How this Bay Area charter school network is reinventing education

  • 2016-03-01
  • Los Angeles Times

Diane Tavenner scanned the list of names a staffer at Summit Preparatory Charter High School had just handed her. She began to cry. They weren't happy tears.

Where many would see signs of success, Tavenner saw failure.

"I taught those kids," Tavenner said of that moment in 2011. "I was their principal, I was their mentor. I knew everybody personally — and their families."

Tavenner had founded the award-winning Silicon Valley school in 2003. With its nontraditional approach to teaching, it quickly grew into a network of seven privately run, publicly funded charter schools across the Bay Area. The Summit network also has two schools in Washington state.

Every student is assigned a mentor from Day One, and they meet weekly to talk about school and home life.

All students, not just those teachers deem creative, can take art, yoga or film classes, and get involved in learning "expeditions," often taught by experts in community orchestras or museums.

Diane Tavenner scanned the list of names a staffer at Summit Preparatory Charter High School had just handed her. She began to cry. They weren't happy tears.

Where many would see signs of success, Tavenner saw failure.

"I taught those kids," Tavenner said of that moment in 2011. "I was their principal, I was their mentor. I knew everybody personally — and their families."

Tavenner had founded the award-winning Silicon Valley school in 2003. With its nontraditional approach to teaching, it quickly grew into a network of seven privately run, publicly funded charter schools across the Bay Area. The Summit network also has two schools in Washington state.

Every student is assigned a mentor from Day One, and they meet weekly to talk about school and home life.

All students, not just those teachers deem creative, can take art, yoga or film classes, and get involved in learning "expeditions," often taught by experts in community orchestras or museums.