Park Record

Park Record, November 7, 2023--Unique methods at Silver Summit Academy yield unique results, and high grades from state

The Wasatch Back is chock full of smart kids.

After reading a recent article in the paper about how the Wasatch County and Park City school districts outperformed the state in the Utah Board of Education’s grades for districts and schools, Jeff Greiner couldn’t help but note a local school that outperformed both districts, as well as its own South Summit district.

That school is Silver Summit Academy, the 97-student, eight-teacher school serving grades 6 through 12 where he happens to be the principal.

While the school doesn’t yet have enough English-learning students to receive a score in the category, it does stand out significantly from the state and surrounding schools. 

About 72% of the institution’s high schoolers test as proficient for language arts, 54% for math and 63% for science. On a state level, those numbers are about 46%, 31% and 35% respectively. 

While it would be arrogant not to mention the school’s low level of poverty — measured in the state’s report at less than 10 students — the scores are high enough to turn heads.

Though Silver Academy is a public school serving public school boundaries, it attracts interested students from elsewhere wanting to see what the school’s about.

“It’s all teachers,” Greiner said. “Our faculty is absolutely dedicated. From the moment we opened our doors, they bought in because we are different. We do some different things here. … We were going to be willing to say, ‘Hey, just because we’ve done this all the time doesn’t mean we need to keep doing it.'”

The school opened in 2017 in response to the Silver Creek Village development as what Breiner described as a “holding measure as that village and that community fills out” so another school can be built.

Initially, he said, the school district considered an online solution.

“I happened to be in that meeting. I said, ‘That’s probably not a good idea,'” he remembered. “We had a very limited budget, and eventually we had a unique space, and I was allowed to do what I could do to make it work.”

He attributed his student’s success in part to some of the out-of-the-box practices at the school. For example, homework may be assigned through the week but it is all due Sunday evening to allow students to manage and schedule their own workloads.

“If you’re a sophomore, junior, senior here ,you can make some choices,” Greiner said. “We like to call it a guarded swimming pool. We like to let them get in there and swim, but we’re always watching.”

On Fridays, teachers can call kids who might need extra help for whatever reason. There aren’t any scheduled classes. On Thursday afternoons, students receive an email letting them know who if any of their teachers has requested they come to their classroom. 

“There will be some students who will get a letter that says, “Hey, you are right where we need you to be. You can work from home on Friday,'” Greiner said. “It’s an immediate sort of reward for the kids that are keeping up with their work, and it also gives us a chance to work correctly one-on-one with students.”

Given the small number of students, Greiner also makes a point of addressing individual needs. If a student wants to take a class that’s not offered, he finds a way for them to do so, whether it be through a teacher learning the required curriculum or a concurrent enrollment class at Snow College. If students are assigned busywork rather than substantive, helpful coursework, they can take it to him, and he can take it to the assigning teacher.

“Doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen,” he said. “If we’re not giving them something that’s challenging and worthwhile to them, I’d rather go skiing, too.”

Looking over the years leading back to the COVID-19 pandemic, Greiner said his students have been on a steady increase. He’s excited to see it continue.

“I think that says more than anything,” he said.