TC Media Center from the Office of External Affairs

Section Navigation

The Vanishing Class

Each year in California's high schools, tens of thousands of students drop out, and most still yearn for diplomas. That's where the opportunity comes for entrepreneurs like John and Joan Hall, former teachers from Hollywood who have built a controversial chain of schools for dropouts. In the Halls' two charter school operations students work independently, completing assignments at home and typically meeting with a teacher just two hours a week.

The state's dropout crisis has given rise to many schools like theirs, publicly funded programs offering alternate routes to graduation. More than a quarter of all charter schools in the state aren't classroom-based. But the idea that teenagers who have failed in traditional schools will do better studying subjects like algebra on their own remains largely unproved.

"If these are at-risk kids, they should be receiving the best education possible. Ironically, these schools operate with some of the most lax oversight over how they are teaching students and how resources are being used," said Luis Huerta, a Columbia University professor who has studied such programs, including the Halls'. "While their intents may be noble, this is still an operation that is funded by taxpayers."

This article, written by Joel Rubin and Nancy Cleeland, appeared February 6th, 2006 publication of The Los Angeles Times.

Note: Professor Huerta examines the issues that nonclassroom-based charter schools are raising for the wider public school system in a forthcoming article to be published in the Peabody Journal of Education. See Huerta, L. A., Gonzílez, M. F. & d'Entremont, C. (in press). Cyber and home school charter schools: Adopting policy to new forms of public schooling. Peabody Journal of Education, Spring 2006.

previous page