Summerlin Academy: Digging Deeper for Student Success

Summerlin Academy High School, is located in the city of Bartow, Polk County, Florida. Summerlin is unique in that it is a stand-alone school but It is also one of the few academies that you can belong to and at the same time participate in other career-themed academies. Summerlin Academy is an academy of leadership skills that is taught through JROTC classes. All students participate in JROTC classes, but if students have additional interests in other areas Summerlin encourages them to take advantage of and participate in the many other academies that the district offers. It is not unusual for a Summerlin Academy student to graduate with a certification in a CTE area. Students must complete a capstone project during their senior year but they can either do that through a course provided at Summerlin Academy or in an academy of their choosing.

Principal Steve Cochran, who also holds the title, Commandant of the Summerlin Academy explained, “Some people assume that because we use JROTC as our method of delivering leadership skills that we are an academy that only encourages participation in the military.  While a significant number of our students will enlist in the military most of our students go on to college. We believe our program is successful when are students take the leaderships skills that we have taught them and they use them in college, career, or life.”

Summerlin Academy can trace its roots back to two schools. Summerlin Institute was established as a public high school in 1887. Union Academy, founded in 1897, was named after the Freedmans Bureau School that was organized immediately after the Civil War and was one of the first schools in Florida established for the education of African Americans. As a diverse community of learners, Summerlin Academy’s name embodies the heritage of both schools.

Summerlin Academy was named a Model Academy school by the National Career Academy Coalition (NCAC). Teachers work together to continue to make innovations so that students succeed. Steve remembers an example of how the team worked together to help students succeed. “A few years ago, we studied the reasons students left Summerlin Academy. It turned out, that the number one reason students left or were removed from Summerlin Academy was for failure to maintain a 2.0 GPA. Digging deeper into this information the number one cause of student failure was incomplete or late assignments. If we were going to remain a viable and productive Academy we needed to address the issue of student failure to complete homework especially at the ninth-grade level.”        

 Teachers had the idea of a study hall called “School of Cadet” that would help students complete their homework. Steve recalled, “At first, we thought this would take place after school. But we soon realized that since a majority of our population are drawn from all over the county and it would be difficult for many of the students to stay after school.” The Solution? Summerlin’s School of Cadet went through the student lunchtime—a working lunch! During that study hall students would complete homework or missing assignments under the supervision of a teacher and with the assistance of student tutors.   

The administration developed a Google document that was used to refer students and to note the assignments that needed to be complete. At the end of each day a spreadsheet was printed with students’ names who needed to report to the school of cadet the next day. The teacher in charge of the tutoring session would receive a folder with the required students’ assignments in it at the end of the day and take it to the tutoring session the next day. A room was set aside adjacent to the lunchroom. Complete and incomplete assignments were ranked using the Google document.   

The lunchtime, School of Cadet had an impact. Cochran noted that at the end of the first year, “Twenty percent more students in the ninth-grade maintained a GPA above 2.0.” Working together for the sake of all students, Summerlin teaching team demonstrates NSOP 1, c. Student achievement, which reads in part, “So as not to become either a bastion of top performers or a dumping ground for unsuccessful students, an academy provides support to all of its students to maintain and increase their achievement in high school. This support comes through close relationships with teachers and fellow students, …, including a strong focus on personalization…”

Principal Cochran complimented the teaching staff saying, “At Summerlin we all work together to help every child succeed. If we see even one student failing, we work together to figure out what’s going on and how we can help.”

Case Story: 003

These Case Studies were collected at the 2018 NCAC Model Principal Collective, and compiled by Constance Majka (NCAC). The Model Principal Collective was attended by principals of NCAC Model Academies from across the country and sponsored by the Turner Family Foundation, Harold K. L. Castle Foundation, Hawaii USA Credit Union, Deloitte, First Tennessee Bank, and the College and Career Academy Support Network. Thank you to all of our sponsors and the Model Academy Principals who participated and shared with us!