There have been concerns expressed by parents around the country about online learning and specifically about Summit charter schools which devote their educational experience to online learning. It’s a cheap platform and has great financial benefits for the owners of the schools. The schools receive the per student allotment for public school attendance which ranges from $5,000 to $10,000 per student based on their geographical location but the cost is low, providing students with laptops, if necessary, and software programs. There is a teacher of sorts who can answer questions via email. The student must check in physically with the school on a weekly or monthly basis.
Summit opened a school, which is basically a virtual school, in a predominately minority neighborhood in Seattle, a community which is the typical target of these predatory enterprises.
For more on Summit, see:
Summit (Sierra) charter school: The skinny on the Gates-backed school set for Seattle, Brad Bernatek (remember him?) and a host of others
A fellow public school advocate shared the following article with me about parents in Indiana who have concerns about a Summit charter school online program that came into their community.
From the Indiana Gazette by Chauncey Ross:
Parents and other school district residents reminded the Indiana Area school board on Monday that their dissent of the Summit Learning program hasn’t waned, even though the administration scaled back the program and put it on “opt-in” status for the 2018-19 school year.
Summit is a brand of mass customized learning, a style of teaching that relies on students following a computer-based curriculum and relying on online sources to achieve goals set in their classes. Instead of delivering lectures to entire classes, teachers tailor their instruction to individual students based on their pace of learning.
“Just because a lot of parents are not here doesn’t mean it has been deemed OK. It is not,” said Thomas Kauffman, a parent of a sixth-grader in the pilot program. He questioned whether the administration has actively polled parents of fifth-graders and the current sixth-graders for what they want for their kids next year.
“Traditional school should be the norm. We’re still very concerned,” he said.
Parents began protesting the Summit program in October, complaining that it was a radical departure from traditional forms of instruction, that it was introduced on short notice, and that the online resources provided in the California company’s curriculum were inappropriate for Indiana County students in the 10- to 12-year-old age range.
“I come to the meetings again and again because of the fear that this will become mainstream and there will not be an opt-in later,” said Julie Brunetto. “That is my biggest concern as I have a third-grader coming up.”
Brunetto said her older child, a sixth-grader, has been uplifted since Summit was rolled back.
“She is excited about certain classes that have been taken off … excited that there is discussion, not just lectures, but discussion and excitement about the subject again.”
Brunetto also warned that if Summit becomes mandatory for students, she would move her family from the district.
“That scares me to death and that’s why I will be here for every meeting.”
Mihaela Nowak acknowledged that the science and social studies classes have reverted to the traditional teaching method while Summit is used only for math and English Language Arts classes.
She, too, said she stood for other parents who were unable to attend the meeting.
“We have invested in child care, we have families, we have jobs. We have put a lot into this. If one of us is here, all of us are here,” Nowak said.
“We communicate constantly with parents from eight other states who are fighting this same fight,” Nowak said. “We are not the only district who saw this, constantly being belittled and pushed back by the administration that doesn’t understand that this is not good. This is a bad program, bad to the core, and we feel very strongly about that.”
Board members handled only one matter related to Summit on the business agenda, the administration’s request to authorize travel for eight staff members for updated training on the Summit Learning program from March 11 to 13 in Hyattsville, Md.
The board delayed action.
District Superintendent Dale Kirsch said the training is part of an organized sequence of sessions and would be unlike another session set for the summer.
Those listed to attend include Assistant Superintendent Jeff Boyer and Junior High Principal Michael Minnick. The others are sixth-grade teachers or mentors who consult with students to guide their progress in Summit, but only two of the teachers use Summit in their classrooms.
While Summit would cover the costs of the conference and lodging, the administration proposed allowing $250 each for transportation and other expenses.
Board members hesitated to approve the request, in part “due to the uncertainty of Summit,” several said.
They voted 6 to 3 to table the request until February. Board President Walter Schroth and directors Barbara Barker, Tom Harley, Terry Kerr, Tamara Leeper and Ute Lowery approved the delay. John Barbor, Julia Trimarchi Cuccaro and Doug Steve voted no.