Success Story: Closing Achievement Gaps in Math and Reading with Summit Learning

Aspen Valley Prep unlocks the potential of future leaders by setting high expectations for all and creating a culture that celebrates each individual’s strengths and background. Aspen Valley Prep is a K-8 urban charter school in Fresno, California. All 110 6th-8th grade students participate in the Summit Learning program.

School Goals

A few years before joining the Summit Learning program, Aspen Valley Prep faculty implemented a learning approach that aimed to meet the unique needs of every student in several classrooms. The Aspen Valley Prep team was impressed by the difference it made in supporting the diverse student body and, seeing the positive effects of supporting each student’s unique needs and goals, leaders soon sought out Summit Learning. The program would support them in creating a learning environment grounded in student engagement, strong relationships and meaningful learning—with a particular focus on projects that empowered students to understand how classroom learning relates to life outside of school.

With Summit Learning, students, teachers, and parents have access to a platform that helps accelerate learning and gives teachers the ability to manage curriculum, student progress, and assessments all in one place.

Aspen Valley Prep began using Summit Learning in the 2016-17 school year, and students have been soaring to success ever since.


After three years with Summit Learning, students in the program made academic gains in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math. The 8th Grade cohort’s SBAC ELA assessment scores increased by 20 percent in the 2018-19 academic year. The 7th Grade cohort is experiencing similar growth, with 7th grade SBAC proficiency scores increasing by 18 percent on the ELA section of the assessment, and an 8-percent increase on Math.

A School Leader’s Perspective

The key to Aspen Valley Prep’s success is fully focusing on three pillars: student engagement, meaningful learning, and fostering strong relationships between teachers and students.

“We see the benefit in every single pillar, because each pillar is necessary for stability,” says Hilary Downs, Director of Summit Learning at Aspen Public Schools.

The support and motivation provided by Summit Learning has been essential.

“Our Success Managers, the trainings, and access to all the materials to run in-house trainings is super helpful,” says Downs, “and the (teacher training) convenings are so motivating and insightful.”

“We’ve never seen a program able to make this big of a leap in academic success for our students.”

Hilary Downs, Director of Summit Learning at Aspen Public Schools

About the author

Summit Learning
Summit Learning is a research–based approach to education designed to drive student engagement, meaningful learning, and strong student–teacher relationships that prepare students for life after graduation. Created by teachers with experience in diverse classrooms, Summit Learning is grounded in decades of research about how children learn. With Summit Learning, students gain mastery of core subjects like math, history, English, and science, while also carefully developing the skills and habits of lifelong learners. Summit Learning is independently led and operated by the nonprofit, Gradient Learning.