Eagle Rock Well Represented at 2014 Rowland Conference

Rowland-ConferenceEach fall for the last four years, The Rowland Foundation has offered a one-day conference for educators hosted by the University of Vermont at the Dudley H. Davis Center on campus in Burlington. It’s a popular conference, evidenced by the fact that this year’s event — themed Developing Character, Student Achievement and Socio-Emotional Learning (Oct. 30, 2014) — is completely sold out.

And while the event is open to all educators, the foundation specifically encourages eight-member teams from Vermont high schools to attend. Team members typically include the principal or head of school, two or three teachers and an additional administrator or two. In addition, each school is strongly encouraged to invite two students, as well as a school board member or superintendent.

What the Rowland Foundation does is provide Vermont’s secondary school educators with unique professional development and leadership opportunities, along with resources they can take back to their schools that positively affect student achievement and the culture and climate of their respective schools.

Eagle Rock — and in particular, personnel from our Professional Development Center — will be presenting a workshop during the conference, entitled, Cultivating the Synergy: Grit and Academics.

Note: Did you attend (or are you attending) our Rowland workshop? Downloadable resources from the presentation can be found here.

As you’re likely to know, our Professional Development Center has spent the last 20 years Continue reading…

News From the Rock — October 2014

Things are off to a great start this trimester here at Eagle Rock! How great a start, you ask? For one thing, our eight new staff and 10 new Public Allies Fellows hit the deck running — right alongside our dedicated veteran staff.

On Wednesday, students Chemi, Cha’Asia, Barbara, Faith, German, Nigel, Myles, Elias, Cortez, Ella, Stacy, Bethzaida, Alysha, Ember, Miriam and Katie-Lynn completed our new student wilderness orientation course in the Gila Wilderness in N.M. They wrapped up the trip by running five miles back to campus where a raucous crowd of family, friends, staff, faculty, students and Eagle Rock board members greeted them.

Add to all this the fact that classes are now in full swing, the weather’s just amazing, and the food — as per usual — is delicious! Life at Eagle Rock is good. But I digress.

We often opine on in our blog posts about the deep learning, inspiring graduates and fine work we’re doing around the country to improve our nation’s schools. But not a bit of this would be possible without a premier, top-of-the-line facility and operations staff that keep it humming along.

The focus of this particular post is to give you a glimpse into recent projects we’ve been working on. But first, some fun facts about our property:

  • Eagle Rock School sits on 640 acres, about 500 of which can’t be developed under an agreement with the Estes Valley Land Trust.
  • The remaining “development zone” is made up of 26 buildings — including a half-dozen student houses (Piñon, Juniper, Lodgepole, Aspen, Spruce, and Ponderosa).
  • There’s Willow house, which houses our 12 Public Allies Fellows, six stand-along staff houses, a library and classroom building, art/woodshop building, science and math building, the Schoolhouse (music building), and a human performance center (home to a full basketball court, competitive swimming pool, climbing wall, an aikido dojo and exercise room).

Check out one of our most recent blog posts — Take A Tour Of The Eagle Rock Campus —for more information on our buildings. We are blessed with the support of the American Honda Motor Co. in maintaining these facilities and are pleased to share with you a few major projects that we have either recently completed or are well on the way to completing.

Newly Paved Road

If you’ve visited campus, you know that our driveway is a more than a mile long and is subject year-in and year-out to the harsh Colorado weather. In September, we chip sealed the road and it is looking beautiful. The Monday and Friday gate runs are much smoother now!

Before

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After

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Flood Repair 

In September of last year, we experienced what was described as a thousand-year flood. Just our luck! Fortunately we didn’t experience catastrophic damage, although as we’ve told you before we didn’t escape unscathed (see: The Mop-up Continues — as Does a Flood of Emotion). The dirt service road and our emergency exit road out the backside of our property were washed out. Our Professional Development Center’s crawlspace flooded and after giving it an intense blow dry, we installed a vapor barrier to mitigate future moisture issues.

Service Road

Before

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After Continue reading…

Effective Schooling Shouldn’t Place All of its Cards on High-stakes Testing

Editor’s Note: Eagle Rock works hard for high school reengagement nationally. One of our partners in this work is Tony Monfiletto, who is the executive director of the New Mexico Center for School Leadership. Monfiletto penned the provocative piece that follows on the counterproductive effects of narrow measures on school reform. And, as a result of Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center recent visit with the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives in New Orleans, we can confirm that most school models in New Orleans have adopted a narrow approach to school reform. We strive to connect work in one place such as developing New Metrics in Albuquerque, N.M., with work in another such as the education reform efforts in New Orleans, La., to make an impact that lifts all students in their engagement. 

By Tony Monfiletto

I am a former school principal and I currently lead an incubator for new schools in my hometown of Albuquerque N.M.. The schools are focused on project-based learning as a means to provide a thrilling and relevant education to young people who are off track on the road to graduation or who have dropped out of school and are returning to earn a diploma.

Just yesterday, I was listening to NPR while making my daughter’s breakfast. Cooking a meal from scratch for her is a highlight of my day, and most times we listen to one of hers — or my — favorite Pandora stations while we eat. But yesterday, we happened to be tuned into NPR and heard a report entitled “A New Orleans Charter School Marches To Its Own Tune  (editor’s note: please have a listen).

It’s a story that hit close to home and adds a new dimension to the school reform discussion and movement. New Orleans is a city that has been dominated by schools that specialize in preparing students to score well on high-stakes standardized tests.

The currencies for these high-stakes tests are math and reading scores. These scores are the blunt instruments that our policy makers use to determine whether schools are effective, and these metrics drive the “no excuses” type of attitudes that dominate in New Orleans. The charter school movement was intended to inspire educational innovation, and it’s remarkable to me that a school focused on acquiring project-based learning through art would be considered such an aberration.

While New Orleans has staked its future on schools that focus on improving basic skills, the real world is focused on Continue reading…

Educational Reform In The News

In-The-NewsJust like we teach our students, one of the best ways to stay on top of any issue is to read up on it and then discuss it with your peers. That practice doesn’t stop when the diplomas are handed out, and it certainly shouldn’t be curtailed when you’re an educator.

So starting today, and continuing whenever we have a batch of insightful reads to share, we’re going to curate recent news items on our blog that you might find deserve further reading. These blog entries, tagged “In the News,” contain current newspaper features, magazine articles, white papers, studies and findings that we think might be of interest to educators — not to mention members of our own student body and parents.

Our hope is that these brief recaps keep you informed and up to date on the goings-on in the education field.

Here’s our first offering:

Educational reform. A good choice? (From The Economist – Oct. 6, 2014): School vouchers are a divisive subject in America. Proponents claim that vouchers not only grant parents the opportunity to send their children to a private school, but also raise the quality of all education by creating more competition between schools. Critics complain that these subsidies divert necessary resources from public schools, and rarely cover the full cost of a private education. To settle this debate, many have looked to Sweden, where vouchers were introduced in 1992. The results there have been cited as both a case for and against vouchers. So, what has been the actual effect of this Swedish experiment? Read more here.

Fixing the best schools in the world (From Bloomberg Businessweek – Sept. 24, 2014): While some critics dispute the Programme for International Student Assessment rankings — arguing that U.S. schools are evaluated as a national collective, not city-by-city as Chinese schools are — most agree that China produces formidable test takers. The school system in Shanghai, the nation’s largest and wealthiest city, is widely accepted as the most rigorous education system in the world. But Qiu Zhonghai thinks it can do better. Throughout his career he has been pushing the system to improve and adapt alongside China’s fast-changing economy. Today, Qiu is an elder statesman among a growing number of younger, more radical pioneers who think the Chinese education system, for all its success, is archaic and in need of Continue reading…

Take A Tour Of The Eagle Rock Campus

ER_Campus_OverviewNo one would ever describe the sprawling 640-acre Eagle Rock campus as ordinary. Or drab. Or uninspired. Much like the 72 or so students that populate our pristine setting nearly 8,000 feet above sea level, Eagle Rock has the patent on being unique.

Most high schools don’t bump up to a national park — Rocky Mountain National Park is right next door. Most high schools don’t offer views of majestic mountain peaks from nearly every window. And most high schools aren’t designed with classrooms that are intertwined with meadows, and rock formations.

Eagle Rock has been described as “planned educational village,” offering pedestrian paths linking the heart of the campus with living and learning centers, gardens, and myriad trails waiting patiently to be explored. In fact, 500 of our acres are in a permanent conservation easement in cooperation with the Estes Valley Land Trust.

In all, the campus features 25 low-impact structures, including classroom buildings, offices and residences. Specific facilities include student housing; faculty housing; Public Allies fellow housing; our main lodge with a commercial kitchen, dining areas and administrative offices; the Professional Development Center with administrative, office and meeting space.

There’s a Learning Resource Center with technology and library; a science center with a living systems bioshelter and greenhouse; an arts center; pool and recreation center; a barn; maintenance storage structures; wilderness storage structures; and various gardens and playfields.

And that doesn’t even take into account an addition eight staff dwellings and a bunkhouse and two casitas where we lodge up to 22 visiting educators at a time.

Below is a description and photograph of our various structures on campus:

The Living Village — We aren’t fond of the institutional-sounding term “dormitory,” preferring instead the word “house” when describing our student dwellings. A house brings to mind a warm, intimate, family setting. And we’ve got six of these homes on campus — Aspen, Pinon, Lodgepole, Spruce, Ponderosa and Juniper. A seventh house is Willow, the Public Allies Teaching Fellow house:

Living village

Human Performance Center — Also located on this side of the campus, this center features a full gym — including a basketball court, aikido dogo and an indoor pool that is used for lifeguard training, and recreational swimming. We play water polo and water volleyball here during intramural sessions:

Human Performance Center

Learning Resource Center — This facility houses our print library, computers for student use as well as five classroom spaces including Societies and Cultures, Literacy & Literature and World Languages. This building also features room for our Continue reading…