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Utah charter schools drop in rankings despite improvement

By Paul Nelson | Posted - Feb 11th, 2013 @ 10:22am

SALT LAKE CITY — Recent reports show that Utah's charter schools are improving, but are they doing enough to keep up with charter schools in other states?

Utah's overall score from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools went up ten points from last year, settling at 131. Despite the rise in score, Utah dropped from 12 to 20 in comparison to other states. Alliance officials say it isn't because of any mistakes Utah is making, but because other states are dramatically improving.

"I think that's an indication that charter schools are very popular in the country, right now, and other states are being even more aggressive than Utah is with implementing them and putting them into place," said Utah State Charter School Board Chair Tim Beagley.

Beagley said they're not too worried about the drop in the rankings. Some of it can be attributed to changes in how the rankings are made. He also said the study shows some areas where Utah can improve.

One of the things the state got dinged on was how they monitor a charter school's performance; other states require charter schools to re-certify every 10 to 15 years.

"(Here), they're really just driven by how popular they are and whether or not the students and the parents want to continue to use their services," Beagley said.

Beagley said they're moving forward with plans for better accountability, but they also need to improve the way charter schools get funding. Technically, there isn't a cap in the number of schools set by the schools board. The legislature does set limits on how many students they will give funding to.

"The way to solve that problem is to get a better funding mechanism where we don't really have a limit on the funding and the funding we have in place simply goes wherever the student goes," he said.

However, officials in Utah meet with regulators in other states at least once a year to see what's working well and what isn't.

"We are very well connected, I think, to the other agencies in the country that are doing this," he said.

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