BOULDER, CO (June 29, 2020) — On June 25, 2020 NEPC published Big Claims, Little Evidence, Lots of Money: The Reality Behind the Summit Learning Program and the Push to Adopt Digital Personalized Learning Platforms, a research brief by Faith Boninger, Alex Molnar, and Christopher M. Saldaña. Later that same day, T.L.P. Education (a/k/a “Summit Learning”) posted Our Commitment to Transparency and Accuracy, its response to the NEPC research brief, on its website. The response avowed T.L.P.’s transparency while evading the major findings presented in the brief.
T.L.P.’s response took up three issues: the security of student data, research support for the efficacy of its program, and the relationship of T.L.P. to the Summit Public Schools.
Big Claims, Little Evidence, Lots of Money reported that Summit Learning contracts examined by the brief’s authors left the door wide open for the use of student data by T.L.P., the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and other third parties in perpetuity. In its response T.L.P. made no reference to the carefully constructed Summit contract language pointed out in the brief. Nor did it challenge the brief authors’ assessment of the implications of that contract language. Instead T.L.P. evaded the point and attempted to obscure the serious issues raised in the brief by offering irrelevant references to the data safety guidelines it has adopted.
Big Claims, Little Evidence, Lots of Money also documented the lack of solid research evidence for the claims of efficacy made for the Summit Learning Program by Summit Public Schools or by T.L.P.. The brief further reported that what Summit Learning offered were anecdotes and snippets of findings from selected evaluations. True to form, in its response to the NEPC brief, T.L.P. offered only anecdotes and misleading snippets of findings from a selected evaluation – not solid research evidence.
Finally, Big Claims, Little Evidence, Lots of Money described how Summit Public Schools created and until the 2018-2019 school year recruited “partner” schools to adopt the Summit Learning Program and its related Summit Learning Platform. It reported further that T.L.P. was created by Summit Public schools to manage and market its Summit Learning Program. The brief also noted that the organizations continue to be intimately connected. T.L.P.’s three-person board consists of Diane Tavenner, the founder and CEO of Summit Public Schools, Priscilla Chan, co-founder and co-CEO of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (Summit Public Schools and T.L.P.’s long-term technology partner and major funder), and Alex Hernandez, Dean of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at the University of Virginia. In other words, the T.L.P. board is, in effect, controlled by the CEO of Summit Public Schools and the co-CEO of its major funder. In its response, T.L.P. did not refute any of the facts related to the relationship between Summit Public Schools and T.L.P. presented in the brief.
Until such time as Summit Public Schools and/or T.L.P. provide dispositive evidence to the contrary, the brief authors stand by the accuracy of the facts they have presented and by their conclusions.
T.L.P.’s response to Big Claims, Little Evidence, Lots of Money headlines its commitment to “transparency” and “accuracy.” That’s a nice marketing pitch. But the pitch needs underlying supports, and the response is devoid of any evidence T.L.P. may have that the facts presented in our research brief are incorrect. If T.L.P. simply has no such evidence, it should acknowledge the brief’s accuracy—as uncomfortable as that may be.
Find Big Claims, Little Evidence, Lots of Money: The Reality Behind the Summit Learning Program and the Push to Adopt Digital Personalized Learning Platforms, by Faith Boninger, Alex Molnar, and Christopher M. Saldaña, at:
Find T.L.P. Education’s response, Our Commitment to Transparency and Accuracy, at:
Find Boninger, Molnar, and Saldaña’s reply at: