Common terms on the Summit Learning platform

Confused about an acronym or term you see while using the Summit Learning platform? We've put together some definitions of our most common terms: 

1:1 Mentoring 

A key aspect of a Summit Learning environment is the opportunity for teachers to connect with their students not only on an academic level but also on a personal level. Teachers conduct weekly 1:1 mentoring sessions with their mentees. All students have a mentor who serves as their coach and advocate, supporting them as they develop strong character, life, and Self-Direction learning skills.


An individual, pair, or group opportunity to practice a skill or move toward an associated checkpoint. It is a Notebook, Google sheet, Google slideshow, or Microsoft 365 file which the student can edit. 

Technical note: The platform’s definition of activity is limited to a task that requires an interaction between the student(s) and the document.  When a file is designated as an “activity,” each student will receive his/her own copy of the file to edit that is accessible to the teacher. 

Focus Area

A Focus Area is a playlist of resources that help students gain content knowledge but is not central to the course standards, college and career readiness, and/or the course Projects or Math Units. Students are encouraged, but not required, to complete any Focus Area’s content assessment. 

Additional Resource

A student-facing resource or activity that is not associated with a specific checkpoint but that could be helpful to complete the Project.

Base Curriculum

The curriculum is automatically copied into your school’s platform at the start of training. Over time you may edit the Base Curriculum for your specific school site. It is the core curriculum that is used across Summit Public Schools. 

Challenge Focus Area

Challenge Focus Areas are opportunities for a student to learn more content related to the course beyond what is provided in Power and Additional Focus Areas. A student might complete a Challenge Focus Area in order to prepare for the AP test associated with that course, experience more academic rigor, and/or further develop their individual academic interests.

Check for Understanding

A self-assessment is provided at the end of an objective’s resources in a Focus Area. It is aligned with the objective and its Content Assessment items and it can take many formats (online interactive activity or quiz, or file with questions and answers, etc).


A checkpoint... 

  1. Is a formative assessment.

  2. Clearly contributes to the completion of the Final Product(s).

  3. Supports Cognitive Skill development or conceptual understanding.

  4. Is an important opportunity for the student to receive feedback.

In addition to providing other forms of formative feedback, teachers may mark checkpoints in the platform as:

  • Gray = checkpoint is incomplete. student must begin work on the Notebook 
  • Red = checkpoint needs extensive revision, students should not move forward without significant re-work 

  • Yellow = student must incorporate teacher feedback in order to be on-track

  • Green = student is on track, no revision needed

Within a Math Unit, checkpoints operate more like exit tickets; they occur after some instruction has occurred, and are used to gauge students’ understanding of the unit’s enduring understandings. Math Units are designed to have ~1 checkpoint per week of instruction. 

Cognitive Skills 

A collection of 36 higher-order thinking skills that are geared towards readiness for college, career, and life. Cognitive Skills apply across multiple subject matters. They are categorized within the following domains: Textual Analysis, Using Sources, Inquiry, Analysis and Synthesis, Composing/Writing, Speaking/Listening, and Products and Presentations, and they are aligned with the Common Core Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, Advanced Placement Curriculum Frameworks, and the National Council for Social Studies C3 Framework. Cognitive skills are taught during Project Time and assessed through a Project’s Final Products.

Cognitive Skills Rubric 

The single rubric is used to assess Projects across all subjects and grade levels. Every Project assesses a set of Cognitive Skills. The rubric details nine different levels of each Cognitive Skill, spanning from “no evidence” (level 0) to “college level” (level 8). 

Concept (math) 

Each math course in the Summit Learning Platform has a unique list of concepts, which are the mathematical outcomes to be taught in the course. 

Concept Rubric (math)

Each concept has a row in the 5-level concept rubric, which codifies Summit’s interpretation of the range of complexity of each concept. When students show evidence of their understanding on performance tasks, teachers score their work on the rubric.

Math Unit

The collection of math tasks that leads to students learning one or multiple concepts. A Math Unit does not have a minimum or maximum length of time, but most take between 2 and 5 weeks.

Conceptual Understanding (math)

The ability to reason in a setting involving the application of concepts, definitions, relations, or representations.


The subject-specific material (facts, definitions, information, formulas, procedural skills, basic concepts, grammatical structures) comprises each discipline. This material can be studied independently, practiced, or memorized at a student’s own pace. Content is determined by various state and national standards including Common Core, Next Generation Science Standards, California State Content Standards, and Advanced Placement. The content in Focus Areas is generally a lower depth of knowledge, usually limited to comprehension, application, and/or analysis of Content Knowledge; content is deepened in Projects and Math Units.

Content Assessment 

The ten-question assessment that a student requests when ready to show their learning of the content objectives of a specific Focus Area. Content Assessments are computer-scored immediately upon completion; the passing score is 8/10 for non-AP courses and 7/10 for AP courses. A student must get approval from a teacher before attempting the assessment. If the student does not pass, the student may take the Content Assessment again.

Diagnostic Assessment 

An opportunity for students to check what they know already or a way to gauge if they're prepared for the Content Assessment. Diagnostic Assessments are aligned to the Focus Area objectives and presented in the same format as the Content Assessments. A student can take them without the approval of the teacher at any time.

Enduring Understanding 

An enduring understanding...

  1. Is an important inference, drawn from the experience of experts, stated as a specific and useful generalization.

  2. Refers to transferable, big ideas having enduring value beyond a specific topic.

  3. Involves abstract, counterintuitive, and easily misunderstood ideas.

  4. May provide a conceptual foundation for basic skills.

  5. Is deliberately framed as a generalization - the “moral of the story.”

Within math, to clarify the rationale behind each math course’s chunking and sequencing of Math Units, each unit contains a small number of enduring understandings. These are important mathematical ideas that represent the long-lasting realizations we want students to discover as a unit progresses, building on each other over the course of a year. Typically aligning to ~1 week of teaching, they are designed to help focus and undergird teachers’ instruction.

Essential Questions 

An essential question...

  1. Is open-ended; that is, it typically will not have a single, final, and correct answer.

  2. Is thought-provoking and intellectually engaging, often sparking discussion and debate.

  3. Calls for higher-order thinking, such as analysis, inference, evaluation, and prediction. It cannot be effectively answered by recall alone.

  4. Points toward important, transferable ideas within (and sometimes across) disciplines.

  5. Raises additional questions and sparks further inquiry.

  6. Requires support and justification, not just an answer.

  7. Recurs over time; that is, the question can and should be revisited again and again.

Final Product 

A Final Product is...

  1. The culmination of the prolonged inquiry in a Project.

  2. An authentic summative assessment of the Cognitive Skills associated with the Project. 

There may be more than one Final Product in a Project.

Focus Area 

A chunk of content within a course that is broken down into 2-5 content objectives. Students should learn this content through the use of materials on the playlists. To demonstrate their learning of the objectives, students must pass a Content Assessment.  This is typically at the Know, Understand, Apply levels on Bloom’s hierarchy of learning. 

Focus Area Key Terms

Terms that a student should be able to define and understand in order to learn the Focus Area’s objectives. 

Focus Area Objectives

The content goals of a Focus Area. There are 2-5 objectives per Focus Area.

Habits of Success

Habits of Success are the social and emotional skills that enable students to be successful at both academic and non-academic pursuits. Summit has adopted the Building Blocks for Learning framework developed by Dr. Brooke Stafford-Brizard on behalf of Turnaround for Children (2016). The Building Blocks framework integrates decades of the most promising research on social-emotional learning in an aligned and comprehensive manner.

Introductory Materials

A section of resources is placed at the beginning of a Focus Area that guides students on how to engage with the Focus Area and/or the purpose of learning the content. An introductory resource might be a “hook” for learning the content, a general overview of the content, or a tool students can use as they work through the playlist. 

Learning Experiences 

Activities and resources that support students in developing a Cognitive Skill, applying relevant Content Knowledge, and developing conceptual understanding. The Base Curriculum includes a set of learning experiences that are associated with each checkpoint, intended to prepare students to demonstrate their skill development within the checkpoint. 


Descriptions of what skills look like in the context of a specific role.


All students have a mentor who serves as their coach and advocate, supporting them as they develop strong character, life, and Self-Direction learning skills.

Partial-group Workshops 

Targeted learning experiences for a group of students who would benefit from teacher-driven support with a specific Cognitive Skill, content understanding or task. Partial-group workshops are designed around a specific student need as identified by available data. 

Personalized Activities 

Learning experiences that are tailored to students’ needs. Personalized activities can be done individually, in pairs, or in small groups; the key is that students are working in their Zone of Proximal Development as often as possible. In Summit Learning, personalized activities are the default or assumed type of learning experience unless there is a clear justification for a whole-group experience or a partial-group intervention. 

Self-Directed Learning (SDL) Time

The time that students learn the content they need to be college-ready. They plan and prioritize their learning based on their individual goals. Students move at their own pace and receive support from their teachers, mentor, and peers.


The collection of learning resources dedicated to supporting students in learning the Focus Area objectives.

Power Focus Area 

A Focus Area that has been identified as essential Content Knowledge, based on course standards. It is central to college and career readiness and the course’s Projects/Math Units. Students must pass every Power Focus Area’s Content Assessment by the end of the school year in order to pass the course. Note that a student does NOT receive partial credit for Power Focus Areas.

Procedural Fluency (math) 

Procedural fluency is the ability to apply procedures accurately, efficiently, and flexibly; to transfer procedures to different problems and contexts; to build or modify procedures from other procedures, and to recognize when one strategy or procedure is more appropriate to apply than another. Procedural fluency — often developed through focused practice on exercises, not problems — is an important part of students’ math education. It enables them to focus on higher-level thinking and more advanced mathematics. It can support and solidify students’ emerging conceptual understanding.


A Project...

  1. Is a prolonged inquiry into an open-ended question(s) that is relevant to the discipline

  2. Aims to develop a set of Cognitive Skills through experiences authentic to the discipline.

  3. Is aligned with key content from one or more Focus Areas.

  4. Includes Final Product(s), checkpoints, activities, and resources.

  5. Results in a Final Product(s) which demonstrates a student's ability to apply their Cognitive Skills and deepen their understanding. 

Project Guide 

A teacher-facing document that provides a comprehensive overview of a Project (similar to a unit plan). This includes the project info, scope and sequence, Cognitive Skills and where they show up in the Project, knowledge and understandings, standards alignment, Focus Area alignment, sample calendar, and Project structure.

Project Info 

A high-level overview of a Project which includes the Project’s essential question(s), enduring understanding(s), and description. This information is student-facing.

Project Time 

Project Time is the structure in Summit Learning within which students engage in Project-based learning to practice Cognitive Skills. Students develop deeper learning skills, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills, as they work collaboratively on rich Project-based experiences. 

Resource (within a Focus Area) 

Organized by objective, resources provide the content and/or opportunity to interact with the content needed to learn that objective.

Resource (within a Project)

A static file or a static link that students can refer to in order to complete activities or the work associated with the checkpoint itself. With a resource, there is one version that all students can view. A resource can be a link to a relevant website or a tool that helps a student complete an activity or a checkpoint. 

Technical note: Some resources direct students to participate in a classroom activity, but are not considered an activity on the platform because students don’t type into these documents.


Scaffolds are resources that make a task more accessible. Scaffolds are needed to keep activities within the upper limit of a student’s ZPD. Typically, they temporarily support a student in performing a skill that would have been out of his/her reach without the additional support.

Summit Learning platform 

The online tool that is the technology backbone of a Summit Learning environment. The Summit Learning Platform is a free online tool that helps students track progress towards their short and long-term goals, learn content at their own pace, and reflect on their learning with mentors. It allows teachers to customize instruction to meet their students’ individual needs and interests and supports stronger relationships between teachers and students. 

Targeted 1:1 Check-In 

Teachers use data, either from the Summit Learning Platform or from observations, to determine which students need a brief meeting with them. In these check-ins, teachers may coach a student on their plans for learning, give feedback on a specific piece of work, ask questions to learn more about what a student may need, or provide emotional support.

Teaching Materials 

A teacher-facing section of the Project window that may include a Project Overview, sample Project calendar, list of supplies, and/or standards covered by the Project.

Whole Group Experience 

A whole group experience is whenever the whole class is engaged in the same learning experience. Teachers use whole group experiences to...

  • prime students for a set of personalized activities, 

  • build a culture in the classroom through a circle or shared activity, 

  • increase student motivation/buy-in with a demonstration or shared experience, 

  • set a vision of high-quality work with a text or example with strong teacher modeling, or 

  • build understanding through hearing multiple voices. 

Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) 

Lev Vygotsky’s idea of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) describes the intellectual space between what a student can do alone and what they can do with specific assistance (scaffolding). Students benefit most from instruction targeted to their ZPD because it helps them learn new skills by building on previously established skills.

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