Charter school group wins $10 million grant


Summit Public Schools, the nonprofit that operates 11 charter high schools, including Summit Prep and Everest in Redwood City, was awarded a $10 million grant recently to open another school, Summit Elevate, in Oakland.

Summit joins two California high schools and seven schools nationwide in beating out some 700 entries in the XQ Super School Project to "re-imagine" high school. The competition was organized by Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of the late Steve Jobs, according to EdSource,org, a nonprofit journalism website.

"I feel very humble," Summit CEO Diane Tavenner told EdSource. "I feel very fortunate that we are able to do the work we believe in and are passionate about."

Using feedback from the Oakland community and Summit's network of schools, Summit Elevate will focus on helping students "better understand the workplace and career paths open to them," according to a statement.

Ms. Tavenner was part of the team that opened Summit Prep in 2003 and Everest in 2009 -- Everest with a state charter, given the strong opposition from the administration of the Sequoia Union High School District.

Summit Prep was originally chartered by a school district in Tuolumne, and the Sequoia district renewed it when the charter expired in 2005. (Summit comes before the district board on Sept. 28 with a petition to renew its charter for another term.)

The two schools routinely report that more than 90 percent of graduates are accepted into four-year colleges and universities.


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Like this comment
Posted by Educator
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 18, 2016 at 10:30 am

Please stop funding Summit Public Schools. Here are a few reasons:

1) Students are not learning at their own pace. It is not their pace and they are not learning.
Students work on the same projects, which are assigned to them all at the same time and due on the same day. One caveat here is that these "due dates" are not hard deadlines so students figure out that they can actually turn in projects whenever they want to without penalty. This sounds like their "own pace" but this causes the students to fall behind on the next project that is assigned immediately after and teachers to become overwhelmed with a backlog of grading overdue projects and nagging students to turn them in. Students access content through playlists (a list of links to websites, videos, readings, powerpoint slides, notes...) and then take a 10 question multiple choice assessment to see if they've "mastered" the content. Because these playlists are tied to the projects, and the projects all happen at the same time, there is actually a pace that teachers must keep students on so that they don't fall behind. But this is exactly what happens. Doing playlists at their "own pace" means many students are constantly behind and struggling to keep up. This pressure causes them to game the system by looking through as few resources as possible, taking the automated assessments over and over again (without penalty), learning question types and even specific answers and sometimes outright cheating (looking at online notes/examples while taking the assessment). Teachers work overtime to reteach concepts in office hours after school and track down students to work 1-on-1 on assessments that need to be passed. The focus is on passing the multiple choice assessment and not on learning. Even with students gaming the system and teachers working over time, many students finish the year with incomplete grades and have to attend "Summer of Summit." This also sounds grand because students are able to finish "at their own pace," but they end up completing less rigorous (and often drastically different) work to make up for what they didn't complete during the year.

2) Summit does not value teachers.
Summit loses about 1/3 of its teachers every year. The bottom line is that teachers are overworked and underappreciated. Professional development time has turned into teacher "self-directed" time which is fancy language for teachers "getting shit done" in a classroom or office alone. Summit has partnered with Teach for America so they have enough teachers to work over "Summer of Summit." These teachers have 2 weeks of training and then are put in front of students. This is not in the best interest of teacher sustainability or student learning. Teachers are treated like a commodity at Summit.

3) Summit does not value diversity, like they say.
School faculty and organizational management/leadership are mostly white. The classrooms do not focus on pedagogy that is proven to work for a diverse group of learners (culturally responsive teaching, heterogeneous groupwork, strategies for English language learners...). Oakland is beautifully diverse and deserves something better than Summit.

Summit is not a super school. If anything it is a business where school leaders have become managers, teachers have become executors of a plan rather than creative thinkers and students have become users. They are excited about the $10 million because it will impact their growth, not because it will impact teacher development and student learning. Summit has lost sight of what is important.

Like this comment
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 18, 2016 at 12:31 pm

pogo is a registered user.

Educator -

If Summit schools are as bad as you suggest, then why are students and parents fleeing traditional high schools and literally waiting in line to get into Summit schools?

Like this comment
Posted by Q&A
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 18, 2016 at 12:59 pm

Q: "why are students and parents fleeing traditional high schools and literally waiting in line to get into Summit schools?"

A: "Marketing"

"Some charter schools focus on quality. Others focus on marketing. Guess which ones are winning." Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 18, 2016 at 1:35 pm

The thing about marketing is that if there is no substance behind the marketing, word will get around, kids won't be learning well, and parents will pull their kids out of those schools. The ones that really help children will see high demand.

In the past, only the middle class and rich could engage in de facto school choice. They could send their kids to private school or move to another area with better public schools. These options were not available to the poor.

Also, these newer schools can experiment with other types of teaching models, such as the Montessori or the flipped classroom. I like these other models because education becomes more active, rather than passive via lecture.

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Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 18, 2016 at 3:14 pm

pogo is a registered user.

Empty marketing promises? I give parents far more credit than that when it comes to their children's education, especially in this area. We are seeing younger brothers and sisters in those same lines trying to get in. That wouldn't happen if they had a bad experience with their older child.

I'm not aware of an exodus of unhappy students from Summit - something you can't say about traditional high schools. The parents I have spoken with seem to be thrilled with the education their children have received at our local charter schools.

To paraphrase President Obama, instead of whining, why don't the traditional high schools try to improve their product? Competition is a good thing.

Like this comment
Posted by Q&A
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 18, 2016 at 4:57 pm

"word will get around"

Indeed. It is.

I won't bother with mine, as you will ignore it the way you've ignored the initial post, as well as ample content posted elsewhere; see "Some charter schools focus on quality. Others focus on marketing. Guess which ones are winning."

Good day.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 18, 2016 at 5:27 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"Guess which ones are winning."

The ones producing happy parents.

Like this comment
Posted by Thai Timmy
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 18, 2016 at 8:42 pm

Read the link yet?

Like this comment
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 19, 2016 at 6:46 am

pogo is a registered user.

Here's a link for you...

Web Link

Researchers at Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO, released the new report yesterday, which looks at the impact of charter schools in 41 urban areas. The researchers used a rigorous research design that compares learning gains for students enrolled in charter schools to those of similar students in traditional public schools in their districts.

On net, the findings are good news for charter schools: Across the 41 cities studied, students in charter schools learned significantly more than their peers attending traditional public schools – 40 more days worth of learning in math, and 28 more in reading.

Like this comment
Posted by Q&A
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 19, 2016 at 8:44 am

Boils down to: throw a LOT of money at a couple selected schools and see the results.

Of course, that money would help any similar selection of schools.

From the "pro" charter link: "As many as one in five charter schools should be closed because of poor academic performance, according to a November 2012 report from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers"

So despite the extra money being thrown in, hand over fist, 20% of them are abject failures. And those are the charter fans willing to concede it's at least that.

Throw tons of money at them, give them rule changes and other 'gifts', and 20% still fail?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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