Leaving High School in Massachusetts
The following resources are specific to Massachusetts. Other states may have different policies and options.
In Massachusetts, if you have reached your 16th birthday, you can simply stop going to school. Truancy laws do not apply to students 16 and over.
If you want to leave school and are not yet 16, the easiest way to do it is to get approval to homeschool. You do this through your local school district. If you are currently a student in the Boston Public School system, contact the Office of Alternative Education at the Boston Superintendent’s Office (ph. 617-635-8035) and ask them to send or e-mail you the homeschooling form. Once this application is approved they will inform your present school that you are no longer a student there.
On the form, you will need to provide your parent’s signature and a plan for what you will be studying. (Tips for writing your educational plan)
Things to keep in mind:
- You are not required to have a stay-at-home parent or full-day supervision to homeschool. You do not need to be enrolled in an online school or an alternative school of any kind. You do not need to have a certified teacher supervise your course of study. Teachers and school officials may give you erroneous or outdated information about homeschooling law; if you feel this is the case, reach out to a local homeschooling organization for help.
- You are required to describe what you will study, and to write a brief report at the end of the year describing your progress.
Some support groups and web sites:
- The Massachusetts Home Learning Association
- Advocates for Home Education in Massachusetts, Inc.
- Homeschooling in Massachusetts
- Home Education Magazine
Note: A Google search for “homeschooling in Massachusetts” may turn up links from The Home School Legal Defense Association. Be aware that this is a conservative Christian organization that will not help you unless you subscribe to their religious and political beliefs. The legal information they publish on their web site will be accurate, though.
Changing High Schools
You do not need to earn a high school diploma in order to apply to college — you can apply as a homeschooler, or as a transfer student if you’ve earned enough college credit. However, some students find that there are advantages to earning a high school diploma. Here are some options:
- If you would simply like to transfer to a different school, see the Massachusetts K-12 School Profiles for directories by location and school type. More information about BPS schools can be found on the Boston Public Schools web site. The Department of Education’s Guide to School Choice has more information about the process of choosing a school.
- Not all schools are alike. Some alternative schools allow you to work on a flexible schedule and have greater control over your own curriculum. If you are in Boston, see this list of BPS Alternative Education Programs (pdf). We know several students who have had positive experiences with the Boston Day & Evening Academy.
- If you would like to take the HiSet (formerly known as the GED), you can find testing centers in your area. But don’t assume that this is your only alternative if you quit school: there are multiple routes to finishing high school and going on to college. In some cases, though, passing the HiSet might be the easiest and fastest route to move forward. See the Department of Education’s Guide to Adult and Community Learning Services for more information.
- If your education has been interrupted but you would like to stay in high school, or you left school only a few credits shy of a diploma, the Boston Public Schools Re-Engagement Center may be able to help with credit recovery.
- See the Online Learning and Start College Early sections of this web site to explore other options.
Note: If you want a earn a high school diploma from a public school in Massachusetts, you will need to pass the MCAS. (Private school students and homeschoolers do not take the MCAS.) If you are "between schools" -- meaning you've dropped out of one but haven't yet enrolled in another -- your previous school is required to let you take the MCAS there, even if you are no longer a student. You may also be able to take it at a different high school. (We stress this point because some schools have wrongly told students this isn’t possible. It's important because the MCAS is only offered once a year, in the spring, and missing that "window" could delay your high school graduation. Contact the Department of Education if you need assistance.)
Out-of-School Activities in Boston
The greater Boston area is overflowing with camps, classes, and afterschool activities for teens! One of the great things about homeschooling in the city is that you can find interesting, challenging activities in any area that interests you.
P.E.? While schooled kids run laps in gym, you can take karate or go scuba diving.
English? While they prepare reports for speech class, you can work at a radio station or get into spoken word poetry and improv comedy.
Science? While they go on one field trip a year and spend the rest of their time learning about the environment from a textbook, you can become a marine biology intern at the aquarium.
By taking full advantage of afterschool and summer programs, you are never limited to the curriculum offered by a single school. You can study Japanese or ancient Greek, learn sewing and costume design, perform in ten plays a year, or take classes in circuit hacking, robotics, woodworking, or video production. No school, no matter how well-funded and highly ranked, can compete with using the entire city as your classroom.
View local opportunities on our Pinterest page.
Photography credit: Harper Klebart