Friday, June 22, 2018

Closing the Gender Gap in Computer Science

Two Silicon Valley schools are making a push to increase the numbers of women in STEM careers--a way to curb the gender gap that persists in the tech and science sectors. Summit Public Schools are proving that the future of tech looks bright…and female.

In San Jose, Summit Rainier student Mindy became obsessed with computer science and coding in middle school, when an after-school experience evolved into a hobby and then a passion. Now she wants it to be a career. To prepare for that future, Mindy enrolled in coding classes at Summit Rainier and took on self-paced computer science studies. As a junior, Mindy took four Advanced Placement (AP) exams, earning a top score on all of them including the notoriously rigorous Computer Science A exam for which Mindy earned a 5, the highest score possible. Just 29 percent of statewide Computer Science A test takers scored 5s, a quarter of whom were women.

Mindy’s experience in computer science is not an anomaly. In nearby Sunnyvale, Calif., female students at Summit Denali have learned valuable STEM skills through one of several student clubs. Recently, a group of female students participated in and won a 12-hour hackathon--a coding competition designed to promote women in tech called XXHacks that was held at the Symantec global headquarters and included students from many Bay Area public schools. The Denali team won first place for using their computer science skills to collaborate on an educational interactive game.

These female high schoolers embody what’s possible through a school culture that supports students to find purpose and give back to their community by engaging in projects that have real, lasting impact in possible future career paths. A recent report found students are more likely to persevere through tedious projects if they have a broader social or communal purpose.

These students have found that purpose in computer science thanks to opportunities at their schools. Overseen by teacher Matthew Hesby, who leads courses on computer science across Summit’s Bay Area schools, students are able to enroll in his courses and build video games, engage in coding exercises, create websites, learn the fundamentals of computer programming, and more. Several alumni from his classes are currently pursuing STEM degrees as college students and credit Hesby’s classes with igniting their passion for the field.

“My first thought in developing my course curriculum is how to make it more accessible for all of my students,” said Hesby. “I try to create an intentionally open, welcoming and collaborative classroom environment so that my students begin to see programming as a more interactive, dynamic field.”

Summit’s focus on personalized learning and real-world experiences outside the classroom led Diep to take her passion for computer science back to her East San Jose community, where she has interned with the San Jose Library’s Maker[Space]Ship to promote access to tech with a particular emphasis on computer science – to all kids regardless of socioeconomic status. Her experiences at Summit Public Schools have solidified her interest in pursuing a career in the field – she will attend the University of Southern California in the fall and plans on majoring in computer science.

“I feel fortunate I had the opportunity to pursue my passion as part of my school work. I intend to continue my STEM studies at the college level and beyond,” said Mindy. “I want to apply my skills and experiences in and out of the classroom to be a champion for equitable access and exposure to computer science for kids everywhere.”

For more information about Summit Public Schools and its Expeditions program, visit

How did you get interested in STEM/computer science and did you have similar opportunities while in high school? Share in the comments below.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Bay Area students’ building entrepreneurial mindsets in high school

As high school students start thinking about their futures and exploring different career paths, they often try to visualize themselves in a role or doing different types of work.

One Bay Area school is taking this a step further by  offering students a glimpse into a variety of careers. It’s all part of a unique year-long program called, “Expeditions” allowing students to benefit from practical experiences like internships, hands- on instruction and project-based learning. Expeditions is a special program at Summit offered for two-week periods, four times throughout the year. Instructors focus on preparing a diverse student population for success in college and to become contributing members of society by helping them to discover new interests, explore existing ones, and dive into authentic experiences that will get students out of the classroom and into the world.

“I am a firm believer of the importance of my students developing risk-taking and critical-thinking mindsets. And even though most of my students will not become entrepreneurs or business owners, they can use these skills to succeed in whatever future they choose to pursue,” said Aaron Calvert, who teaches the entrepreneurship course at Summit Public Schools.

Four times a year, these students dive deep into their roles as entrepreneurs and build their ideas and skills throughout the year.

In May, a group of Calvert’s students participated in the Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation Summit, bringing together students in Santa Clara County who are part of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) programs. Two of his eight students advanced to the second round of the semi-final business plan competition. Events and organizations such as NFTE offer an extra sense of what it means to have an entrepreneurial mindset. It offers an environment where students feel supported and encouraged to think a certain way.  

A sense of risk-taking and failing forward is one of the most important abilities students develop throughout the year, according to Calvert. Students are encouraged to take calculated risks, to take chances, and be comfortable with uncertainty. Very different than other classes where students are rarely told it's good to make mistakes. But according to Calvert, that “safest path possible” attitude is anathema to entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs must be  willing to challenge common assumptions, try something new, and learn from, rather than fear, failure.

By developing an entrepreneurial mindset, students can find and feed their passions. They have the power to make what they want and what truly matters to them. This increases students’ buy-in to the course and to school. Students can choose to make businesses that provide countless numbers of products or services. They can feed their classmates, tutor other students, design their own clothing or games, and give back to their communities. Through these efforts, they help others and themselves.

Calvert has enjoyed watching numerous students become more engaged in their school work and feed their passions in his class. One student, Emily, started the year as a shy freshman. In the first week, she shared her love of clothing and desire to be a fashion designer. Calvert encouraged her to follow her passion and develop a sketch for a dress. Together, they calculated the cost to make one dress and how to describe her marketplace. On her own time, she turned that sketch into a reality by sewing a prototype at home.

Over the rest of the year, she developed a production schedule, completed market research about her  customer base and  competitors, looked at how she could market her designs, and  and fine-tuned her presentation skills. In the final weeks of the class,  Emily pulled all of these lessons together to create a complete business plan.   

Did you take a class in high school that shaped your career as an adult? Share in the comments below!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Summit K2 welcomes new dean

Summit K2, a public charter school in El Cerrito, recently appointed a new dean of culture, Christian Cabrera. In this role, he will focus on supporting student academic growth and development of the school culture. The school serves approximately 420 students at the co-located middle and high schools.
"Chris is a wonderful addition to our faculty team. He brings a wealth of experience in supporting students from diverse backgrounds, including first generation college students, and helping them reach their full academic potential," said K2 Executive Director Shilpa Duvoor. "We're excited to have him as part of the faculty team as well as the Richmond and El Cerrito communities."
Before coming to Summit K2, he helped found Broome Street Academy, an independent charter school focused on serving youth from high vulnerability backgrounds, including students from foster care, juvenile corrections, those with incarcerated family members, in the corrections system, and students living in temporary housing. Previously , Cabrera served as the director of student services for Broome Street Academy, where he developed systems for guidance, athletics, clubs and after-school groups.
Cabrera holds a master's in public administration from CUNY: Baruch College and a bachelor's degree in health and human services focused on community mental health with minors in Latino/a and African-American studies from the University of Buffalo.
Summit K2 is a public charter school located at the beautifully restored and historic Chung Mei Home for Boys. Enrollment is free and open to the public.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Four Summit Schools Named Top in the Nation

Four Summit high schools--Summit Prep and Everest, located in Redwood City as well as Summit Tahoma and Summit Rainier, located in San Jose--were recognized nationally as some of the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in May.

The U.S. News rankings include data on more than 20,500 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia. Schools were awarded gold, silver or bronze medals based on student  performance on state assessments and how well they prepare students for college.

Summit Prep was ranked as 136 in the nation, 16 in California, and 47 among charter high schools nationwide. Everest was ranked as 212 in the nation, 31 in California, and 72 among charter high schools nationwide. Both schools earned a gold medal.

Further south in city of San Jose, Summit Tahoma was ranked as 266 in the nation, 43 in California, and 87 among charter high schools nationwide. It earned a gold medal. Summit Rainier, also located in San Jose, was ranked as 777 in the nation, 129 in California, and 164 among charter high schools nationwide. It earned a silver medal.

Summit Public Schools
operates eight public charter schools serving middle and high school students in the San Francisco Bay Area. This year marks Summit’s 15th anniversary. Making the U.S. News list is highly coveted and comes on the heels of announcement that 100 percent of the class of 2018 was accepted to college.

Give a shout out to the faculty and students at each of these schools. Share your well wishes in the comments below.