longer got in trouble for doodling in class or losing his homework assignments.
These students found the con- tent of the more focused college curriculum more engaging than what they encountered at junior high schools.
Some California community colleges allow Kindergarten through 12th grade students to enroll in regular university trans- ferable courses on a case-by- case basis. Each school has its own set of requirements for do- ing so.
Historically, this is done via concurrent or dual enrollment with the student’s high school. However, many participating students are home schooled and utilize the college courses as their primary curriculum. They are the last to enroll in classes so
as not to take space away from traditional college students.
The California Education Code (EC), Section 48800, provides that the governing board of a school district may determine which students may benefit from advanced scholastic or vocational work.
Middle and high-school students are not allowed to take remedial courses in college, so the traditional basic math and language arts courses are off the table. But, they are replaced by student-selected courses, such as geology, sociology, playwriting, Spanish, music theory, art history, criminal justice, health, cinema, child development, anthropology, environmental studies, astronomy and more. I believe that many of the California curriculum standards are met in these topic-specific courses, but some supplemental classes may be needed, especially in math.
It is virtually free for California students to take community college classes, but they must know the requirements for doing so.
Many hard-working students are successful in regular school, but for some students (athletes, musicians, actors, high achieving learners or those for whom the traditional model doesn’t work), this opportunity can make sec- ondary school more meaningful and, in some cases, is the only way for them to get a quality ed- ucation.
Jessica Jacobs Dirschel, of http://www.ditchschool.org, is a teach- er and Sunset District resident who advocates for student directed home schooling, also known as “unschooling.” She maintains a California Private School Affidavit and privately works with families in San Francisco, including those de- scribed in this column.