“I think redesigning and meeting kids where they are, and preparing them for life after high school, is probably the most important part of what we’re doing because they’re going to be able to be successful later on, long after they leave us.”
Jennifer Duncan is a sixth grade teacher and a member of the school redesign team at the Santa Fe 5/6 Center in Newton, KS. She shared her perspective about the school’s first year implementing Summit Learning in an interview with the Newton Kansan, explaining that she is already seeing changes in how her students approach learning.
Duncan is one of the thousands of teachers participating in the Summit Learning Program. Through the Program, we support teachers and schools with curriculum, professional development, and powerful tools to individualize instruction. Educators come to us to explore if Summit Learning can be part of the innovation they seek to bring to their schools. They make the decision to adopt Summit Learning, and their passion, commitment, and honest feedback power the Summit Learning Program.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the story that gets told in the media. Because it’s important to set the record straight about Summit Learning, we want to share a few facts about the Program.
1 – Summit Learning is driven by educators. Each year, teams of teachers apply to participate in the Summit Learning Program because they believe this model can be adapted for their local needs. Adopting a new approach to teaching is challenging. It requires a clear vision and ongoing engagement to make sure teachers, families, and communities understand the purpose behind changes in the classroom. That’s why we always take the lead from local educators. They are in the driver’s seat, and we work with them to support their vision for student success.
2 – The relationship between teachers and students is at the heart of Summit Learning. In a Summit Learning classroom, students spend the majority of their time deeply engaging with their teachers and classmates on real-world projects. We have created a sample schedule (which is optional for schools) to help our schools ensure that teachers and students are working together productively, where technology is only used in direct support of classroom activities. As a result, students do not spend all day — or even half of the day — on the Summit Learning Platform, and the Platform is in no way a substitute for students’ face-to-face interaction with their teachers and classmates.
3 – Professional development is an essential part of Summit Learning. Through the Program, teachers have access to in-person professional development and training throughout the year. We invest significant resources to provide this training because teachers deserve support as they change their instructional practices — something individual schools often aren’t able to provide. And we offer training locally whenever possible so that educators don’t need to be away from their jobs and families to invest in their own professional development. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive, with teachers often praising the sessions as the best they have attended.
4 – Technology in schools is here to stay. A recent survey of school administrators found that six in 10 middle and high schools have one computer for every student. Summit Learning allows for the use of that technology to be highly productive and deeply supportive of the work teachers. The Summit Learning Platform gives students practice using technology to support their learning and navigate the world — a skill they will need to function as successful adults.
It’s important to remember that time students spend on the Summit Learning Platform is not the same as the time they spend in front of TV or smartphone screens for entertainment purposes — such as video games, social media, and texts. The Summit Learning Platform is an educational tool that helps students set and work toward personal goals, move at their own pace through educational content, and understand the steps involved in their hands-on projects — all of which parents/guardians have access to.
5 – Summit Learning succeeds when schools engage families. We constantly hear from parents who have seen immensely positive changes in their children with Summit Learning — parents like James Schumacher of Gilbert, Arizona, who says his son has become more independent and confident with Summit Learning, and Jessica Clay of Frankfort, Kentucky, whose daughter “loves school in a way she hasn’t before” and is “already taking steps to make her future happen” with the support of her teachers.
That said, we recognize that implementation of Summit Learning does not always go smoothly in every community at the start. We have heard the frustrations of parents who seek to better understand why their schools have decided to make changes and how they can support their children in adjusting to these changes. Since local leaders are the ones deciding to bring Summit Learning to their communities, our work focuses on supporting those leaders in communicating the change to their communities.
The Summit Learning Platform can help schools better engage families. The Platform allows parents to see in real time the assignments, projects, and performance of their child. When parents have access to how and what their children are learning, they don’t have to wonder what’s happening at school — something that is a significant shift from having to rely on their students to keep them in the loop.
Inspiring things are happening in Summit Learning schools around the country — educators are falling in love with the teaching profession all over again, students are building new skills and knowledge, and parents are amazed by their children’s academic and personal growth. These are the real stories of Summit Learning — and they’re the ones that truly deserve headlines.