Learning science tells us that each individual student learns differently, dependent on their unique set of strengths and gaps. This important concept is one that Maryland’s Snow Hill Middle School (SHMS) recognized in its student population, some of whom struggled to meet grade-level expectations in a more traditional classroom. So when former Worcester County Public Schools (WCPS) Superintendent Dr. Jerry Wilson heard about how the Summit Learning approach had helped close the opportunity gap for students in other schools and districts, he recommended bringing Summit Learning to Snow Hill.
In close collaboration with the district and community, SMHS faculty first implemented the Summit Learning approach with its 6th grade students in the 2016-17 school year. In the first year of Summit Learning at SHMS, 6th grade students made significant gains, far exceeding their projected growth on i-Ready assessments (which measure student progress) and of other SHMS grades that didn’t participate in Summit Learning.
The small school, which serves 360 students in grades 4-8, also held focus groups with teachers and students. These discussions yielded insights into how Summit Learning has helped students develop key skills such as collaboration, resilience, independence, and awareness of their learning preferences and strategies that help them learn best.
From the beginning, the SHMS team worked hard to help district leadership — including a new superintendent — understand and support the Program, highlighting how it supported a key strategy the district identified in its strategic plan: to personalize learning for students so that they can deepen their understandings of themselves and their own pathways to success.
“One of the biggest pieces that has helped with our success is the district-level administration. They trust us to make the decisions for kids, and they supported us through this journey,” said SMHS Principal Christina Welch.
Engaging and supporting parents early on in the process was also a key factor in SHMS’ successful implementation of the Program. For example, the school held multiple meetings and events throughout the year to provide parents with opportunities to learn about and ask questions, and they offered meetings at different times of day so that all parents could attend.
With a successful first year as a foundation, SHMS expanded the program to include all 150 of their 6th and 7th grade students in the 2017-18 year. In the 2018-19 school year, SHMS also plans to include 8th grade students in the program.