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We Need Better Education Policy. Summit Public Schools Shows Why.

Summit Public Schools (SPS), a California-based charter school network established in 2003, is widely promoted nationally as a success story to be emulated. A policy environment friendly to charter schools and digital technologies, together with hundreds of millions of dollars in technology industry contributions, enabled its growth and its national visibility. Because of SPS’s boasts of success and its national prominence, understanding its story is a useful way to gain insight into how Silicon Valley funds and markets education initiatives. It also reveals inadequacies in policy related to school performance, digital educational programs, protection of student data, and school funding. This research brief analyzes the documents SPS provided in response to a request for public records bearing on its reports of students’ academic success, its curriculum and instruction program, its proprietary digital platform, its protection of student data, its funding, and the validity and reliability of its assessments. In its discussion of documents both provided and not provided, the authors illustrate how SPS serves as an example of how nominally nonprofit charter school organizations evade public oversight and provide technology companies and their investors with both a market for their products and a continually renewing source of valuable data from young people.

Suggested Citation: Molnar, A., Boninger, F., Noble, A., & Mani, M. (2023). We need better education policy. Summit Public Schools shows why. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from