opt out of summit learning

Parents of fifth- and sixth-graders in the Indiana Area School District are being asked to opt in or out of Summit Learning. Summit Learning is a computer/internet-based learning system, developed in California, that is to take the place of textbooks and traditional classroom teaching in all major subjects. As a parent of a sixth-grader I found Summit to have three mortal flaws.

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Dear IASD Fifth Grade Parent

This program, which is an online and self-directed program, has replaced the traditional curriculum and will be presented to you this year as an “opt-in” possibility for your child’s sixth grade. We feel very strongly that this platform does not provide the amount and quality of education we believe our children should get from our school, but we did not have a choice and our children were enrolled in this program without our knowledge or consent.

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Dear IASD Sixth Grade Parent

The School Board has decided to put the fate of the [Summit Learning] program in the parents’ hands for the upcoming years. The platform will be offered as an “opt-in” possibility for next year’s sixth and seventh graders. The initial plan was to be gradually implemented for grades third through twelfth, but the current plan is to expand it only throughout Junior High, sixth through eighth grades.  If, however, the parents’ approval of the program is very low, and only a few parents will choose to opt in, the platform will be abandoned.

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Summit Learning: A Sixth Grader's List of Pros and Cons

  • We have less human interaction than we should
  • Summit is kind of just like the Wikipedia of cyber schools because anyone can add stuff and anyone can use it

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I like the idea behind this, and my son is getting some experience with self-directed, engaged learning from his ELA Socratic seminar and in the choices he makes with projects, but he has no voice in how he learns or demonstrates his knowledge with those online assessments. The topic is selected for him, the playlist content is selected for him, the format is multiple choice with the same bank of questions for all students. It’s simply an electronic version of lecture material regurgitated through multiple choice exams. There is nothing innovative about that, and the redundancy of doing this in all four core subjects without adequate assistance in building note-taking and test-taking skills has left my child both bored and frustrated.  

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Good Idea, But Not implemented correctly


I am from California. I would be considered very liberal by most of my acquaintance.  However, I take addiction and sexual responsibility very seriously. Seeing such things mocked has nothing to do with California values and makes me very upset and concerned.

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"California values"


facilitating is not teaching

What this means for our children is that they are not independent entities or sponges that can be set before a computer and spoon-fed content by clicking on a screen. They learn naturally and best within the context of their classroom communities and the individuals within it – through relationships.  They learn complex concepts and new or challenging material best with guidance from a teacher, mentor, or parent.  It stands to reason that computerized materials or programs are best utilized as supplementary tools in a teacher-led learning environment. But that is not what Summit truly offers.  Summit IS the modality, Summit IS the curriculum, and the teacher is reduced to mere facilitator.

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No such thing as a "free Lunch"

As a Nobel Prize winning economist once stated, “There is no such thing as a free lunch", and our experience with things which are “free” is that they are never really "free”. And often, not very good. What does Summit, and by proxy, Facebook get in return for “free” learning programs? The answer is likely to be our children’s data. We do not believe it should be available to anyone, for any reason, at any savings.

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I have seen my son, previously extremely engaged and seeking out knowledge and information on his own, becoming extremely disinterested even in reading fiction. He would just come home and often did not really want to do much of anything. In his own words: “my brain is tired”. He started getting headaches and was clearly less patient and more irritable. He admitted that he was not happy and 3 months into the school year he told me that, if I still wanted to cyber-school him, he would not be opposed to that. 

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"My brain is tired": one family's experience