Utah Charter School Blends Online Ed, Vocational Training

Though most high school graduates pursue some form of higher education, college is not an ideal choice for everyone. Now, as Lindsay Whitehurst of The Salt Lake Tribune writes, a new charter school set to open its doors this fall will cater to those who want an alternative to the traditional education pathway of high school to college.

Career Path High, and its authorizer Davis Applied Technology College in Kaysville, Utah, plan to offer students not only the traditional high school curriculum but also vocational training opportunity – with a twist. The school, which has already signed up 125 students for its September 4th opening date, is virtual. Students will take their high school classes online, and for the courses required to earn professional certificates in fields from cosmetology to diesel mechanics, students will have to travel to the Davis campus.

“No one says, ‘I really want my kid to grow up to be a diesel technician,’ ” said Kevin Cummings, director of student services at Davis Applied Technology College. “But there are kids who graduate from high school with a diesel certificate and they’re making $15 to $20 an hour.”

Leaders say Career Path High’s blended online and in-person model is unique for a technical school, created after the state Legislature allowed colleges and universities to authorize charter schools in 2010.

Davis is only the second institution of higher education that has agreed to authorize a charter school in the state. In some ways, the college feels like it’s stepping into the unknown. The research on how well charter schools have performed in the state is sparse. A recent study on charters in Utah found that graduates tended to earn less than their peers who have graduated from traditional public schools.

At the same time, another study concluded that charters do a better job of graduating underrepresented minorities and getting them into college than their public counterparts — and education officials in the state are comfortable with a bit of experimentation.

For northern Utah students at a recent orientation for Career Path High, the nontraditional approach is worth a try.
“School just wasn’t working for me, the kind of herd approach where everyone is the same,” said 15-year-old Arthur Tucker. He flew through school, skipping the homework and acing the tests — in a traditional setting and online. “It kind of gets boring.”

Tucker likes designing apps and programming robots, and plans to study information technology at Davis Applied Technology College. It sounds like Tucker will fit in with his older classmates. After a brief conversation, I.T. instructor AJ Hepler was impressed.