Kids outside smiling and laughing with Summit Learning logo.
Aspen Valley Prep Academy Charter School – Fresno, California | Photograph by Foxes and Wolves, courtesy of Gradient Learning
Tech Spotlight

Summit Learning

Today, educators define success in a fundamentally different way than in the past. Educators know that for students to succeed, they must meet both students’ developmental needs and consider all the different factors that impact their learning. This whole child approach to education drives a stronger sense of self, a greater ability to learn and better life outcomes.

Research shows that students learn best when they are challenged but not overwhelmed — and when learning is relevant to their interests and experiences.30 To do all of this well, teachers need effective tools and ongoing support. However, educators often have to maneuver through a disconnected set of piecemeal solutions to determine which ones best fit their needs.

The Summit Learning program was created to solve this problem by providing a whole child approach that gives educators access to a vast library of high-quality curricula, professional development, coaching and technology tools — all in one place — to help teachers meet the needs of every student. The program’s research-based approach and resources drive student engagement, meaningful learning and strong teacher-student relationships.

Summit Learning launched in 2015 with 19 schools in 10 states and Washington, D.C.31 Since then, the program has served more than 200,000 students.32 Spanning 43 states over the years,33 Summit schools reflect the diversity of America’s education system — as of fall 2023, 54% of Summit Learning’s partner schools are in urban areas, 29% in suburban areas and 17% schools in rural areas; and 73% of schools are public, 22% are charter and 5% are private.34

What unites educators who choose Summit Learning is a commitment to meeting the holistic needs of every student. Teachers report that Summit Learning helps them support academic achievement and create connections that foster student well-being. A 2022 survey of Summit Learning educators found that 95% of school leaders and 82% of teachers said that Summit Learning improves student academic outcomes. And, nearly all teachers surveyed (95%) agree that the mentoring component of the program has positively changed students’ attitudes about school.35

How CZI Supports Summit Learning

Custom-built, the Summit Learning platform was an early pioneer in enabling teachers to follow student progress and provide individualized help directly to their students. Students access learning resources, submit assignments, receive feedback from teachers, set goals and reflect on their learning. Parents and caregivers see exactly what their student is working on and how they’re progressing at any given time.

In a commitment to continuous improvement, CZI has evolved and added numerous features to the platform over the years, based on educator feedback provided to Gradient Learning and CZI. Every feature encourages skills and habits identified by learning science researchers to help students succeed in the classroom and beyond — such as communicating ideas clearly, developing resilience in the face of setbacks and practicing self-advocacy.

The program has been honored for its approach and features. Digital Promise recognized Summit Learning for its commitment to Research-Based Design and Learner Variability (supporting the full range of skills and background experiences that students bring to school).36 The program is also recognized for ensuring that it protects student information. Due to the safeguards CZI builds into all its digital tools, Summit Learning received the highest ranking when Common Sense Education conducted privacy evaluations of popular edtech resources.37

Raising the Bar for Teacher and Student Success

Summit Learning has helped schools across the country improve student outcomes and foster a stronger sense of school culture.38 For example, Prairie Heights Middle School in Northern Colorado joined the Summit Learning program in the 2017-18 school year as part of an effort to prioritize school culture and climate, and professional learning opportunities for teachers. The Summit Learning model helps teachers at Prairie Heights focus on strengthening relationships with their students through mentoring, which became a core tenet of the school’s learning experience. Every student meets one-on-one with a mentor weekly to discuss their progress at school and reflect on personalized goals for their learning. In addition to that time for relationship building, teachers receive coaching from Gradient Learning on how to support student well-being in all of their classes throughout the day.

The school’s emphasis on caring relationships and teacher collaboration paid off. Previously rated by the Colorado Department of Education at the second-lowest ranking in the state’s performance framework, after just the first year of Summit Learning implementation, Prairie Heights made dramatic progress. In 2018, 2019 and 2022, the school received the highest category in the framework.39

TODAY feature of Summit Learning partner school
TODAY feature of Summit Learning partner school

TODAY showcases the impact of the Summit Learning mentoring component at Howard University Middle School in Washington, D.C.

The Road Ahead for the Summit Learning Program

The Summit Learning program demonstrates that with high-quality curriculum, well-aligned technology tools, and coaching and professional development for educators, it is possible for schools to implement changes in teaching and learning that help all students succeed holistically and graduate with an abundance of curiosity, purpose and self-direction.

Based on feedback from educators, we are supporting Gradient’s work to make Summit Learning — and a whole child approach to education — even easier to implement. Beginning in the 2024-25 school year, Gradient Learning will launch the next version of the Summit Learning program, developed in close partnership with participating schools. The program will add new externally validated curricula, the latest best-in-class resources, and tools such as new dashboards to track student development — all paired with a dedicated coach who will help school leaders apply the program’s components in their unique schooling context. As part of the evolution of the program, we are updating the technology that supports it. As the edtech market has evolved, there are more, quality learning management solutions available to support the program as it goes to the next level. In partnership with Gradient Learning, we are working on a careful and responsible transition of core features of Summit Learning to a trusted and widely adopted technology platform.

CZI continues to provide grants to Gradient Learning to help them provide the program to schools across America. CZI will also continue the ways we’ve co-designed learning with Summit Learning educators by partnering with them to co-build the new tools needed to help educators across the country unlock the full potential of every student.

Together, we can provide educators with the tools and support to make their vision of whole child education a reality.

Relationships don’t just happen. It really takes kids feeling like, ‘You know what, my teacher pushes me to get better, and they have high expectations, but I know that’s all because they care about me.’

Stephanie Knox