Education

‘Disgust and disappointment.’ Parents upset that web-based program remains at school.

School board members in Lincoln County on Thursday did not end a controversial web-based learning program that some middle school parents have been fighting.

After school board members announced at a packed meeting that the decision to use Summit Learning rested not with them but with the middle school decision-making council, an angry response was posted Thursday night on the Facebook page called “Lincoln County Parents and Teachers against Summit Learning.”

“Disgust and disappointment. Those are the feelings after tonight’s meeting where the Board has decided to hand the decision back to the SBDM council regarding Summit Learning. We have elected positions for a reason --to represent our districts...for checks and balances...for accountability. Such an upsetting and passive response from our Board.”

The school board is asking the Lincoln County Middle School council to revisit the decision to make Summit Learning mandatory, saying the council might not have complied with the Kentucky Open Records Act. School board members did not give their opinion on Summit Learning.

While the program has strong support from some Kentucky school administrators and families, parents in Lincoln County — along with parents in some other districts across the country — oppose Summit Learning. The school board’s written findings said that an appeal to the board from a parent raised concerns about privacy of student data, about whether there was sufficient data to show effectiveness and about whether the school council followed proper procedures.

Every Summit Learning classroom has three core components, Summit officials say: a focus on teaching through projects, a mentoring program for every student, and a drive to equip students with the skills and habits associated with lifelong learning, such as self-direction. In addition to what is taught by teachers, students access additional learning resources, set goals, and track their progress via an online platform.

After the meeting, Lincoln school board members referred questions to Superintendent Michael Rowe who said as of now, the program is still mandatory at Lincoln Middle “unless the council will change their mind.”

Rowe said he was hoping the school council would rule on the appeal of the program as “quick as possible.”

“I think our stakeholders need an answer one way or the other,” he said.

Cindy Wesley, who has a child entering middle school, said she understood the rules that led to the school board’s decision on Thursday, but does not think Summit Learning should be mandatory.

Wesley said she visited a classroom using Summit Learning and thought that students were not actively engaged in learning as they watched videos on their Chromebooks.

“They are there to learn, they are there to be engaged. I just don’t think this is the appropriate thing for my child,” she said.

In May, some parents kept their children home one day in protest of the mandatory school-wide implementation of the program.

More than 30 Kentucky schools are using Summit Learning, Summit Learning Senior Director of Communications Catherine Madden told the Herald-Leader in May. Madden confirmed that there had been “pockets of pushback” over Summit Learning in Kansas, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

Madden said the numbers of people opposing the program does not represent the vast majority of the 380 schools that offer Summit Learning which is currently used by more than 72,000 students.

The board’s written findings said that school council members thought that a pilot program of the Summit Learning program “did show benefits and that the program would lead to academic success.”

Summit Learning, which is free to schools, gets some support from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative which is led by Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, and his wife Priscilla Chan, Dakarai I. Aarons, Communications Manager of Education for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative told the Herald-Leader in May.

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