Guest column | Summit School District Superintendent Tony Byrd: Foundational skills are the bedrock to academic rigor 

As we launch a new school year, please know that academic rigor matters a lot to all of us in the Summit School District.

We need our students to be exceptional readers, writers and mathematicians. We also need them to be able to take risks, think critically, work across lines of difference and to care for themselves and others. It is a hefty charge, but we are aligning systems and structures to make this happen. Here are a few updates in this regard. 

This year, we will deepen the implementation of our literacy curriculum, improve our training of principals and teachers, and launch a new tutoring program for those students who are behind. We will also ensure that we do a better job of screening for dyslexia. We are adjusting our data systems to give us better information quicker and will review student performance routinely to adapt practice. 

After closely examining our math test scores and visiting many classrooms last fall, I fast-tracked our process for adopting a new elementary curriculum, and we will launch that program this fall (Reveal). We will ensure great training for principals and teachers as we implement the curriculum with integrity. We will also support stronger math programs and instruction at the secondary level and routinely review data to make changes in our instructional practices. 

These foundational skills — reading, writing, and math — are the bedrock of an excellent education, but they are also not enough to be successful in this world. Business, nonprofit and governmental leaders and organizations (and more) are telling us they also need people who can take informed risks, ask great questions, solve problems from multiple angles, work efficiently across lines of difference, persevere through mistakes, be socially and emotionally well, and manage their finances. These are also the traits that make up our profile of a Summit School District graduate. 

A truly academically rigorous school district, which we intend to be, ensures all students can read, write and compute fluently, and has classrooms that challenge students with critical questions, pose wicked problems, create collaborative environments where students learn to work closely with those have different lived experiences, make it ok to make mistakes, and fosters a sense of deep belonging. 

The world is changing dramatically and rapidly, and that gives public education a tall order. Thankfully, we have incredibly talented staff members who are deeply dedicated to academic rigor. As a system, we need to ensure that we have the systems and structures to support them in delivering on this promise, and that is precisely what we are busy doing. 

Please feel free to contact me any time to discuss any of this in more depth. We appreciate this community very much and hope that you have a wonderful school year. 

Tony Byrd is superintendent of Summit School District. He can be reached at

Tony Byrd
Tony Byrd/Courtesy photo

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