Summit Sparks Texas-Sized Success at Pasadena Independent School District

What is every teacher’s dream?

Middle school history teacher, Catherine Birch, speaks for all educators when she says:

“The dream for every teacher is to be able to reach every single little pair of eyes that are looking up at you.”

To achieve that dream, “one-size-fits-most” teaching wouldn’t cut it in her classroom at Beverly Hills Intermediate in Pasadena, Texas. Two years ago, Birch’s district joined Summit Learning to change that.

With only 27 percent of students going on to graduate college, Pasadena Independent School District was drawn to Summit Learning as a way to motivate their students to achieve at higher levels.

During the 2015-16 school year, three schools from the large suburban Houston, Texas district joined the Summit Learning Program. Last year, that number grew to 10. This fall, Pasadena plans to implement the program in at least 14 campuses, including five high schools and all intermediate schools. Summit Learning students continue to outperform the rest of the district.

“State test scores are amazing,” especially among students who previously struggled academically, says Vickie Vallet, the district’s Director of Instruction Technology. Summit Learning’s focus on habits of success are translating to even more positive effects beyond academics. Attendance is up and discipline is down across the district.

summit learning pasadena texas
A Summit Learning student at Beverly Hills Intermediate in Pasadena, Texas, works during personalized learning time.

Teachers are key to this success through embracing their role as mentors. They are empowering and connecting with students, “not just grading papers and writing lesson plans,” Vallet says.

Karen Hickman, Deputy Superintendent, says teachers are sold, telling her, “I will never teach another way. I will never go back and do it another way.”

Now that they are reaching all those sets of eyes like Birch dreamed about, they have new plans. “Our dream by 2019 is to be at 10,000 kids,” Hickman says.

“I truly, truly with my heart of hearts believe this is what’s going to save public education,” Birch says.

“This is it. This is how we are going to reach every single student in every single classroom.”

The Summit Learning team visited Beverly Hills Intermediate School in Pasadena, Texas this past spring to witness the transformation happening in their classrooms. Watch this video from our YouTube channel and see first-hand why Hickman says she “could not go into classrooms without crying” because it was exactly what she wanted for her kids.

At a Glance

  • District Name: Pasadena Independent School District

  • Grades Served: K-12

  • Number of Schools: 67 Schools

  • Number of Students: 56,000

  • Free-and-Reduced Lunch: 76.9%

  • English Language Learners: 30%

  • Started Summit Learning: 2015-16 School Year

  • Number of schools using Summit Learning: 3 in first year, 10 in 2016-17 school year, 14 schools planned for 2017-18 school year

This fall, we will welcome more than 200 new schools into the Summit Learning Community. The students and teachers from schools across the country are embarking on a transformational journey, one that Pasadena ISD experienced two years ago This post is the part of a series about current Summit Learning schools. This series will showcase Summit Learning in action and bring to life the mindshift happening in schools across our country thanks to the Summit Learning Program.

About the author

Katie McNeil
Katie is a storyteller at Summit Public Schools, shining a spotlight on inspirational stories from the Summit Learning community. She started her career in journalism, covering K-12 education in the Bronx. Katie won a feature writing award from the Education Writers Association for her higher ed coverage in Utah. Before arriving at Summit, she earned a master's degree in educational technology from Teachers College, Columbia University and a New York State teaching certification.