The Starting Line

A Sense of Purpose, a key component of the Summit Learning Program,  includes setting goals.  Planning to reach goals is critical to success in college and in adult life. For many high school students, goal- setting is equated with making a list of assignments and due dates. During our first week of school, I asked students to write down one personal goal and one academic goal for this school year on sticky notes which they then posted on the wall. Responses in both categories were along the lines of, “ have fun,”  “get A’s,” “pass my classes,” and “get into a good college.” There was virtually no evidence of the student agency and ownership that we want to promote.

Running the Course

Our Summit Learning onboarding included spending some PLT time learning about SMART goals and teaching students a goal-setting routine facilitated by the SLP. Our students did not appreciate the time spent on this process because they believed that all of their general studies time should be used for work that will be graded.

Tracking goals did not become routine until several months into the year. When scores began to show up on the screen, students began to review their own progress and to see how they could eliminate red items and turn projects and focus areas green.

Screenshot of a student’s “Year” page on SLP

By January, most students had a goal-setting routine established even if they were not recording their goals on SLP, and many began initiating conversations about their goals without prompting.

The Home Stretch

When our students returned from the lengthy Pesach Break, I revisited goal-setting with them, but with a twist. Students were given the following prompts:

Think of one of your courses. In that course, if you were magically assured that your end of year grade would be an A,  what would be your goal?

If you could have one superpower for a day, what would it be?

Students wrote their responses on whiteboards and enjoyed reading one another’s ideas. We spent no more than 5 minutes writing before they moved on to their classes. I learned that many students would take that A and focus their time on other courses – clearly, the question requires rewording to get them thinking about how removing the worry about a grade might shape their goal in that same class. For those who understood that implication, the responses were more varied including:

world domination (AP World History)

be myself

do the best research I can for this class (Economics)

continue my research (Social Science)

Among the superpowers listed were:

have ALL the powers

control others with my mind


rule over the laws of chemistry with a science of absoluteness (e.g., I can control atomic particles to shifting entire planets)

stop time and do whatever I want without repercussions

be invisible

see into the future

go to any alternate dimensions of the infinite dimensions

As I had hoped, the students were thinking past the boundaries of typical classroom goals, and I am optimistic that we can build up their thinking about academic and personal goals. Now we have just one or two students per week who will say “I don’t know,” when asked about goals. I expect that in the next year, these students will not only model goal-setting for incoming freshmen but also, they will be ready to take goal-setting to the next level -making tangible plans for college admission.

Student discussion