So, when I was first told by the principal of this school that I will be implementing a new program for 5th grade called “Summit,” my first reaction and thought was, “Gees, another gimmicky program that another school bought into.”   And, I especially thought, “what company is making money off of this again?” Plus, is this program really appropriate for a private jewish school? These were many of my skeptical thoughts, and thus the beginning of my journey into the land of Summit Learning.

Let’s start with the facts:  Summit is a program sponsored and promoted by facebook mogul Mark Zuckerberg through his ChanZuckerberg Initiative. With this in mind, what does he really know about education? And why is he sponsoring an educational program? Perhaps, for tax benefits, to promote his reputation, etc? What’s in it for him and his company?  This is what his organization states on their website:

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative believes that every child should enter adulthood able to recognize and realize their full potential. This means that by age 21, everyone should be able to earn a living wage, build independence, and identify and pursue their passions. We believe a whole child approach to personalized learning – focused on and led by the learner – is the most promising way to achieve this vision.

The Summit Learning Platform is one of several learning platforms that his organization sponsors….

Summit Public Schools. Our team is working on the Summit Learning Platform, a free online tool that empowers teachers to customize instruction to meet the needs of each student and for students to learn at their own pace. This product was created by one of our grantees, Summit Public Schools, a network of schools that take a          personalized approach to teaching and learning. Thousands of educators around the country are already using the Summit Learning model to connect students’ long-term objectives to daily class work, discover how each student learns best and create engaging real-world projects. It allows students to pace themselves and helps teachers set more meaningful goals. Our engineers are working to make this platform more robust and flexible so we can bring this incredible tool to more schools around the country.

Summit is free! Okay, so perhaps this is one positive I can admit to. Therefore, Zuckerberg can’t really be making money off of this – or can he? And, it was initially launched by a whole group of California schools, all underperforming, and in dire need of another learning method. If we examine the research, are summit schools out in California really living up to what the program claims – has summit improved the performance for these schools?  Here are the results, according to Summit:

Not only are all students prepared for college with rigorous coursework and AP classes and exams (more than half  of Summit students pass at least one), 99% gain acceptance to at least one four-year university, and more than half earn a bachelor’s degree within six years of enrollment – double the national average.

Thus, according to summit, this individualized learning platform is working. However, does this mean the same will occur for private schools? Summit is originally designed for underperforming, lower income schools…thus will this translate over into the private school sector – in this case, even more specialized, the jewish private school sector?   Is this really an appropriate program to be utilizing for this demographic group?

These are the main questions and issues that I have with the Summit Learning Platform. As one of the primary teachers helping to launch this program at a private sector school, I will hopefully be able to gain from first hand experience if this will indeed apply and translate over to this community. Will the supposed success experienced by the charter schools in california that utilize this program be applicable to my school? Will we see the same results? And, even if we do, is it still the most appropriate program for a private school?