Summit Denali students question the effectiveness of the Summit model

By William Giblin, Vibhu Gogineni and Ariana Perez

Staff Writers

Summit Denali senior Julisa Ascencio recalls how Denali has prepared her for college while coming from a background where no one went to college. 

However, in recent years, students at Summit Denali in Sunnyvale, Calif. have begun to question if the Summit model is properly preparing them for life after high school. Since the start of Summit Denali in 2013, Summit Denali has been praised for its new style of teaching and putting the means of learning in the hands of the students.

Botany students work on their final products PHOTO CREDIT: William Giblin

When asked about college readiness at Summit Denali, junior Claire Silva said she feels the school “implements certain college skills like time management, efficiency, and independence.” She also feels that some teachers don’t give as much advice on specific colleges and where students should apply but also believes Summit “implements good habits” that can help prepare students for college. 

Similarly, when asked about ways the Summit model can change, a current teacher at Denali who wished to remain anonymous said, “I  think Summit can improve in incorporating deadlines for students to try and reach. We give you all a lot of time to complete assignments…If we can figure out a way to hold you accountable, it would be great.” He went on to explain how they feel that Summit can make education better by implementing deadlines. 

Fahim Wadhwania, a current high school senior, said his favorite part of the Summit platform is the work Summit gives students more appropriately reflects classwork students will receive in college: “I think a lot of the time when you come into class, you’re given a lecture, then work time. You’re not going to go through test questions and book reports in college.” He went on to mention how he believes Summit and the Summit style of learning encourages students to also do outside research on their own so they can learn more about a topic. 

One of the aspects Summit Denali prides itself on is the idea that not only is Summit Denali a school, but it’s also a community. A current teacher seems to agree, saying how they believe that Summit Denali is a place where students can “hang out with each other and not deal with being in a big environment.” Later, he mentioned he believed Summit Denali does a good job of making sure that all of the students feel comfortable when they’re at school. 

When asked about the benefits of the Summit Learning Platform, Ascensio said the most beneficial parts of the Summit platform would be how everyone can work at their own pace: “The individual work/self-paced work you can do is something I really like about the platform.”

Students in art work on their final products PHOTO CREDIT: William Giblin

While the other interviewees agree with this statement, Wadhwania disagreed, saying the self-paced learning style can also do harm in other instances. While some may agree that the self-paced learning style can be beneficial, he said, “I think Summit has to be really lax with you because its self paced. They can’t make you do work…It drills the idea that students can do work whenever they want into students’ heads”.

“I think I was able to strive more than I might have at a normal high school and I think that’s more important than having those high school memories,” Ascensio said. “I would say that I am satisfied. There are definitely ways to improve, but it’s like that with everything.”

Featured Image at the top of the post:

Urban Farmcraft students make ice cream PHOTO CREDIT: William Giblin

Leave a Reply