WOODLAND PARK • After hearing the results of an external review of its Summit Learning Platform, the Woodland Park School District is moving forward with changes to middle and high school usage.
Superintendent Mathew Neal last week announced plans to immediately begin an overhaul of the technology platform in response to concerns from students and parents identified in a survey conducted by an outside auditor in the fall.
The platform, which emphasizes self-directed learning and uses multiple online teaching tools, has been a contentious issue among some district parents in recent years.
“The aim of the survey was to know if Summit is effective? What areas of Summit aren’t working?” Neal said during a phone interview Friday.
He continued, “Summit isn’t a curriculum — it’s not a book. It’s a digital platform. It’s a tool in the tool box.”
The focus shift plan was presented to the Education Council during its January 19 working session.
Consulting firm School Leaders to the Core – Strategic Leadership for Learning and Leading surveyed 291 district parents, nearly 600 students and nearly 90 staff, Neal said. Counselor Jennifer Klein presented the survey data to the school board.
The survey responses showed that middle school stakeholders felt the Summit learning platform worked well at that level, but at the high school level, students struggle with it, said Board of Education President David Rusterholtz.
Rusterholtz, who was elected to the board in November and named board chairman in December, said he heard from several district parents during his campaign that they didn’t like self-directed learning. “It keeps coming from parents of high school kids,” he said.
Rusterholtz added, “They would prefer a more traditional system where the teacher is the expert and the students respond through given tasks.”
Changes to middle and high school usage of the platform will begin immediately, Neal said. “We met with middle and high school teachers (January 20 and 21) and these schools will make changes to the Summit learning platform without delay,” he said.
Neal noted in a press release issued last week that district staff will “drive forward strategies that allow our schools to continue to offer additional options for students who may find the platform challenging.”
Among the changes is the establishment of a “no-technology zone” in each classroom, where teaching will be more traditional, with less self-direction and more direct instruction from teachers, he said.
“I know when you come off a pandemic and everyone is online it’s difficult to shift gears. Some teachers rely on online learning,” Neal said. “The reality is we have to work. We know what we need to do to fix it (the platform).”
An important part of the plan is communicating with parents, whether through parent-teacher conferences, videos, or other means of contact.
The priority is improved communication with the community, said Rusterholtz.
“There’s absolutely going to be more teacher-student engagement in high school and a lot less digital time,” he said. “Parents are concerned about excessive screen time and are calling for a change in plan. Screen time is definitely an issue.”
According to Rusterholtz, there are positive features of the Summit Learning Platform, including the ability to store data about individual students and entire classes, and parents being able to log into their child’s account to see his or her grades in real time. “It also offers mentoring and coaching,” he said.
Teachers can post assignments, collaborate, and share curriculum resources through the platform.
In the press release issued by the district last week, Neal said WPSD is also addressing parent concerns about the security of student data within the platform.
“The security of our students and their information is of the utmost importance to us,” Neal said in the press release. “As we continue to reconsider how our schools use technology, we will ensure our data sharing practices comply with Colorado privacy regulations and federal laws.”