There’s a LOT working in Utah’s charter schools. What a pleasure to keynote the state conference of the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools on June 17 in beautiful Provo Utah, where the mountains seem to kiss the center city buildings. I am grateful to Conrad Freeman, Andrew Larsen and Jim Tustison with Zions Bank who sponsored my keynote address and assured that every conference attendee could leave with a signed copy of Zero Chance of Passage: The Pioneering Charter School Story. With more than 400 attendees, the successful conference–beautifully organized by Director of Operations Tina Smith–celebrated the 15th anniversary of the passage of Utah’s charter school law. The steady growth of the state association and chartering in Utah over the last three years is a tribute to the leadership of CEO Chris Bleak.
The charter sector in Utah is vibrant, with great growth potential. 88 schools serving more than 50,0000 students are in operation, 8 new schools will open this fall, and Utah will likely have more than 100 chartered schools by fall, 2014. Currently chartering serves 7.6% of total public school students in Utah—that is higher than the national average of about 5% of all public school students.
What I most love about Utah’s chartered schools is the focus on Innovation, as well as Excellence. Most of their chartered schools are independent, arising from grass roots, much like Minnesota pioneers envisioned twenty years ago. The Association honors this commitment to Innovation and High Quality Education by selecting a Charter School, Director, Board Member, Business Manager, Teacher and Legislator of the Year from multiple nominees. Watch for the posting of videos of the accomplishments of these inspiring awardees at www.utahcharters.org.