The primary purposes of public education are to provide students with the knowledge they need to understand and participate in their world, together with the skills they need to make a living.
As long as the new Career Path Charter School in Davis County accomplishes the first, it could do an even better job of accomplishing the second than most traditional high schools.
Career Path is a new charter high school under management of the Davis Applied Technology College in Kaysville. It's the second charter to be organized by a Utah higher education institution. Weber State University sponsored the first after the Utah Legislature voted in 2010 to allow colleges and universities to authorize charter schools.
Career Path's 125 students will study career-oriented subjects and be able to earn a professional certificate in such fields as cosmetology, engine repair and diesel mechanics.
Organizers say the students will take regular high school classes online and join other technical-college students, most of whom are adult learners, in classes taught on the DATC campus.
Supporters say Career Path High's blended online and in-person model is unique for a technical school, although some traditional high school students already take classes at ATC facilities. The idea behind the charter school is that high school course scheduling and classes are built around the technical-college curriculum, not the other way around. Even students who decide they want a college degree could use the job skills they learn at Career Path to support themselves while they study.
It seems to be a workable alternative for students who may not fit into a traditional high school setting because of a variety of reasons but most often because they find nothing in the traditional courses to excite them. If this charter school can let students get a head start on a technical career and still ensure they also get the basics in English, history, math and science that they need, we're all for it.
But that may be a tall order. A report last month found that Utah charter-school students, on average, learn less than their peers in traditional schools. But another study was more optimistic. The American Institutes for Research showed that at-risk students who enroll at early-college high schools are more likely to graduate, go to college and earn a degree than are at-risk students at a traditional high school.
Career Path High is the type of charter school that can meet a real need the type of school Utah taxpayers can support.