The Science of Summit

Want to dive deeper into the Summit model? The Science of Summit is a groundbreaking white paper, 15 years in the making. In it, we share our beliefs about young people, about the promise of public education, and Summit’s principles for school design rooted in the science of learning.

Since our founding in 2003, we have held ourselves accountable to a vision that every student should be equipped to lead a fulfilled life. Summit has worked in partnership with nationally-acclaimed learning scientists, researchers, and academics to develop a model that supports that vision.

The Science of Summit combines our core values, what science tells us on how students learn best, and cutting-edge research into a school experience that is tailored to every community’s needs.

The Science of Summit Report (Download PDF file in a new window)

Measurable Outcomes that Drive Student Success

Every single element of the Summit model is grounded in what science tells us about how students learn best. In The Science of Summit, we translate the science of learning into the intentional design of our schools to achieve student success in three outcomes: Cognitive Skills, Content Knowledge, and Habits of Success.

In The Science of Summit, you’ll learn about:


  • Students need a broad Content Knowledge base in order to put Cognitive Skills to work, as outlined in research from The ABCs of How We Learn (Open new tab to website”). Daniel Willingham (Open new tab to website”), Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, tells us students must understand academic subjects more deeply than a web search can provide. We enable students to advance through material at their own pace and move on only when they demonstrate proficiency.  This method aligns with findings from Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor and Scientist Todd Rose (Open new tab to website”).
  • Social-emotional learning is inextricably linked to academic learning. At Summit schools, students learn Habits of Success — a set of skills, mindsets, dispositions, and behaviors grounded in the social nature of learning. To prepare our students for college and career success, we adopted prominent educational psychologist K. Brooke Stafford-Brizard’s 2016 Building Blocks for Learning (Open new tab to website and download a PDF document) as our framework. The approach outlines 16 key social-emotional learning skills for comprehensive development. Our goal is to help students develop and show habits independently, along with the ability to transfer these to a variety of life situations. One way these mindsets and behaviors take shape is in three commencement-level ready habits — self-direction, curiosity, and purpose — that set up a student for a life of well-being.

Our Framework for Designing a School Model

Beyond detailing evidence for each of our student outcomes, The Aligned School Model Framework presents a framework for designing school models aligned to a school’s articulated purpose of education and grounded in evidence.

The Aligned School Model Framework was developed at Summit Public Schools

The Aligned School Model Framework presents six steps for designing a school model that consistently and reliably predicts success for all students, when implemented effectively. Summit used this framework to inform the design of our own model and hope it will be helpful for the greater education community.

This framework is critical to ensuring Summit schools meet the needs of all students. We hope it can do the same for others across the nation. We encourage our peers to use this framework to articulate their own school models.

Read the full white paper Aligned School Model Framework (Download PDF file in a new window) now to learn more about the science behind our approach and the framework we used to design our schools.