- See also Summit Tamalpais in Richmond
Hi, my kid went to Summit K2 for two years, at which point we switched to another school. I can't comment on the culture of Tamalpais; another poster is correct that the two schools may be very different in that regard.
I can comment on pros/cons of aspects of both schools that are likely quite similar, so here goes: Pros: They do a great job of making the curriculum interesting for young people and applicable to today's world. Another pro: the homework load is generally quite light, unless you are falling behind. It's great to not have that weight on the family every evening. Each student has an online dashboard where they can see exactly where they stand in terms of their grades and when assignments are due. It's fantastic for anyone who has challenges with Executive Function.
The main con is the lack of clubs and enrichment, especially in the arts. At K2 there was no band, no choral music, no dance program, no theater program. They offer one sport per season. You should definitely ask about this at Tamalpais because they may indeed offer more than K2. Just be advised that these folks are good at sales so they will probably tell you about their clubs. Clubs (for instance, a drama club) are a great start but they're in no way equivalent to a full-scale dramatic production with costumes, sets, a/v etc.
Even if your kid isn't so into the arts, or sports for that matter, enrichment activities like this help set the tone at a school. If the artsy kids and the sporty kids are excited & proud to come to school each day, that can spread to everyone. The lack of arts enrichment, in my opinion, contributes to the negative student culture at K2.
Our daughter is a 9th grader, in her third year at Summit K2, and our family could truly not be more thrilled with the school! She had been struggling at a wonderful local private school which was just not a fit for her, so we felt incredibly lucky to find a free, local school where she could totally be recognized and thrive. The teachers there truly care about the students, and strive to recognize and work with their individual strengths and challenges. The administration and Head of School are wonderful and completely dedicated to the students and the school community. Summit is such an incredible model that the charter school group was recently awarded a huge amount of money by the Bill Gates Foundation, in order to build another Summit School in Oakland. I could not be more grateful to have our daughter enrolled at K2!
Archived Q&A and Reviews
As the search for middle school starts up this Fall, I would appreciate any information and feedback about Summit School, which has taken the old Windrush campus and is in its first year starting with 7th grade, as I understand. Does anyone have an insider perspective on it yet? Jennifer
My daughter is happy to be part of the first 7th grade class at Summit K2 in El Cerrito. She likes the teachers a lot and Summit's ''personalized'' and ''blended learning'' model seems to be working well for her. (And of course she loves the beautiful school buildings and grounds). As with any new venture, there are kinks to work out, but overall I think it is a good experience for my daughter to be part of something new and different.
Traditional classroom teaching is not practiced here. Much of the core curriculum is mastered on-line; students work independently at their own pace through ''playlists'' that afford some choice and the opportunity to move rapidly through (and even beyond) the current year's curriculum, or to linger a little longer over material they struggle with. They work together on interdisciplinary projects, and have four 2-week ''expeditions'' throughout the year where they break from academic work to explore such activities as eco art, yoga/balanced living, engineering, hip hop, restorative justice, entrepreneurship, film/video. (In high school the expeditions move out into the world, and include internships and other hands-on activities.) For PE they do Brazilian jiujitsu and yoga. Sports teams are just being launched (volleyball and basketball).
I love the fact that my daughter can complete most of her work at school by 3 pm, so she has time for her many other interests. She does not bring home piles of homework. (Students can stay until 5 pm if they need extra help or want to do their computer work there.) There is no ''tracking'' -- everyone is expected to undertake the same high level of college prep studies. There is a great deal of passion for Summit's mission, which is to ensure that all kids are ready to go to a 4-year college, and succeed once there. Many students will be the first in their family to go to college.
The director and staff are working incredibly hard to get this new school established. Much effort goes into building community and bringing parents into the process early and often. The whole school went camping together in September, which was quite an undertaking. There is lots of communication and for a school not two months old, things run remarkably smoothly. We (both parents and kids) are frequently asked to fill out surveys and give feedback. Admission is by lottery, and there was a waiting list at the beginning of this year so anyone with an interested 6th grader should submit an application soon. There is an open house at the end of October. Details on their website. Lori
I teach at another charter school in the area, and many of my 6th graders from last year are 7th graders in the first class at Summit. I've talked to 6 or 7 of them since the school year began and they all seem really, really happy there and excited by the school and curriculum. I don't know a lot of the specifics about Summit-- I know they use (in part at least) a blended learning model that involves some computerized instruction and students have these ''playlists'' of lessons they progress through. I know that each student had to make a presentation outlining their academic goals for the year and how they will achieve them (which is a great idea). I know they all went on a camping trip together near the beginning of the year, which sounded really cool. Anyway, my information is all second-hand, but I haven't heard any of them or their parents say a bad thing about the school yet. My own children are a few ways off from middle school, but I'll definitely be investigating Summit more when the time comes.