Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Public Homeschool Model in Santa Cruz

From the

Learning When, Where and How They Choose, by Valerie Strauss:

"Kaely Costanza is a ninth-grader who likes to sleep late in the mornings, rarely takes tests and attends class when she feels like it.

Yet the 14-year-old is considered by teachers to be a fine student.

Kaely is enrolled in the Santa Cruz City Public School District's Alternative Family Education home-study school. AFE allows home-schooled students from kindergarten through 12th grade to follow an individual education plan with help from their school system.

AFE students do not spend all day at home working independently; they might instead attend some classes at the school or at a nearby community college, lead teacher Ward Smith said.

AFE, and other programs like it, are an outgrowth of the home-schooling movement, which has grown in recent years as families opt out of public schools.

Administrators call the program, which began about 15 years ago, a win-win situation. It allows families to take a major role in their child's education while the school system retains the student. AFE is, in fact, the only school in the district that has not experienced declining enrollment, Smith said.

Students taking this alternative route -- 200 are currently enrolled in AFE -- are assigned a consultant teacher who helps the family write an educational contract that allows state requirements to be fulfilled while offering maximum flexibility in reaching that goal.

The kids participate in field trips, dramatic productions and other activities. "We can be very creative," Smith said.

Kaely said she wound up in AFE after kindergarten because her older sister was pushed in public school to read and write before she was ready.

One big bonus of AFE for Kaely is that she doesn't have to take tests -- which she said make her nervous -- although she knows she must pass the same high school graduation test as other students in the Santa Cruz school system to get her diploma."

More information about the AFE can be found here:

"Students in the Alternative Family Education School are considered enrolled in the Santa Cruz City School District. Each family, with the credentialed consultant teacher, determines the pace, methods, and the materials used for their child's educational program derived from the District's curriculum guidelines and state frameworks. Each student's learning goals are outlined in a contract signed by all parties involved. Student, family, and consulting teacher meet at least monthly to evaluate progress, set learning goals, plan activities, and to discuss resources and special interest courses offered by AFE. AFE provides students the opportunity to pursue an education of their own design, at their own pace. AFE also challenges each student to excel in areas of special interest, provides alternatives for students to achieve competency in basic skills, and creates a bridge between the traditional school and the community. AFE was created out of, or influenced by, a movement in education based on a homeschool model, with family involvement as key to the learning process. AFE families see the world, their community, and the people in it as their classroom."

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