The resources provided here are links to websites and documents to present to the public information specific to Utah’s public charter schools, support for those considering starting a public charter school in Utah, and general national studies and guidance regarding public charter schools. These resources are offered to provide an overview of both Utah and national public charter schools.
Charter School Updates: Success Indicators, and Challenges
Many generally positive indicators, as well as challenges, can be observed from the past two years of change for Utah’s charter schools, and the verdict is still not completely in. Often results are recorded before reform efforts have become effective.
We have learned that basing success solely on test scores does not give a true indication of the success of the schools. Test scores do not represent true cohorts or the same type of previous preparations. Each charter school is unique in its dynamic, goals, and challenges. For example, four of the eight schools have specific focus on at-risk or disadvantaged youth. Students at these schools were failing, and have now found a positive school environment where they can succeed.
In general, there have been many positive indicators over the past year of the success of Utah’s charter schools. The best evidence comes through feedback from both parents and students indicating satisfaction with the schools. Parents, teachers, and students have been vocal in their approval of the charter schools’ “classroom communities.” The schools have created a positive learning environment by including students, parents, family members, teachers, and community leaders to enhance the learning experience.
Smaller class sizes have had a positive impact on teacher/student relationships. Teachers have been able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each student and work with them on a one-on-one basis more frequently.
An additional positive indicator of charter school success is the low absenteeism recorded. Students who would normally skip school have been attending and demonstrating their academic abilities on a regular basis.
Parents, teachers, community groups, organizations, and individuals have participated in the creation of Utah’s charter schools, creating many educational options for students and their parents. Students choose to attend charter schools for many different reasons including, academic strengths and weaknesses, talents, interests, and so on. Teachers choose to teach at charter schools based on their interests, teaching styles, and many other reasons.
While there are increasing positive indicators of charter school successes, challenges still remain. The greatest challenge facing most schools is obtaining adequate funding and adequate facilities to support all of the school’s programs. Learning and applying state rules and regulations for testing, reporting, accounting, etc, also remains a challenge for these schools. School districts have had difficulty providing and staffing support programs within the schools (including, transportation, food services, and special education).
There has also been an initial lack of support from the community due to misinformation or lack of information and understanding about the choices charter schools offer parents and students. Many do not fully understand how the schools work and that these schools are public, and not private schools.
General Online Resources
Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO)
The mission of the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) is to meet the needs of the Department's primary customers-learners of all ages-by effectively implementing two laws that seek to ensure student and parental rights in education: the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA).
Federal Guidance on Public Charter Schools Program
Federal Guidance on Public Charter Schools Program, Admissions and Lotteries.
Innovative Education Management’s (IEM) Parent Support
Innovative Education Management’s (IEM) core value is a strong belief that the only way America’s schools are going to improve is if they become parent-driven once again. IEM focuses on support services parents need to be effective advocates for children. Resources, tools, and encouragement are provided to assist parents in taking back their child’s education.
The Innovation Studies Program creates and disseminates user-friendly information to support educators who want to understand and effectively implement promising policies and practices. The program's work includes studying promising practices in action, comparing them to other practices, relating them to relevant research, and analyzing key features that appear to contribute to successful outcomes. This work is demonstrated in the Innovation Guides, a series produced for the Office of Innovation and Improvement of the U.S. Department of Education that offers promising practices in the areas of charter schools, parent involvement strategies, online learning, and more.
The Center for Education Reform
The Center for Education Reform (CER) creates opportunities for and challenges obstacles to better education for America's communities. CER advocates reforms that produce high standards, accountability and freedom, such as strong charter school laws, school choice programs for children most in need, common sense teacher initiatives, and proven instructional programs.
U.S. Department of Education, Charter School Program
The Public Charter Schools Program supports the planning, development, and initial implementation of charter schools. Charter schools provide enhanced parental choice. The objective is to replace rules-based governance with performance-based accountability, thereby stimulating the creativity and commitment of teachers, parents, and citizens.