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Study Shows Utah Charter Schools Lagging Behind

Many students who are enrolled in charter schools across the nation are gaining on their traditional public school peers in some academic areas. But according to a new independent study out of Stanford University, Utah charter Schools are lagging behind. 

In 2009 the Center for Research on Education Outcomes or CREDO examined charter schools in 16 states and found students performed poorer than their traditional public school counterparts in reading and math. The newest results, which include charter schools in 26 states and New York City show students, are surpassing their traditional public school peers in reading and pulling just about even in Math.

CREDO Research Manager Dev Davis says the study didn’t dig deep enough to determine why charter schools are doing better, but says minority, low-income, disadvantaged and special education students particularly are reaping the benefits.

“I think it is important to note that there are markedly different learning gains across the 27 states," Davis says. "There are positive gains in some states and negative results in other states so we know that differences in charter school policy have an effect on what the charter school performance is going to be.”

According the study, charter school students in Utah have lower learning gains than their traditional public school peers.  Davis says those students lose an average of seven days in reading compared to traditional public school peers and about forty-three days in math. 

Chris Bleak is President of the Utah Association of Charter Schools. He points out that charter school success rates range within Utah as well. 

“But at the end of the day, a big part of how I think we should be judging a schools success is the demand of student attendance," Bleak says. "If kids are desiring to get into that school and can’t, we should be looking at what that school is doing and replicating it.”

Utah was not included in the 2009 study. Davis says it’s unclear whether Utah charter schools have made gains in the past four years.  

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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