During this holiday and Christmas season, salute the fine parents of Cheshire, Connecticut who said NO to Summit online learning!
Theresa Commune said her 11-year-old son just wanted more attention from teachers than he was getting.
“They need teachers to get them to love learning at this stage,” she said.
Especially great is that parent petitions in local school districts work! Parents can still fight reform, and particularly the push to have their children facing screens all day in school.
Summit Learning is the Chan Zuckerberg initiative to convert schools into all-technology—pushing real teachers out of the classroom, and ending brick-and-mortar public schools.
Summit has the audacity to call themselves public schools even though they are a charter management organization (CMO). Summit operates eight schools in the San Francisco Bay area, and three schools in Washington state—eleven schools altogether. But they currently push their online program into 330 schools across the country. Here’s the list.
The blog Wrench in the Gears describes this tech transformation. The New Schools Venture Fund Summit 2017, an invitation-only event, expects over 1,000 entrepreneurs, funders, policy makers, educators, and community leaders to converge on the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame, CA next week to “reimagine education.” Technology features prominently with sessions on rigor in personalized learning, tech in special education, tech as an equity issue, and developing a robust R&D program to “drive the kinds of technological breakthroughs we need in education.” Platinum level event sponsors include the Gates and Walton Family Foundations, the Carnegie Corporation, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative-all forces behind the Ed Reform 2.0 digital curriculum agenda.
Summit Learning is personalized, mastery, or competency-based learning on the computer, and there is no research to indicate this is the best way for students to learn.
Personalized Learning and Ongoing Assessment
For years, students have been bombarded with high-stakes tests. Parents have fought this tooth-and-nail with the Opt Out movement. Now, with Summit, students will be tested nonstop online!
Summit’s agenda removes decision-making from teachers, parents and the local school board. From the Summit Learning website: Summit developed the Cognitive Skills Rubric built into our Summit Learning Platform in collaboration with the SCALE team at Stanford, whose mission is to improve instruction and learning through the design and development of innovative, educative, state-of-the-art performance assessments and by building the capacity of schools to use these assessments in thoughtful ways, to promote student, teacher and organizational learning. Our rubric is also based on prior learning from the Buck Institute’s work in cognitive skill analysis.
If interested, check out who partners with SCALE (see above). The Buck Institute is all about technology and Project-Based Learning (PBL), another name for all-tech. Check out the Buck Institute’s partners.
Self-Directed Learning and the Reduced Role of Teachers
Summit involves self-directed instruction, kids teaching themselves on the computer. They claim it is a falsehood that teachers will no longer be needed.
The reality is, with Summit, teachers take on an entirely different role. They assist students according to what children do online. Technology rules the classroom, and students work mostly alone. Instead of technology as a teaching tool, teachers play a subservient role to the computer. Eventually parents will be told students don’t need teachers.
But most adults understand that children need real teachers for learning.
Student Privacy Concerns
The blog NYC Public School Parents expressed student privacy concerns in 2016. The Summit platform has never been independently vetted for security protections – or shown to yield any educational benefits, and I believe is a very radical way to outsource instruction and student data to private companies.
More recently NYC Public School Parents revisited Summit Learning.
Last May, the Missouri Education Watchdog also described nervousness about Summit’s social-emotional assessments. Is it just a lucky coincidence that Zuckerberg’s Summit Schools is piloting the SEL assessments, when the president of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative “education philanthropy” is also part of the Aspen Institute’s National Commission to create SEL standards? Also probably coincidental, the Assessment for Learning Project (ALP) has some interesting partners. “ALP is led by the Center for Innovation in Education (CIE) at the University of Kentucky in partnership with Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) at EDUCAUSE.” ALP, the promoter of Equity Assessments (for SEL data) is funded by Hewlett Packard and Bill and Melinda Gates, also involved in the SEL commission.
Parents Realize Their Schools Work Already!
Despite such intense pressure, the parents in Cheshire, Connecticut petitioned against Summit and won! They realized early that the Summit program meant students were:
- spending too much time online
- viewing inappropriate content
- not getting enough guidance.
Facebook engineers who set up what’s called blended tech and a go-at-your-own-pace personalized learning program were not happy to have to end the program.
The Old Fashioned, “You’re Behind the Times” Complaint
Cheshire’s superintendent Jeff Solam said the change was too much for parents.
“Some people were more comfortable with a model where a teacher stands in front of a class and lectures for 40 minutes. We haven’t been comfortable with that model for a long time,” he said in an interview. “That’s an old factory model that doesn’t fit in to contemporary learning.”
This is a common unfair criticism when school reform is rejected. When there is push back, those who do the pushing back often get blamed for not embracing change. Or they are made to sound like they don’t know better.
My guess is most teachers rotate and work with students in groups. And even if they do lecture in front of the class, it works!
These subtle insults were used with Common Core, claiming that teachers rejected it because it was too much change and too fast for them to comprehend and implement. But teachers who rejected it didn’t like it.
The reality is that sticking students on a screen all day for their education has no proof what-so-ever as being the best way to learn.
Parents in Cheshire get it.
Superintendents are often used to push online programs into schools. We should question why. Are they being paid? Is it because they have such sparse budgets in other areas? How much tech must schools sign onto for funding?
How much research do they do to determine the benefits of online learning compared to the losses?
Every School District
If parents and teachers hear their superintendents and school boards talking about increasing technology in schools, they should determine what it means exactly, and what the role of the teacher will be in the class. Tech can be a useful tool, but it should not diminish the teacher’s role.
They should be especially concerned if they hear Summit Learning is coming to their school district.
Parents in Connecticut didn’t buy Summit Learning. They started a petition. A local petition by parents may be the best way parents can push back harmful reform.
Parents in Connecticut aren’t alone. Parents in Indiana and Kentucky are also questioning Summit. Teachers have also pushed back in places like Massachusetts.
Reclaiming our public schools from big business, through individual school districts…this is a great gift for students this holiday season!