EDITORIAL: Some Cheshire parents balk at ‘Summit’ platform

EDITORIAL: Some Cheshire parents balk at ‘Summit’ platform

There seems to be a major misunderstanding between school leaders in Cheshire and some parents, regarding the Summit Learning Platform, which is in use for students in grades 5, 6 and 7.

At the very least, when an online petition to suspend the program has more than 300 signatures, in a fairly small town, it should be enough to make the school system take notice.

And it has: Many parents concerned about Summit showed up at a Board of Education meeting Thursday night to voice their objections. There was even a police officer present, because one board member reported having received threats.

Summit is said to be in use at hundreds of schools, public and private, across 40 states, but Cheshire seems to be the only public school system in Connecticut that uses it.

While it may be neither desirable nor possible to thwart the advance of technology in the classroom, some of the concerns expressed by parents seem quite reasonable.

Summit's funding comes from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which has caused some parents to worry about the privacy of their children’s data, considering that the Zuckerberg in question is Mark, the CEO of Facebook, which is often criticized for its use of online information.

Although school officials say their agreement with Summit conforms to state and federal laws governing student privacy, some parents seem less than reassured by that statement.

Another concern was inappropriate “pop-up” ads appearing on some students’ computers when they worked at home, but the school system says those ads have now been blocked.

The other major concern is that kids are spending too much “screen time” per day — meaning the total time spent watching TV or using cell phones, tablet devices or computers. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics sets no specific limit on screen time for children of this age group — other than to say that children 6 and older can spend more than one hour a day. In fact, its report last year made a specific exception for educational computer time.

And 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.

In response to this controversy, the Board of Education is working on a student, teacher and parent survey on Summit, and urging all to respond to it. Once those results are in, it will be easier to gauge Summit’s place in the Cheshire schools.

This result strikes us as one of the strengths of our old-fashioned state, where most cities and towns run their own schools and residents can have their say.

We await with interest the outcome of the Cheshire survey.

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