The Science of Summit’s Success

In 2000, hundreds of parents and community members came together to reimagine the American high school, envisioning “a place providing a high-quality public education to every child, regardless of family circumstances or background.”

Today, Summit Public Schools is a leading charter management organization serving sixth grade through high school students across the Bay Area, with recently opened schools in Washington state as well.

Summit is best in class at well defining student outcomes, personalized learning and professional learning experiences for teachers.

Rather than adding a lot of managed schools, Summit is pioneering a new scaling strategy–giving away the platform and professional learning that goes with it. Over 100 teacher teams participate in the Summit Learning program and more will be announced soon.

In an effort to share its innovative vision, Summit leaders recently announced the release of The Science of Summit, a white paper that has been 15 years in the making. The paper reviews the research underlying the evidence-based principles and educator design choices made at Summit Public Schools, and shares its beliefs about young people, about the promise of public education and about principles for school design rooted in the science of learning.

Measuring Student Outcomes

Summit leaders reviewed the most prominent competency and curriculum frameworks to find what they wanted their graduates to know and be able to do, and students leave only after demonstrating mastery in the following four domains:

Cognitive Skills: Essential and transferable lifelong skills. The importance of students developing cognitive skills is universally supported by multiple prominent curriculum frameworks. These skills equip students with interdisciplinary 21st-century competencies to navigate college and careers.

Content Knowledge: Rigorous content across all academic subjects. Students must acquire and retain key content knowledge to support the development of cognitive skills. To meet the needs of all learners, students should advance through material at their own pace and with appropriate supports and move on only when they demonstrate proficiency in a given subject.

Habits of Success: Behaviors, mindsets and dispositions. Social-emotional learning is inextricably linked to academic learning. To succeed, students need a set of skills, mindsets, dispositions and behaviors that develop along a continuum and that are grounded in the social nature of learning

Sense of Purpose: Self-knowledge, values, relationships and a credible path. Students who have a sense of purpose are more likely to succeed in meeting their short- and long-term goals. Upon high school graduation, students need to possess an understanding of their interests, values and skills; they also need to construct a credible path after high school for translating those interests, values and skills into fulfilled lives.

Measurable Outcomes that Drive Student Success

Beyond detailing evidence student outcomes, the paper presents a framework for designing school models aligned to a school’s articulated purpose of education and grounded in evidence, and provides questions for education leaders to ask themselves for each step:

1. Articulate Values and Realities: What are the key societal values and economic realities that impact learners? What assumptions and beliefs does your community hold about people as learners?

2. Define the Purpose of Education: Given your values, beliefs and realities, what role does education play in your community and our society? What is the purpose of education?

3. Determine Measurable Outcomes: Based upon the purpose of education, what do you expect all students to know and be able to do upon graduation as a result of their education? What are the measurable outcomes for each individual student?

4. Derive Evidence-Based Principles: What essential principles are grounded in the science of learning and human development and aligned with the outcomes you expect for all learners?

5. Detail Key Design Choices: Adherent to the evidence based principles, what specific design choices define a school model that is customized for the community it represents?

6. Assess Alignment and Coherence of Design: Is the school model aligned from steps one through five, and does it present a coherent hypothesis for how to consistently and reliably enable the expected student outcomes for all students?

The Science of Summit is the first of several publications the school plans to release over the coming year that provide additional details on elements of Summit’s framework.

For more, see:

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Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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