In Washington state, marginalized students and families have few real 

Citizen Ed:

The first student I met at Summit Sierra charter school in Seattle was sharp, soft-spoken, and confident. I visited on a day when students were working independently on their goals, so I was imposing on her time, but she was gracious about the interruption.

She walked me through Summit’s computer based program that keeps track of all the work she completes toward gaining admission to a college program. As a parent I saw the benefit of such a program immediately. She never has to wonder if she is on track. The program provides real time information that keeps her on the same page with her parents and teacher. No need to wait for a report card or teacher’s conference.

Every six weeks students have “expeditions,” which is an elective two week period where students can pursue subjects they care about like videography, cooking, civics, or topical focus areas like criminal justice, the stock market, or the Holocaust. For each area the school connects students with community experts.

Personalization is a key feature at Summit. Each student has a well-developed personal learning plan driven by their own interests, dreams, and goals. It’s a vision of education many schools say they want, but one few achieve for more than a pocket of lucky kids.

Often when I go into a school I see the disparity between their brochure and their reality. Websites promise lots of fanciful bells and whistles (a charter school on roller skates!) but you get in the building and notice kids are dead in the eyes, teachers are curt, and the surroundings are grim.

It’s always a good feeling to find a school with high ceilings, lots of sunlight, buoyant students, and staff who appear to have a good time. Summit is that kind of school.