Public Schools for Struggling Teens

Public schools for struggling teens may be difficult to find. Before sending your struggling teen off to a boarding school, residential treatment facility, military school, or boot camp read this article to see if there is a public school that fits the needs of your struggling teenager.

Teens can struggle in schools for a number of reasons. And for some people, the resources for such teens that immediately come to mind are private school options. There are, however, public school options for teens who are struggling. One particular type of public school that may arise to fill this need is the charter school. But there are other possibilities as well. This article provides an overview.

Matching Teens and Schools

Teens struggle in school for a variety of reasons. Here are some of them:

  • a language barrier, if English is not the child’s native language
  • boredom, if the child is particularly gifted and the curriculum is not able to address the child’s particular area of excellence
  • learning issues that are not being well-handled
  • having any of a number of disorders that have a component that makes social interaction difficult
  • having medical issues that make it difficult for the child to keep up with classwork for any reason
  • substance abuse
  • family issues
  • having a mental disorder, such as teen depression
  • criminal activity
  • difficulty juggling extracurricular activities that are very important with academics

Clearly, children with all of these challenges might all be struggling, but the ideal environment that would be best for each might be quite different. In some cases, the boarding school for the “troubled teen” or the “therapeutic boarding school” is not the only, or possibly not even a good, solution.

What Are Charter Schools?

Charter schools are public elementary and secondary schools that have particular attributes in some areas and a great deal of freedom in others:

  • their charter specifies their mission, program, expected results, and other details
  • they are freed from certain rules, statutes, and regulations in exchange for results accountability, according to their charter
  • they are nonsectarian
  • the charter is granted for a specific period, usually not longer than 5 years
  • their accountability - which includes pupil performance, fiscal practice, and any charter specifications - is to the sponsoring body, usually a state or a local school board.

Because of their freedom, charter schools can sometimes offer an environment that is especially adapted to students with particular needs that may or may not be “special needs” in the legal sense.

Charter Schools vs. Boarding Schools

Unlike boarding schools, charter schools are designed to serve their local community. This means that if you are searching for a school for your child, and there is not a school that meets his or her needs locally, you have more of an issue than with a boarding school. But, on the other hand, since a charter school answers to the local school board or the state, you also can have more input into what goes on: there is local control.


  • American YouthWorks Charter School - Austin, TX This school’s mission involves engaging high-risk students in grades 9-12 through community service. Focuses especially on students who have dropped out or who are at risk of dropping out.
  • Princeton House Charter Schoo - Orlando, FL This school serves autistic children aged 3-22 with a program that combines academic learning with life skills and job training.
  • Baltimore Freedom Academy - Baltimore, MD This school’s mission is to raise standards for students in grades 6-12, most of whom come from “economically-challenged backgrounds” through a curriculum focused on activism and social justice that transforms the community.
  • Capistrano Connections Academy™ - Los Angeles, CA This school is accredited for grades K-10, with provisional accreditation for grades 11-12. It provides an independent study curriculum that is non-classroom-based. It could potentially be used by a child who was hospitalized or home-bound.

You can find a complete list of charter schools published annually at the Center for Education Reform website:


Related Article: Therapeutic Boarding Schools >>