Preparing Students for the Future: COVID-19 and Beyond

In 2015, Frankfort Independent Schools in Kentucky found themselves at a crossroads. Test scores were down — Frankfort High was ranked in the bottom 15 percent of all high schools in the state of Kentucky. Enrollment was at an all-time low, student engagement was limited, and positive teacher-student interactions were nonexistent. With a new superintendent and a recently hired principal at Frankfort High School, the district was hungry for a turnaround. 

That year, Frankfort Independent Schools made the bold decision to adopt Summit Learning, which focuses on student engagement, meaningful learning, and strong relationships. This decision propelled Frankfort High School to a new level — one where teaching and learning evolved to focus on jobs of the future and profile of graduate skills. Educators had known for a while that they needed to remove barriers for struggling students and change the game of how students prepare to meet the demand of future jobs, and now they had a way to do just that. 

Taking Ownership of Learning at Home

With Summit Learning, students learn to take ownership of their education through teacher support and a project-based curriculum. Students can move through content at their own pace, but must demonstrate their learning through assessments. Through the Summit Learning platform, parents can access their students’ performance and see their progress at any time, and students have a mentor that meets with them every week to discuss their academic goals and the support they need to be successful. 

Fast forward to last spring, when schools across the country closed due to coronavirus. Because teachers had been preparing students with skills like perseverance and self-direction for years, Frankfort students were prepared for remote learning and empowered with Habits of Success like time management and stress reduction. They had also already cultivated the strong relationships with their teachers that would carry them through school closures throughout the spring.

“Even though working with students virtually is not how we imagined spending these last few months, I believe Frankfort High students are uniquely equipped to handle it.  Their exposure to Summit has trained them to select and use resources to meet their needs, and they’re able to independently make smart decisions regarding their work.”  ––Sara Boggs, teacher at Frankfort High School

Implications For The Future

Summit Learning provides an infrastructure that focuses on cognitive skills, demonstrated learning, collaboration, and developing skills for jobs of the future. With an emphasis on social and emotional learning, we leverage technology to create more flexibility and access to opportunities for every child. Technology skills and self-direction are critical skills for life after graduation. After COVID-19, we are more convinced that this learning model will prepare our students for life beyond the classroom walls.

During these uncharted waters with COVID 19, Frankfort High staff, students, and parents have shown themselves to be resilient, capable of working through change, and working together as an interdisciplinary team to ensure our students have the resources they need to succeed. During this transition Summit Learning has proven that it works in the traditional school setting and the temporary nontraditional setting of home.” —-Maria Pearl

The results have been remarkable. Enrollment has increased significantly for Frankfort High (close to 300 students at the high school), and faculty has noticed a dramatic change in culture for students, teachers, parents, and the community. The graduation rate has increased to 98%, and Frankfort High performed in the top 10% of all high schools in Kentucky on the state accountability tests.

Given the success of Frankfort High School and in order to bridge the gap between 8th and 9th grade, the K-8 School that feeds into Frankfort High implemented the Summit Learning program for grades 4-8th grade in the 2020-2021 school year. The principal believes this will connect our schools, remove barriers for students, and open the doors towards self-directed learning.  

“Even before the pandemic, Summit learning and the staff at Frankfort High had prepared us to be productive individuals with or without the classroom.” – Lilia Smithson 9th grade

About the author

Dr. Houston Barber
Dr. Houston Barber is the Superintendent with the Frankfort Independent School District.