The Cheshire school system has suspended use of the Summit online learning platform, effective Friday, after objections from hundreds of parents. An online petition to suspend Summit had 460 signatures as of Monday. Board of Education Chairwoman Cathy Hellreich said the Summit program, which has been used in grades 5-7, will be discussed after the holiday break.
Parents’ criticisms included increased screen time for children and inappropriate content linked from the site. Because funding for Summit came from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, parents’ privacy concerns likely were related to the fact that Mark Zuckerberg is the creator and CEO of Facebook.
In suspending the pilot program, School Superintendent Jeff Solan also cited “a substantial degree of misunderstanding and misinformation within the community” as factors in the decision. While it may be that many parents were hasty in demanding cancellation of this new teaching method without really understanding it, it could also be said that such “misunderstanding and misinformation” might have been avoided, or at least ameliorated, if the school system had made a more concerted effort to bring parents on board by inviting them in for explanatory sessions.
That is what the Southington system is doing with a four-week course to help parents understand new math-teaching styles. Parents everywhere complain that they’re unable to help their children with math homework due to new teaching methods. While education professionals may firmly believe in the new methods and new technologies now in use, parents are hardly to be blamed for failing to embrace every puzzling new educational trend that comes down the pike.
That said, many of the teachers and principals using the Summit program in Cheshire are said to be all for it. "They think this is a fabulous program,” said one school board member. While a survey of students, teachers and parents on the Summit platform might have been helpful — and might still be useful to gauge Summit's place, if any, in the Cheshire schools — it may now be past time for such an effort.
However this issue turns out, we do see it as a strength of our old-fashioned Yankee state, where most cities and towns run their own schools, that parents and other residents can be heard. And perhaps, with some outreach to parents, the Summit platform can still have a place in Cheshire.