The Summit Platform: a REAL Issue


Ava Schmidt, Reporter

For the 2019-20 school year, administrators decided to implement the REAL learning platform, aka Summit, for all the incoming freshmen (class of ‘23). If you don’t know what that is, Summit is an online learning platform that shows you everything that you are going to be doing for the school year, along with multiple Power Focus Areas (PFA’s). PFA’s are 10 question quizzes that cover additional learning that is not explored in the projects. This platform is supposed to prepare students for the workforce, college, and life beyond, but it is proving to not be as beneficial as previously thought.  

Students do NOT like this platform. Many of the students that were surveyed said that it doesn’t suit their learning style, which is traditional- where you can do assignments with direct instruction. On Summit, there is no spoken instruction, and most of the time the teachers just say “go to Summit and do your work.” Students also mentioned that the focus areas don’t do anything for them, they feel like they are just memorizing things to pass a quiz instead of actually learning. The platform is skewed in the way that it claims to be “individually paced” when really, it’s not. As sophomore Parker Griggs put it, “I try to finish one thing I was late on, but when the other project comes up I get more and more behind, and oh look my year is red now- it’s just an invitation to slack off”. But there is an aspect of the platform that students like. They like that the platform is organized and you can see everything for the whole year. Because of that, they are able to work ahead if they’d like to. Even though there is a positive in the student opinion, they don’t fully approve of Summit learning. Sitting in front of a screen all day can be mentally taxing. Multiple students have left WPHS to escape the lack of traditional education they were getting and the mental distress this platform puts people through. Many students had reported that this platform is much more stressful than it needs to be. You never really get a break, it’s just work upon work until you’re caught up. 

For students, this platform is unbeneficial, stressful, and tedious, but for teachers, it’s much different. Almost every teacher that was interviewed said they really like the platform, and that it allows students to do their own work and be self-reliant. The teachers also like how students, teachers, and parents can be on the same page when it comes to learning. But there are some criticisms about this platform that come from teachers. Math teacher Ms. Sobczak doesn’t like the online aspect of it because math is difficult to learn on a computer, and Mrs. Drews doesn’t like how it isn’t super user friendly as say, Google Classroom is. However, teachers do feel that it is definitely beneficial in helping students get prepared for college and beyond. The REAL platform teaches students academic tenacity, resilience, perseverance, and growth mindset, skills that will be super important to have later on. They also feel that it is important to be used to learning on the computer since sometimes you have to take online courses in college or go to a fully online school. 

The Summit platform has been criticized many times for being under-researched and too stressful for students. For starters, Summit chose not to be a part of the study that they paid the Harvard Center for Education Policy Research to design for them, but still cite that they are backed by Harvard. This means that the program actually does not have the research it claims to be backed by. Furthermore, 10-18% of schools stop using Summit after the first year. Multiple schools from Kansas to New York have had student walkouts in protest of this program because students were spending more time on their computers than they were doing anything else… talk about ‘screenagers’. Summit takes the need for teachers away, instead of teachers, they are called “mentors” and in this context, it’s a professional term for babysitters. Now, when teachers tell their students to go to their platform and work, it’s homeschool at school at this point. When schools decide to implement Summit as the main source of learning and do not offer another choice, they are not taking into consideration the students who have issues with their eyes that restrict them from being able to stare at a screen for hours on end, and if they do they get really bad migraines. Nor do they consider special needs students. Summit is also a part of the standards-based grading system, a flawed system that allows students to not fail. You can slack off the entire year, makeup one project, do really well on it, and boom you’re passing. Also, you can have one checkpoint or even a focus area red and it says you are “Off Track” even though everything else may be green and you have an A in the class. On the contrary, this can also be a good thing because a student can have a low, failing grade at the beginning of the year in a class, but then as they progress throughout the year and get better, they can have an A or B by May. 

The platform does have some benefits. Summit is a skills-based curriculum. “The 36 cognitive skills that were identified by Stanford University as the critical “need to know” skills for every educated person are repeated and built upon throughout each subsequent year in the platform. 70% of a student’s grade is based upon being able to apply the skills and use the basic information from the Power Focus Areas.” as Assistant Principal Mrs. Hamlow said. Also, since Summit is more self-directed, students are able to plan for what they need to do without having surprise projects being sprung on them. 

All in all, we have to remember that every student is different. We all have different learning styles; some learn more traditionally and some are able to learn with the REAL platform. As with anything, the Platform has its pros and cons, but it seems to have more cons than pros at WPHS. As stated on the WPHS website, The REAL Learning platform “..will turn children who weren’t excited about school into ones who can’t stop talking about it the moment they leave the classroom.” This statement is true, but for all the wrong reasons.