Charter schools celebrate 10 years of educating Utahns
Lawmaker says they are an integral part of public education
Jason Olson, Deseret News
With 67 schools up and running, charter schools celebrated their 10-year anniversary with a big splash in the Capitol rotunda Thursday.
"For 10 years now, public charter schools have been meeting the demands of parents in our state and have proven to be an integral part of our public school system," said Utah House Speaker David Clark, R-Santa Clara.
School leaders and students from several dozen schools shared information about their unique programs:
Academy of Math, Engineering and Science, in Salt Lake City, offers senior students a Saturday morning workshop a few times a year, for completing college applications and financial aid forms. Workshops include breakfast, counseling support and access to a computer.
Rockwell Charter High School, in Eagle Mountain, offers seminar-style classes for grades seven through 10, as well as a Junior Seminar and Senior Seminar, which dig into career exploration, business and leadership. The classes team each student with a teacher-mentor and a guidance counselor.
Spectrum Academy, in Davis County, developed and utilizes a cutting-edge social skills program for its autistic students that increases their social awareness. "We're pleased to support these innovative practices that our charter schools are developing," Clark said. "As the charter school movement continues to flourish, it's our desire to see their innovations replicated across the entire public school system."
Charter school students talked about how much they enjoy their school's unique learning atmosphere.
"The educators are all working artists so I know I'm getting a really good education with them. Not only are they passionate about art but they are passionate about teaching us," said Shealyn Kwan-Smith, 17, a senior at Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts.
Chris Howard, 17, a junior at Utah County Academy of Sciences, said his school gives him the opportunity to earn an associate's degree. "I like to push myself academically," he said. The school works in partnership with Utah Valley University and Alpine, Provo and Nebo school districts.
There are 27,369 charter school students in Utah, according to the State Office of Education's 2008 enrollment count.
Charter students constitute 5 percent of the state's total public education population. On average, seven new charter schools with 3,000 students have been approved each year since 1999, according to the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools
Charter schools are public schools created by a group of parents, teachers or community leaders who see an educational need in their community. The taxpayer-funded schools must abide by state law and are held to the same testing requirements as mainstream public schools. They may not discriminate in admissions or charge tuition.
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