The improvement in school performance should not be a surprise, said Salt Lake School District Superintendent McKell Withers. This is because the growth in charter schools in Utah occurred during the same time period when there has been an emphasis in paying more attention to language arts, math and science in schools, and when both charter and public schools have different accountability models.
The best use of taxpayer funds, he said, would be for public and charter schools to improve together.
“We’ve said time and time again that school improvement is real for every school,” Withers said.
He said schools should work together so resources are used to benefit the public they serve, and so neither entity redoubles efforts.
The Salt Lake School District embraces choice, he said. In that district, more than 25 percent of the students do not attend the neighborhood schools. Because of this, the district has worked to provide families with options.
For instance, the Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts has partnered with Highland High School to provide high quality performance art instruction and allow for interested students to take higher level classes or advanced placement classes. Students at Highland, conversely, are allowed to take classes at SLSPA.
When considering charter schools, he cautions parents to make sure they choose a quality school. Charters will vary in their quality, just as neighborhood schools will.
“It would make sense to take a deep breath and invest in more successful charter schools,” Withers said.
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