Aimee Kennedy: Summit stands out

by Dr. Aimee Kennedy, Senior Vice-President for Education, STEM Learning and Philanthropy at Battelle

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Aimee Kennedy on the elements that make Summit Public Schools stand out. Summer tours for educators are now available.

I’ve visited a lot of schools in my career, but Summit Public Schools still stands out.

Four years ago I first learned about the school. Sitting in a large conference room, I heard CEO Diane Tavenner, talking about how her schools implement an innovation model that is grounded in the lean start up methodology.  I remember thinking that my own school, and so many of our schools in Ohio and Tennessee, were in the throes of lean start up. I wanted to learn more.

Fourteen months later, the opportunity came to visit Summit Public Schools; I was no longer a school principal, and my travel schedule that summer was rough. I wasn’t looking forward to the trip to the west coast to spend three days visiting a school—even a school with as great a reputation as Summit. What could they possibly be doing there that was so much more innovative than what we were already doing in the Ohio STEM Learning Network and Tennessee STEM Innovation Network?

After getting a closer look at how Summit was personalizing education for kids, I couldn’t get enough. To say that I had a shift in my thinking is an understatement. I’ve been back twice—for a total of three on site visits. Summit Public Schools is always trying something new; they’re always trying to improve their great idea.

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One of the concepts that was especially exciting to me are how they think about personalized learning; they’ve made differentiation of content fail-proof by creating playlists of content. They plan for content instruction and project based learning, and keep it manageable for teachers and for kids.

They also think about talent management in a powerful way.  Their approach to onboarding and developing their teachers is thoughtful and impactful.  A few highlights about professional development at Summit:

  • Every teacher participates in 40 days of professional development each year.
  • Every teacher has access to professional development experiences that are personalized to meet their needs, goal-driven, and supported by high-quality tools and resources.
  • Every teacher’s development is linked to student success.
  • Every teacher has the opportunity to share best practices and collaborate with his or her peers to ensure we are always providing students with the highest quality education.

As part of their efforts to share what they’ve learned, Summit is holding free training this summer. Applications are due by April 14, 2017. They also offer half day workshops, and several options for school tours.  If you’re looking for a fresh take on school, these opportunities could provide the spark to create something incredible.

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