Continuation education provides a high school diploma program that meets the needs of students of ages sixteen to eighteen who have not graduated from high school, are not exempt from compulsory school attendance, and are deemed at risk of not completing their education.
Students enrolled in continuation education programs often are behind in high school credits. They may need a flexible educational environment because they are employed or fulfilling family obligations. Minimum attendance in the program is 15 hours per week or 180 minutes daily. However, many continuation programs provide a wide spectrum of courses that exceed the minimum daily requirement. In addition to academic courses, the program emphasizes an occupational or career orientation or a work–study schedule. Supplemental programs may include independent study, regional occupational programs, career counseling, and job placement and apprenticeships.
The Model Continuation High School Recognition Program is a partnership between the California Department of Education (CDE) and the California Continuation Education Association that identifies outstanding schools and creates a list of quality programs for school visitations.
In October 2010, there were 499 continuation high schools reporting an enrollment of 69,510 students. However, CDE demographic reports from prior school years indicate that the total number of students served by these schools over the entire year averaged over 116,500.