Academic Philosophy


The Summit’s educational philosophy extends from the Beginner’s program all the way to the seniors in the high school. While the needs of students change along with their developmental and cognitive growth, the underlying progressive beliefs in attending to the whole child through attention to their academic, social, emotional, character, and community needs is constant. The Summit builds a scaffold of support in the younger years aiming to provide each student with the academic and social-emotional foundation necessary to prepare students for The Summit middle school, high school, and beyond. Grounded in educating the whole child and building on each individual’s natural curiosity, students are engaged in the learning process, as responsibility and independence are fostered. The non-traditional classroom environment enables students to create, discover, and explore the world around them. Students work collaboratively with peers, work one-on-one with a teacher, move throughout the room, make choices, build positive peer relationships, utilize computers, and build gross or fine motor skills. All students are actively engaged in learning. The importance of play is recognized and incorporated into classroom experiences. Across the lower school the curriculum is integrated with an emphasis on thematic learning.

As the students move into the middle school years, the expectations and responsibilities for learning shift more and more to the student. Students no longer have a single classroom teacher but are part of a small community that includes 6th, 7th, and 8th graders and a group of teachers with subject specialties. The progressive educational philosophy continues with a focus on whole child needs, the use of collaborative and cooperative learning, project and problem based learning, integrated curriculum, and the development of creative and critical thinking, communication skills, character, and citizenship. During middle school, students engage in longer form writing and reading, tackle interdisciplinary projects of greater depth that require deeper planning, face more open-ended problems, and move into more abstract concepts in math and science.

During their high school years, Summit students move their focus to preparing for college but within a progressive educational framework. Summit high school students take a college preparatory course load that includes Composition, Literature, Social Studies, Science, Advanced Math, Foreign Language, Art, PE, and Music. The classes are taught in a multi-age style with freshmen through seniors in the same class. Only Math and Foreign Language are divided by level. The classes are largely taught using project-based learning and inquiry-based learning methodologies. Formative assessment is used heavily and writing is emphasized across the curriculum. High school students are expected to complete at least one year of Internship and/or complete a self-directed Service Learning project of their own design. In the past few years, students have run an educational conference for Springfield area teachers, designed and delivered a first aid and survival summer camp for elementary students, created a World Culture themed parent’s night out program, and interned at the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association, and the Springfield Little Theatre among other places. The high school program aims to move the focus from developing the students within a small, closed community to engaging and integrating the students into communities outside of the school. The students have access to enroll in dual credit courses taught by college faculty, attend on campus classes at local universities, and complete projects that require them to work with their local community.

As a community, The Summit embraces diversity by celebrating different backgrounds, voices, and talents. The Summit seeks racial, religious, economic, and cultural diversity within the school as it is believed to be the foundation of a strong, competent, and compassionate community. Ninety percent of Summit parents feel the school has a commitment to a racially diverse enrollment, exceeding the ISACS norm of 76%. Students are exposed to the global impact of personal decisions through foreign language and cultural studies programs. Involvement in the surrounding community enables students to become positive, productive, and respectful members of society.

Across the curriculum, The Summit faculty strives to provide experiences that develop students’ leadership skills. Students are guided through projects involving goal setting, critical thinking, and self-reflection. Through cooperative endeavors, presentations, community service, and daily interactions with peers and adults, the school promotes effective communication skills, self-confidence, and the ability to inspire others.

Participation in visual and performing arts is essential to the development of the whole child. Students cultivate self-expression, imagination, creativity, problem solving, and critical thinking skills through involvement in and exposure to the arts. Integrating the arts with the core curriculum enriches and extends learning as students make key connections across content areas and expand their appreciation for the arts. The arts provide students with the opportunity to make evaluations and judgments, gain aesthetic sensitivity, work cooperatively with peers, and communicate ideas. Exposure to diverse cultures and histories through a variety of art and media connects students to the world around them.

Students develop a sound body and a sound mind as the school values health, wellness, nutrition, physical education, an active lifestyle, and lifetime recreation. The Summit is committed to supporting and challenging the whole child within each individual’s intellectual, emotional, social, creative, and physical modalities by promoting academic achievement, character development, self-reliance, self-confidence, independent thought, and personal wellness.

The Summit aims to help students achieve their highest potential through a rigorous and integrated academic program that emphasizes critical thinking and problem-solving skills in a stimulating and developmentally appropriate manner. Students discover the joy and excitement of learning through activities that provide an opportunity for creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving. Parents, teachers, and staff play vital roles in ensuring children feel cared for, loved, respected and supported in their growth, because learning should be a natural and enjoyable experience.

The Summit is committed to building a community of understanding and respect for others in and out of the classroom. Self-control, positive personal interactions, and good manners are modeled, discussed, and recognized as important and necessary aspects of school life. Experiences in which students encounter and demonstrate gratitude and kindness toward others are valued. Students actively engage in community service projects, laying a foundation for lifelong responsibility and volunteerism.