Summit Public Schools (SPS) boast an impressive four-year college acceptance rate of 96%, while Summit alumni complete college at twice the national average. Summit’s college acceptance numbers look great at face value, however, the data on students who actually complete college tells a different story. 2021 Alumni Data showed that among the Summit classes of 2007-2014, white students were more than twice as likely to earn a four-year degree compared to Hispanic students. SPS claims that these trends closely mimic those of the national average in order to downplay the significant disparities in this data. Hispanic students make up nearly 50% of the Summit Public Schools student population and, despite some signs of progress, closing that gap remains a challenge. As the Hispanic student population grows, it is becoming more crucial that Summit Public Schools work to close the divide.
The first issue perpetuating this gap is the English Language Learners program, or rather the lack thereof. SPS uses a model of self-directed learning where students guide themselves through the online Summit Learning Platform while teachers act as facilitators. Although SPS claims that this system prepares students for the self-directed environment of college, it is a pitfall for English Language Learners. A majority of English Language Learners at Summit are heritage Spanish speakers – these students struggle to interpret the intricate platform on their own. The Summit Learning Program cannot be translated to Spanish so Hispanic students face a language barrier to navigate the curriculum. SPS lacks a strong program to support these students, and the lack of counseling and resources leaves Hispanic students with no one to turn to.
While this is a major issue for English language learners, all Hispanic students at SPS face a much larger issue. The lack of individualized education is an often overlooked problem in the Summit system. While SPS likes to peddle that it provides a “personalized learning experience,” in reality, the Summit Learning program is a one size fits all curriculum that assumes every student starts at the same level, which is just not true. Students at Summit schools do not get to select their own classes. Since SPS does not believe in tracking its students academically, each student is pushed through the same preselected set of courses. Hispanic students have historically faced barriers to higher education including resource-poor schools, parents with low household incomes and low levels of formal education, and a lack of quality teachers. To assume that said students are at an equal level of education as their historically privileged peers is a set up for failure.
It’s time that SPS focuses on Hispanic students. Charters claim to be a better alternative to the flawed public school system. The fact that Hispanic students make up half of the student population at Summit schools but have the lowest bachelor’s degree completion rate of all students is a grave injustice. To close this gap, SPS needs to implement a strong language learners program that will support heritage Spanish speakers. Historically underserved groups of students should be given extra support through real personalized learning to reach the same success.