Summit Public Schools’ Strong Culture and Personalization Has Arrived in Seattle

Summit Public Schools provides a mix of personalized playlists and skills’ based projects that support student learning and engagement.

I recently visited one of two new Summit schools in Washington state. Located in Seattle’s International District, Summit Sierra School has a current enrollment of 109 9th grade students with the goal of scaling an additional grade each year to form a 9-12 school. The students come from all over the region. One student I spoke to drove 45 minutes to come to the school and another takes a ferry from a neighboring island. Each student has a personalized learning plan, that includes content and skills work, with curriculum designed and tested by all Summit teachers, collaborating across the Summit Public Schools network.

At Summit Sierra, I observed core content classes where students were working on devices and in groups on various projects and content related work, all tied to a student’s individual personalized learning plan. In a history course, students were working on a Revolutions Essay in groups, where each student chose their own revolution to research based on interest, and were working in groups broken up by the skill they were working on: claim, collecting evidence, or analysis.

History Class Pic 1

School life at Summit is thriving, despite a recent Washington state Supreme Court ruling which puts the future of charter schools in Washington State in jeopardy. Although the school has only been around for a little over two months, the strong school culture is a testament to the school teachers and leadership, as well as the parents. Summit Public Schools is also moving ahead on plans to open a 6-12 school in the West Seattle neighborhood, with the confidence that there will be a legislative solution to the current Supreme Court ruling.

Anyone who has worked in a start-up school knows it can be challenging to onboard students and families as well as teach “this is the way we do things around here.” This seems to be a priority at Summit Sierra, and the students understand the routines and the rigor while in the midst of learning a more innovative approach to “doing school.”

History Class Pic 2

In addition to schools across the network, Summit also offers Summit Basecamp which has a mission to spread what they are learning about personalized learning beyond Summit schools. The Basecamp team consists of five full time coaches that collaborate with 19 school districts across the US. Summit has plans to expand these partnerships to additional districts in the coming years.

The goal is for the Summit coaches is to work alongside school-based teams to personalize learning in contexts outside of the Summit model. This is done through sharing openly–and freely–the rubrics, tools and content with Basecamp Partner Schools. A full time Summit coach then works with principals to implement personalized learning.

As a mom and an educator, I am thrilled that Summit Public Schools has come to Washington state. I am an advocate of innovative public school options.

If you are interested in learning more about how to support choice for students in the Evergreen State, here are things you can do:

  • Follow Summit Voices blog, read and share parent and student stories about their experience of Summit Public Schools in Washington state.
  • Consider writing your own piece in support of charter schools, and submitting either to Summit Voices blog or to your own legislator – or both! (if in Washington state, find your legislator here).
  • Sign the petition to Save Washington Charters here.
  • Follow #SaveWACharters on Twitter and Facebook. Like and share stories in support.
  • If you live in Washington state, consider hosting a house party to bring people together to talk about innovative public school options in our state. If you DO this, please share the results and consider blogging about the experience. Contact [email protected] to share your story.

For more, see:


Bonnie Lathram

Bonnie Lathram is a student advocate and former teacher.

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