Summit's commitment to sharing best practices fueled by 'Summer of Summit'

September 3, 2014

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Summit Public Schools has a model that is working, and educators across the country want to know about it. In fact, during the 2013-14 school year alone nearly 1,000 educators, representing more than 200 organizations and school districts visited Summit Public Schools to find out exactly how it is working.

To meet this demand, Summit Public Schools hosted a Summer of Summit Consultancy program in which 80 educators, representing 21 teams came to study the model over two days. The program was designed to share Summit's model, but also help educators develop an actionable plan on how to bring it back to their organization.

"We were finding that educators would visit us to learn about the model, but did not walk away with a way to implement the model," said Laura Finefrock, director of development and communications for Summit Public Schools. "We added the consultancy to our Summer of Summit program to continue providing time and space for a deeper, more authentic collaboration, engagement and sharing of best practices while giving educators an opportunity to develop a realistic, actionable plan."

The Summer of Summit is in its second year with the consultancy component added this year. The Foundations Week component, launched last year, gives teachers a chance to continue designing curriculum, developing projects, and creating playlists that provide online personalized learning experiences for students. To support Summit's commitment to sharing best practices, the playlists developed by teachers are shared through Activate Instruction, a free online tool created by teachers nationwide.

In addition, the program delivers professional development opportunities for teachers to sharpen their skills in a classroom setting in which a new teacher and an experienced teacher deliver instruction to students. This provides students an extra opportunity to study content and gain cognitive skills, while teachers fine-tune their instructional delivery.

Participants in the consultancy program acknowledge the challenges that large public school districts have in implementing Summit's model, but recognized that there are common approaches that can be applied in transforming education.

"I was reminded of the importance to model the things we expect teachers and students to do," said Mia Peterson, director of operations and knowledge management for Denver Public Schools. "We can't transform education alone, and this is a prime example of how to share best practices, think about application, and problem solve with colleagues and other groups."

Summit Public Schools began in 2003 with Summit Preparatory Charter High School, prompted by a group of parents in Silicon Valley who wanted a personalized high school experience for their children. Summit Public Schools will open its seventh school this fall with two schools planned to open in the state of Washington in fall 2015. Summit's culture is embedded in an innovation cycle that focuses its efforts on building, measuring, and learning - a constant process.

"We have a big commitment to sharing best practices," Finefrock said. "We are constantly asking ourselves how we can be more accessible and more efficiently grow our learning community."