In many cities around the nation, specialized high schools are becoming a normal part of life. Students wanting to focus on dance, art, science, or even engineering can find a specialized program if they look for it. Should you send a student to such a school? Not unless your student is focused.
Just as it would be ridiculous to send a senior in high school interested in engineering to Julliard, it would be ridiculous to send a student with no engineering interest to a high school specializing in this field. Instead, you may want to consider letting that student continue at the school he or she has become accustomed to. It won't matter if the specialized school is the best school in the neighborhood, if your teen has no interest in the subject matter being offered, there will be no point in making him or her go there.
What's the Deal With Specialized High Schools?
Let's look at an example school to understand the difference between a specialized high school and a charter school. A charter school may be specialized, but it doesn't have to be. The Brooklyn Latin School is a good example of a specialized high school. This school is one of the few schools left in the United States that still mandate the study of Latin. The program offers a rigorous curriculum steeped in the classical tradition.
Another school that has a specialized curriculum is the Chicago school, South Shore High School. This school was broken into four specialized schools - the school of arts, the school of entrepreneurship, the school of leadership and the school of technology.
Some specialized schools require students pass an entrance exam to be accepted into the program. Other schools may be private and charge parents tuition. At the South Shore High School's entrepreneurship program, students take business courses to prepare them for a career of starting and running businesses.
Are Specialized Schools Really Better Schools?
Specialized schools are only as good as the students and teachers making up the school. If you have a student who is a mediocre student at his or her current traditional school, it is possible he or she may feel more motivation at a specialized school. For instance, if you have a teenager who is very talented when it comes to art, he or she may absolutely thrive in a school meant for artists. However, the opposite may be true. A student who is used to being recognized for artistic talents at her current school may feel lost and overwhelmed at an art school - and may become overly competitive or withdrawn.
While the later is rare, it does happen. While many students do well when surrounded by peers who share similar interests, some students may get lost in the activity of comparing himself or herself to others and could become discouraged rather than motivated in such a school. Thus, you may wish to reconsider this option if your teenager is prone to comparing his or herself to other students.
Specialized schools may have connections to prestigious colleges in the subject areas your teen is interested in. For this reason, if your student is serious about his or her interest areas, such a school may be a perfect fit. Do the research and find out what colleges students attend following graduation.
It May be a Nice Alternative
A specialized school may be a good alternative to attending an expensive college - especially if you have a teen who is focused on a trade. While students may go on to obtain advanced degrees, they may not have to. Students in a school focusing on entrepreneurship, for example, might go on to start their own businesses following (or in some cases even before) graduation, while students at the Brooklyn Latin School likely will go on to a liberal arts university. Talk to your teen about his or her career goals. What does he or she want to do? If you have a student who isn't into college, a specialized school might be the way to give your teen skills that can be used to build a successful life upon graduation.
Diversity Is a Plus
Another benefit to the specialized school is the diversity students will find at such schools. Because these schools attract students from a variety of backgrounds, due to their specialization, students will find that they are in classes with people of all sorts of racial and cultural backgrounds.
This makes a specialized school an outstanding opportunity for a child who may have otherwise been sheltered or who has grown up in an area without a lot of cultural diversity. The criteria for getting into such schools are based upon achievements rather than based upon geographic location. That means that a kid in the inner city who has good grades has a decent shot at getting into the specialized school - thus boosting his or her opportunities. The kid in the suburbs may also elect to go to the charter school. This means that your teen will learn how to work with people who have a different background and upbringing - and this will further enrich his or her education and better prepare him or her for going into the world.
If you live in a city that offers teens the opportunity to specialize at the high school level, take advantage of it! The only time I wouldn't suggest this is if your student doesn't have an interest in the specialization area - or if he or she doesn't have the aptitude for the discipline. I plan on sending my son to a local arts and sciences magnet school for high school. Do you have a school near you? If so, will your teen be attending the school?