28 Sep

Learning about each other outside of the classroom

Over the past 15 years, Summit Public Schools have developed a few traditions. None more cherished than the annual camping trip for students.  

Toward the end of every summer, the faculty, and a myriad of parent volunteers, embark on a two day excursion with the students. This annual event is often cited by alumni as central to their Summit identity and involvement with their campus community.

Bringing faculty, families and students together and enjoying the great outdoors that Washington state offers is a great foundation for our vibrant and growing school communities. Highlights certainly include delicious food, listening for owls and watching the stars at night, a game of flag football, songs by the campfire, and s’mores, of course. But what make this camping trip unique, is teachers using a shared experience like camping as a method for building community and school culture.

We’ve found that the simple act of camping gives students an opportunity to expand outside their comfort zones and get to know each other deeply. For many of our students this is their first time going camping. Many say it’s one of their favorite experiences at Summit.

Over the course of two days, faculty members lead students in self-discovery and team building activities. The work is balanced with lots of fun activities, culminating in a student-led talent show. This year’s showcase included origami skills, beat boxing, dancing and magic tricks.

At the end of their trip, students attending Summit Sierra in Seattle’s International District, expressed their gratitude for their peers, faculty and the families for making the camping trip a positive experience. Asked about her students’ experiences, Katie Bubalo, principal at Summit Atlas in West Seattle, said, “We are so grateful to have such a warm, welcoming community here at Atlas.” She went on to add, “It truly takes all of us to make it happen–students, teachers, family, and community partners. We can’t wait for our next trip together!”

Have you had an experience that helped you expand outside your comfort zone and grow? Tell us about it the comments below.

17 Aug

Community Celebrates the Opening of Summit Atlas

Nearly 200 families, students and community leaders from West Seattle, White Center and surrounding communities joined us in officially opening Summit Atlas.

“Our community has worked side by side with Summit over the past two years to help shape the culture of this new school from the ground up,” said long time West Seattle resident and Summit Public Schools board member Shirline Wilson. “We welcome families and students to their new school. A school that will help close opportunity gaps and give our kids an education that will prepare them for the rigors of college, and become contributing members of society.”

The founding class of 9th graders starts school on August 21 followed by 6th graders the following day. Over the next four years, the school will grow to serve grades 6 to 12. Summit Atlas is our second Seattle location for Summit Public Schools and third in the Puget Sound region. Summit Sierra High School in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District and Summit Olympus High School in Tacoma will serve grades 9 through 11 in the 2017-18 school year, eventually rolling up to a full 9 to 12 grade school. All Summit schools are tuition-free and open to all students.

“I’m so excited for my 6th grader and 9th grader to start their first day of school at Summit Atlas,” said West Seattle resident, Bahsan Ibrahim. “I have been looking for a school that would be the right fit for my family and believe I found it at Summit Atlas.”

Summit Public Schools prepares a diverse population of students for success in a four-year college or university by ensuring high-quality teaching meets each student’s individual needs, including collaborative project time, personalized learning time, elective expeditions to explore their passions, and one-on-one mentor time.

At the event, students and families from the community helped cut the ceremonial ribbon, then toured the school grounds and classrooms. They also heard from the principal of Summit Atlas about the school’s values and commitment to the community.

“At Atlas, we will always keep our doors open and have high expectations coupled with loads of love for every student every day,” said Katie Bubalo, Founding Principal and Executive Director at Summit Atlas. “We are excited to collaborate with our neighbors at other schools and community members and invite anyone and everyone to join our school family.”

Learn more about Summit Atlas at http://atlas.summitps.org/

08 Aug

The Science of Summit: School Models that Drive Student Success

This post originally was featured on the Summit Learning Blog

Today, Summit Public Schools is very proud to announce the release of The Science of Summit, a groundbreaking white paper 15 years in the making. The Science of Summit is our effort to share what we believe about young people, about the promise of public education, and about principles for school design rooted in the science of learning.

Since our founding in 2003, we have held ourselves accountable to a vision that every student should be equipped to lead a fulfilled life. We’ve worked in partnership with nationally acclaimed learning scientists, researchers, and academics to develop a model that supports that vision. It combines our core values, what science tells us on how students learn best, and cutting-edge research into a school experience that is tailored to every community’s needs. Today, we share this work with you.

Measurable Outcomes that Drive Student Success

Every single element of our model is grounded in what science tells us about how students learn best. In The Science of Summit, we translate the science of learning into the intentional design of our schools to achieve student success in four outcomes: Cognitive Skills, Content Knowledge, Habits of Success, and Sense of Purpose.

Summit Learning Student Outcomes

Through the cited research below and many more references in the white paper, we describe how:

•Cognitive Skills, such as communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity are skills essential for success in college and career, according to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Multiple prominent curriculum frameworks and standards — Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards and the Center for Curriculum Redesign — advocate teaching these skills. We prioritize Cognitive Skills in grading above all else. Working with Stanford’s Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE), we developed a single Cognitive Skills Rubric to assess student work. The rubric outlines 36 Cognitive Skills such as asking questions, interpreting data, and synthesizing sources. Students spend the majority of class time immersed in real-world projects that require this higher-order thinking.

•Students need a broad Content Knowledge base in order to put Cognitive Skills to work, as outlined in research from The ABCs of How We Learn. Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, tells us students must understand academic subjects more deeply than a web search can provide. We enable students to advance through material at their own pace and move on only when they demonstrate proficiency, in line with findings from Harvard Graduate School of Education professor and scientist Todd Rose.

•Social-emotional learning is inextricably linked to academic learning. Students need Habits of Success — a set of skills, mindsets, dispositions and behaviors grounded in the social nature of learning. To prepare our students for college and career success, we adopted prominent educational psychologist K. Brooke Stafford-Brizard’s 2016 Building Blocks for Learning as our framework. It outlines 16 key social-emotional learning skills for comprehensive student development.

•Students need more than a diploma upon graduation; they need a Sense of Purpose. Research from William Damon, Professor of Education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, tells us students thrive when they understand their interests, values, and skills and have a credible path after high school. To achieve this vision, we incorporate weekly 1:1 mentoring and goal-setting into our approach. By tracking goals weekly with mentors, students cultivate the “why” behind school and develop an inner compass for life after high school.

Our Framework for Designing a School Model

Beyond detailing evidence for each of our student outcomes, The Science of Summit presents a framework for designing school models aligned to a school’s articulated purpose of education and grounded in evidence.

The Aligned School Model Framework was developed at Summit Public Schools.

The Aligned School Model Framework 
presents six steps for designing a school model that consistently and reliably predicts success for all students when implemented effectively. We used this framework to inform the design of our own model and hope it will be helpful for the greater education community.

This framework is critical to ensuring Summit schools meet the needs of all students. We hope it can do the same for others across the nation, and encourage our peers to use this framework to articulate their own school models.

And finally, we invite the education community to collaborate with us, learn with us, and teach us. We hope educators everywhere will use the ideas we present in The Science of Summit to serve their communities. Please join us on this journey to support all students.

Download the full white paper now to read more about the science behind our approach and the framework we used to design our school model.

28 Jul

Sneak peek at new Summit Atlas in West Seattle

Construction crews are finishing work on the new charter public school, which opens to students August 21

The building once housed a Safeway grocery store, and then a church. Now, it’s the home of Seattle’s newest charter public school: Summit Atlas.

On Friday, members of the media and a few families and students joined Summit leaders for a hard hat tour to see the changes to the building at the Southwest corner of 35th and Roxbury, which will open its doors Aug. 21 to students.

“I really like all the open spaces and the bright colors,” said Vega Rietberg, 13, who will be attending 9th grade at Summit Atlas.

Like Summit’s other schools in Puget Sound – Summit Sierra High School in the International District and Summit Olympus High School in Tacoma – the school is bright, cheery and has flexible space for students. Classrooms have rolling garage doors that allow them to open up into a larger common space, giving teachers flexibility when projects require collaboration.

Principal Katie Bubalo said the teaching staff is excited about the space, which complements the school’s focus on core academics, personalized learning and providing every student with an adult mentor. The school is close to fully enrolled, and its student population reflects the diversity of the West Seattle and White Center communities it serves.

“This is an incredible community with incredible kids who deserve an incredible education,” Bubalo said. “At Summit, 99% of our graduates were accepted into college this school year. I can’t wait to work in partnership with our families, students, and teachers to ensure the story is the same at Atlas. College success and service to others–that is what we will be working toward and working on every day in this awesome building.”

The new school starts with sixth grade and ninth grade, and will eventually serve students in 6-12th grades. Sado Awad, mother to 11-year-old Kadar Mahamud, said she is excited to have this new public school option in her neighborhood.

“It’s a new school with a lot of good opportunities,” she said.

The school will also focus on giving back to the community with time on Fridays set aside for community service opportunities for students. During the tour, Bubalo said the school will focus on the 3 C’s: college success, community service, and building character.

Construction is financed by the nonprofit Pacific Charter School Development. James Heugas, the regional director of the PCSD, said his team is proud of the work done to create a unique and modern building out of a former grocery store. As the school grows, the building will add another wing to accommodate students.

All Summit schools are tuition-free and open to all students. There are still a few seats left. Learn more about Summit Atlas at http://atlas.summitps.org/

Summit Atlas will hold its official ribbon cutting on Wednesday, Aug. 16 from 5-6:30 p.m.

04 May

Three Summit Schools Named Top in Nation

U.S. News & World Report named three Summit Public Schools’ high schools among the top in the nation, awarding all three with gold medal distinctions. Summit Preparatory Charter School was ranked the 21st best school in the California and Everest Public High School was ranked 24th–putting both in the top 0.8 percent of schools in the nation. Summit Tahoma was ranked 67th in California, or in the top 3 percent of U.S. schools.

Congratulations to our colleagues and students in California for being ranked in the top high schools in the nation. This honor is a result of the hard work and dedication of the teachers and faculty to provide each and every student with the education best suited to meet their individual needs and to prepare them for success in college.

With our proven model, dedicated faculty, families and students we are on our way to replicating this success in Washington state. According to 2015-2016 end of year results we’ve already seen the following progress in Tacoma and Seattle:

•  Founding ninth grade students more than doubled the national average for growth in reading, and more than tripled the average for growth in math, putting Olympus in the top third of schools in the nation in terms of math growth, according to the nationally normed Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment.

•  Sierra’s founding ninth grade students outperformed the national average by 20 percent in reading and more than doubled the national average in math, per the MAP assessment.

Summit Public Schools are open to all students at no cost and provide a high quality, public education choice to our communities in Seattle and Tacoma. To enroll visit www.summitps.org/enroll.

02 May

Thank you to our teachers

By Jill Riemer, Director of Partnerships

Our faculty is the backbone of our schools and our organization. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I want to take a moment to tell you all how much I admire and respect the work you are doing for the over 325 students in our two Summit WA schools each and every day.

Since joining Summit Public Schools this past winter, I had the opportunity to sit in classrooms at Sierra and Olympus and watch how you engage students – how you listen to them, how you respect them, and how you challenge them to be their very best. I am in awe of the work you do and seeing the reactions of the esteemed guests who have come through the classrooms with me is something pretty special.

Being an educator in today’s environment comes with many challenges. Thank you for working hard to reach students who are struggling, for spending the time mentoring our students, and for being a caring adult who knows them by name. You are making a powerful difference in their lives.

As we close out the final weeks of the 2016-17 school year, we are already looking ahead to an amazing new school year this fall. We will be adding more students and additional grade levels, and Summit Atlas will open its doors to the White Center/West Seattle community. We could not be growing without the dedication and talent of our teaching staff.

Thank you for being a part of the Summit family and for being such an important part of our students’ lives.

09 Mar

A Window into Atlas

By Katie Bubalo, Executive Director at Summit Atlas

Last month, we welcomed the West Seattle, White Center, and surrounding communities into Summit Atlas’ new home at the corner of 35th and Roxbury. Although the renovation and construction is just underway, our future home already has the feeling of community, promise and educational opportunity.

Home is not so much a place or a fancy building, but all the things that bind a community together: beliefs, values, and choices to make our lives better. Even in our early stages, we can see and feel this sense of commonality. Allow me to share a view into our home. When you come inside, you will find:

•  All are welcome! Families and students from different backgrounds, neighborhoods, socioeconomic positions, races, creeds, religions and languages not just working together but binding together.

 Professionals who care deeply about young people succeeding. Teachers who fight for equity in education and believe the opportunity gap is something we will close together, and who believe every child, no matter how far behind they may be or where they come from, can succeed in college.

 Education’s higher purpose. A deeply rooted belief that the purpose of education is not just to better ourselves, but ultimately, to help us in serving our community.

In our Summit Atlas home, we will practice grace and grit and work with urgency on rigorous academic projects that make learning fun. Project-based learning allows students to think about and work on issues applicable to our lives. Each project is designed to push students closer and closer to college-readiness. We will take joy in helping others and be grateful to have the opportunity to do so. We will sit around the table and set goals together, work to meet those goals, and then set even higher goals the next time.

Perhaps most importantly at Atlas, we keep our doors open and we have high expectations. We are excited to collaborate with our neighbors at other schools and community members. We invite anyone and everyone who is interested in these values–diversity, inclusivity, compassion, excellence, growth–to join our family.  

We invite you to learn more about our new home and how we help 98 percent of Summit students graduate with a college acceptance letter in hand.

Summit Atlas is now enrolling 6th and 9th graders for the 2017-2018 school year. Families and students can find more information including how to enroll at www.summitps.org/schools/washington/summit-atlas

09 Feb

Working Together at Summit

Dear Summit families and community,

Last week we hit a milestone at Summit Washington as we broke ground at our newest state-approved charter public school, Summit Atlas on 35th and Roxbury in Seattle. As we write this new chapter in Summit’s story in Washington state, I thought this would be a good opportunity to introduce myself to you.

Before I do that, I want to take this time to thank Jen Davis Wickens for her courageous work and leadership for four years helping build a solid foundation for Summit and charter public schools in this state. Thanks to her dedication and commitment to public education, our families and students have this amazing public school choice in our state.

My name is Jill Riemer and I am Summit WA’s new Director of Partnerships. In this role, I will be leading on policy, external relations and have the honor of working closely with Summit’s WA Board of Directors. My entire career has focused on education and strengthening public schools to ensure we are doing right by our kids. My experience has focused on policy at the national and state level, starting a statewide nonprofit lifting up after-school and summer learning programs, and advising various organizations with national educational campaigns and networks around STEM, Grade-Level Reading, and reducing chronic absenteeism. My first exposure though to education was my mother, who was a middle school Spanish teacher. Now, even as my mom is retired, she still gets up and is at her local public school every morning by 6:30 am to provide staff support to the before school program. Devoting time to helping students is a part of my DNA like so many of you and our growing Summit WA family.

From the first moment I walked into one of our schools, I could tell there is something special happening at Summit. I saw high engagement at all levels, from families, students, faculty and our board of directors. Everyone has a real sense of ownership of and pride in their school. I saw teachers committed to their craft and doing whatever it takes to ensure every student is successful and active in their learning journeys. I was drawn to join Summit because of the power and potential this approach and model has for public schools and all the ability to serve all of WA’s students effectively. I’m also excited to work alongside Abigail Cedano our Senior Director of Schools who started six months ago. Abby’s leadership in supporting our school leaders and direct experience in the classroom and in schools will be an invaluable asset to us as we forge new, stronger partnerships with community partners and other public schools.

We find ourselves in a unique moment in our country where education is a key driver to help kids take advantage of new opportunities. Yet, often we get distracted by our differences, instead of focusing on the commonalities we share. At Summit, we’ll have a laser focus on the long game and doing everything possible to help all kids in Washington state succeed. We will also continue to be a powerful voice in the education discussions in our state and always keep you and your child central.

As we move forward, I’m excited to meet and work with you and do my part to nurture and cultivate partnerships and build communities that will serve and benefit all students in Washington’s state. Working together we will help all of our students be successful in middle and high school and beyond in higher education as they make their way to being thoughtful, contributing members of society.

With great respect and in partnership,

Jill Riemer

03 Feb

Community and Summit Public Schools Break Ground on New Charter Public School in Seattle

West Seattle, White Center and surrounding communities joined Summit Public Schools in a groundbreaking ceremony for their new charter public school, Summit Atlas.

Summit Atlas is located on the southwest corner of 35th and Roxbury in Seattle and will open in August for the 2017-2018 school year to its first class of 6th graders and 9th graders. The school will grow each year to eventually serve 6th – 12th grades.

“Summit Atlas is an opportunity for our community to come together to help students achieve their dreams and close opportunity gaps,” said longtime West Seattle resident and Summit Public Schools Washington board member Shirline Wilson. “This school brings high quality, personalized education programs that will put students on the pathway to success in college, career and life.”

Summit Public Schools has successfully opened two other state approved, public high schools in Washington state, Summit Sierra in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District and Summit Olympus in Tacoma. The Sierra and Olympus campuses currently serve grades 9 and 10 and will grow to serve grades 9-12 by the 2018-19 school year.

“I’m so excited for the students in this community who will have the opportunity to experience a school like Summit,” said Jayla Foster a 9th grader at Summit Sierra. “From learning skills like public speaking, visiting a college campus and teachers that help you reach your potential, Summit helps me achieve my goals in the classroom and encourages me to get involved in my community.”

Summit Public Schools prepares a diverse population of students for success in a four-year college or university by ensuring high quality teaching meets each student’s individual needs, including collaborative project time, personalized learning time, elective expeditions to explore their passions and one-on-one mentor time. Summit Atlas is now enrolling for the 2017-2018 school year. Families and students can find more information including how to enroll at the new school at www.summitps.org/schools/washington

“After more than a  year of conversations with the community we heard there is a need for a Summit option in this community,” said Katie Bubalo, founding principal at Summit Atlas. “Every student that walks through the doors of Summit Atlas next fall will receive an education from teachers who care deeply about every child and will prepare them for success in a four-year college or university. Summit has the flexibility needed to provide a high-quality education to a diverse student population.”

Also at the event the community saw architectural renderings of Summit Atlas and met Jill Riemer, Summit’s new director of partnerships. Jill will help lead Summit’s schools in Washington state with Abigail Cedano, Senior Director of Schools who supports school leaders across the organization.

“It’s an honor to join this dedicated team of educators and leaders who are working diligently to help our students succeed,” said Riemer. “I believe that the power and potential of our schools will fuel our partnerships and help more students in Washington state be prepared to succeed in college and life.”


23 Jan

Summit Washington Transition

Jen Wickens (center) with Olympus and Sierra students

Dear Summit Community & Supporters,

I’m so proud of the work we have done together at Summit Public Schools. It has been an honor to help bring Summit to Washington state, providing families and students with a new public school option. I’m truly grateful for the lasting friendships I’ve made with our stellar faculty, families, students and community supporters. The Summit community is a talented, committed, action-oriented, strategic, caring and wonderful group of people. Thank you for sharing your stories, passions and expertise with me. These relationships have helped me grow as an educator, leader and champion for change, and will continue to fuel my commitment to closing the opportunity gap across our state.

Now that the foundation for our region is built, it’s time for me to transition to a new role. My last day with Summit will be Jan. 31, but I won’t be going too far, as I’m currently working on the launch of a new, local charter network called Impact Public Schools. Our first school will open in 2018 as a PreK-5 in the Puget Sound region – a feeder for Summit Atlas and Sierra – with expansion plans to serve students throughout our state. Together, we will continue the work of providing high quality, public school options for families across Washington. I couldn’t be more excited about this new role, and I look forward to working with many of you in the months and years to come.

Summit Public Schools WA will remain in excellent hands, led by our incredible Board of Directors, regional and school leadership teams. As we continue to welcome new families and students to the Summit Public Schools community, I’m excited to announce that Jill Riemer joined our team as the Director of Partnerships. She will lead on development, policy and external affairs. Jill brings extensive national education policy and nonprofit management experience to our team. Her expertise and passion for providing every student a high quality, personalized education is of tremendous value to Summit and the charter public school movement in Washington state.

Jill will join Abigail Cedano, Summit’s Senior Director of Schools, to lead our Washington state region. Abigail joined Summit over six months ago to support our school leaders and teachers across the network. She is originally from Seattle and has been a teacher, school leader and founder of a high performing charter public school in Brooklyn. Her extensive experience as an instructional leader gives her a unique perspective on our work developing vibrant school communities and providing a world class education to students. I’m extremely confident that Abigail and Jill will continue to provide strong, supportive, urgent and joyful leadership for our growing school communities.

I want to thank each and every one of you for your support over the last four years during Summit’s launch and for your dedication to our mission. I’m so grateful to the entire Summit community for helping us make history. Not only did we build a strong and determined community, but we helped cultivate a powerful movement that will continue to grow. We all know that this work isn’t done – I’m proud to continue standing by your side as we push to ensure students across the state have the opportunity to attend a school that best meets their needs. Together we will continue to write the story of charter public schools in Washington state, ensure equitable outcomes and help all students reach their potential.

I will forever be Summit’s biggest fan – you will hear me cheering loudly for you along the way!

With gratitude, love and great respect,

Jen Davis Wickens