Brooklyn teens are protesting their high school’s adoption of an online program spawned by Facebook, saying it forces them to stare at computers for hours and “teach ourselves.”
Nearly 100 students walked out of classes at the Secondary School for Journalism in Park Slope last week in revolt against “Summit Learning,” a web-based curriculum designed by Facebook engineers, and bankrolled by CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Amy Chan.
“It’s annoying to just sit there staring at one screen for so long,” said freshman Mitchel Storman, 14, who spends close to five hours a day on Summit classes in algebra, biology, English, world history, and physics. “You have to teach yourself.”
Summit stresses “personalized learning” and “self-direction.” Students work at their own pace. Teachers “facilitate.” Each kid is supposed to get 10 to 15 minutes of one-on-one “mentoring” each week.
Mitchel said his teachers sometimes give brief lessons, but then students have to work on laptops connected to the Internet.
“The distractions are very tempting,” he said. “I have seen lots of students playing games instead of working.”
Kids can re-take tests until they pass — and look up the answers, he added: “Students can easily cheat on quizzes since they can just copy and paste the question into Google.”
Two other Department of Education schools have started using Summit Learning: M.S. 88 Peter Rouget in Park Slope, and the Academy for College Preparation and Career Exploration in Flatbush.
But the Park Slope students raised awareness of it Monday with a raucous hour-long demonstration.
Last summer, Summit trained 9th and 10th grade teachers, paying for four nights in a Newark, N.J, hotel plus meals.
But senior Kelly Hernandez, 17, who organized the walkout, said her Environmental Science teacher wasn’t trained, leaving kids adrift.
“It was bad enough that we were lost, the teachers were lost,” Kelly said. “We have done absolutely nothing in that class.”
Senior Akila Robinson said she couldn’t even log onto Summit for nearly two months, while other classmates can’t or won’t use it. “The whole day, all we do is sit there.”
Despite doing no work, Akila’s report card shows she received a passing 70 for the first marking period.
A teacher who requested anonymity said Summit glitches include system crashes, poor wifi in the old John Jay HS building, and a lack of laptops.
What’s worse, the teacher added, many students hate it. “It’s a lot of reading on the computer, and that’s not good for the eyes. Kids complain. Some kids refuse to do it.”
David Bloomfield, a Brooklyn College and CUNY Grad Center education professor, said the online system “fits the Facebook business model,” but came into city schools with little input or review.
“It’s educational experimentation on our kids,” he said.
At a school meeting last week, SSJ parents also voiced concerns about privacy in light of recent Facebook data breaches. Summit collects a wealth of information on each student, from age, ethnicity, and extracurricular activities, to grades, test scores and disciplinary penalties. It insists the data is safe.
The DOE said late Saturday the school will immediately drop the Summit program in 11th and 12th grades. Administrators will ” continue to be in communication with students, staff, and parents about the new strategies over the next few weeks,” said spokeswoman Danielle Filson.
Officials also confirmed that another school, the Bronx Writing Academy, has already dumped the Summit program.