Education Empowerment

Utah’s Top Public Schools Are Charters. Why?

Which of these two schools would you expect to be more successful?

If you chose Corner Canyon High School with its classical design, you would be wrong.

Beehive Science and Technology Academy was ranked the best high school in Utah for the second year in a row. In fact, the top six high schools in Utah are all Charter Schools. Corner Canyon was seventh.

What makes these schools better than their traditional counterparts?

The differences are easier to see if we begin with what these charter schools don’t have. The top three schools don’t look like a traditional school. Beehive is behind a movie theater next to a strip mall. The other two are in office spaces.

Five of the six do not have sports teams.

But what all of these charter schools have is an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). 

And when you compare the top charter school, Beehive Academy, to the top traditional school, Corner Canyons, you see the difference in academic performance.

Corner Canyons does perform better than Beehive in language arts. 61 percent of students were proficient at Corner Canyons with 53 percent proficient at Beehive. But that is the only area where Canyons outperformed Beehive.

Beehive Academy has an advantage of 11 percent proficiency in both math and science. Hispanic students at Beehive outperformed their peers at Corner Canyon by 20-30 percent. Students from low income homes perform better at Beehive by 20-30 percent, too.

Money isn’t the difference — they both spend just over $10,500 per student. But how they spend the money is.

A traditional high school will have multiple administrators with multiple office staff. That doesn’t include all the athletics that comes with a traditional high school. The football field and stadium, basketball court or courts, tennis courts, soccer fields, team locker rooms, and so on take up a large portion of the campus. A new high school in Utah can cost over $150 million dollars to build.

These charter schools emphasize academics and academic experiences. 

Corner Canyon’s calendar is filled with activities: dances, sporting events, and more. Beehive Academy’s calendar is filled with academic clubs like robotics.

At the end of the day, public schools aren’t really in need of more money. They just need to spend the money differently.

(Note: Private schools were not included in the ranking done by US News.)