Leading for Learner-centered Education Requires a Particular Set of Competencies

Change is afoot all around us, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the way we choose to educate children and young adults through the formal education system here in the United States.

Just a few years ago, the notion of receiving a middle or high school education 100 percent online was unthinkable. However, today — with more than a dozen nationally-recognized and accredited options available — cohorts of eighth graders who are educated exclusively online are matriculating toward starting high school in the same fashion.

Learner Centered Education

Regardless of options touted as innovations in education, most educational offerings operate on a school-centric paradigm — meaning all components of the system are designed for efficiency of education delivery in the context of standardized schools.

Based on a worldview first established in the industrial age, school-centric education relies more on the lessons learned in factories and on assembly lines than it does on the realities that youth face today, as well as the opportunities that will challenge them tomorrow and beyond.

Standardized age cohorts, linear curricula divided into subjects, and learning experiences designed to impart knowledge in long-established categories, are the basic components of school-centered learning. Contrast that approach against one that Continue reading…

Eagle Rock’s Take on Letter Grades vs Competency-based Education

In her recent article for Edutopia entitled Will Letter Grades Survive?, freelance education writer Laura McKenna writes that hundreds of top schools, lawmakers and boards of education have determined A through F grades and their subsequent grade point averages are outmoded, unfair and inaccurate gauges of a student’s educational progress.

Hear, hear!

McKenna is an educator, researcher, professor, parent and a writer. Specializing in the politics of education and education policy, McKenna’s article also opines about the future of the archaic A-F letter grade system that appears on most of this nation’s student transcripts.

Will Letter Grades Survive

“The old models of student assessment,” she writes, “are out of step with the needs of the 21st century workplace and society, with their emphasis on hard-to-measure skills such as creativity, problem solving, persistence, and collaboration.”

She writes that there is a growing consensus among educators and legislators that grades, standardized tests — even homework — cannot accurately reflect a students’ skills. Further, she sees these tools as Continue reading…

Spring 2016 Update from the Professional Development Center

“Plan your work, then work your plan.” I’m not sure who said it first or if it really matters. All I know is if you decide in advance precisely how you’re going to get from where you are to where you want to be, you stand a much better chance of getting there.

At the level of the lowest common denominator, that’s the essence of any plan, including Eagle Rock’s strategic plan for 2015-2020, aptly titled Vision 2020. And as I shared just last week here on the Eagle Rock Blog (see: Strategic Plan Update: National Contribution), the Professional Development Center team is hard at work facilitating programs, trainings and other custom offerings that lead the high schools with whom we work to transform themselves into high-functioning centers of engagement and learning.

Eagle Rock Professional Development Center Update June 2016

More than half of Eagle Rock School’s instructional specialists — those educators who work within our own school — are now engaged in supporting this national mission-related work, along with the entire professional development center team. As a reminder, “national contribution” is the fifth domain within our strategic plan, a document that enables us to fulfill our organization’s mission and make significant steps toward realizing our vision. And, of course, that vision is that this country’s high school youth be fully engaged in their education.

The Eagle Rock Professional Development Center staff kicked off the spring by actively participating in a number of seminars, retreats, focus groups, workshops and educational events across the country, including the ones mentioned below. If you would like to know more about our work — or how your school or organization can work with the Eagle Rock Professional Development Center — please contact Dan Condon, our associate director of professional development, by emailing DCondon at EagleRockSchool dot org.

May 2 and 3

The Professional Development staff traveled to the Ryan Banks Academy in Chicago, helping to develop STEM and Humanities curriculum for the academy, which is an urban boarding school scheduled to open in September 2017.

May 2 and 3

Our staff also attended an advisory leader retreat to develop advisory vision and plans at Randolph Union High School in Randolph, Vermont.

May 4 and 5

We conducted asset-based observations and appreciative interviews with the staff of Continue reading…

Strategic Plan Update: National Contribution

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is the fourth in a series of updates about Eagle Rock’s strategic plan — Vision 2020. Below, Michael Soguero, our director of professional development, provides the Eagle Rock community with an update on our efforts related to the plan’s fifth domain: National Contribution. If you’re interested in learning about the overall aim of the plan, please see News From The Rock: Vision 2020.

Strategic-Planning-Eagle-Rock-School

When it comes to Eagle Rock’s strategic plan, that part of the document that falls under the National Contribution section, speaks to our nation’s high schools as high-functioning centers of engagement and learning, and our own role in helping make that vision a reality. As a result, we’re continuing to articulate our notion of national impact and to refine our approach in support of that outcome.

While exploring this concept, we have found many nonprofits make one of two mistakes while attempting to do good works:

  1. They either focus on performing a number of activities — counting the activities themselves as a success; or
  2. They assess satisfaction with the activity as a measure of success.

Problems arise when schools put on workshops, send their personnel to speak at conferences or hold events — all of which are well received — but with little sense as to whether there is an impact on the community issue they were addressing. The other mistake goes in the opposite direction. The organization will put a stake in the ground around some large social condition such as teen crime, poverty or the environment, not realizing how little impact one isolated group can have on solving such complex issues.

What you end up with are organizations that are either declaring victory with small programmatic events, or excessively touting influence with a social condition that actually requires many allies contributing to the issues just to move the needle.

Eagle Rock is charged with having a positive impact on high school engagement nationally. Our strategy includes Continue reading…

Strategic Plan Update: Thriving as an Eagle Rock Staffer

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is the third in a series of updates about Eagle Rock’s strategic plan — Vision 2020. Below, director of professional development, Michael Soguero, provides the Eagle Rock community with an update on our efforts related to the plan’s second domain: Staff Thrives. If you’re interested in learning about the overall aim of the plan, please see News From The Rock: Vision 2020.
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Strategic Plan Update: Thriving as an Eagle Rock Staffer
By Michael Soguero, Director of Professional Development

A key theme that emerged during our strategic planning process was a focus on ensuring Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center was as engaging and purposeful a workplace as possible. We committed to develop clear statements and strategies addressing how to thrive as a staff member, provide training and support to help staff live healthy professional lives, and to create greater clarity on Eagle Rock’s limitations and reinforce that we are not designed for everyone.

We believe staff members thrive when they expend effort based on their strengths while improving the organizational mission of improving student engagement and serving the mission of making a difference nationally. Eagle Rock strives to be a model; an inclusive organization serving a diverse set of high schools nationally, each with a diverse student body with a diverse staff.

Numerous project ideas were generated as part of our planning process but we quickly realized that in order for any new initiative to succeed we needed to have some fundamentals in place. For that reason we chose to focus our early efforts on developing a robust professional management system and rationalizing the effects of working within a matrix organization — that is, an organizational structure in which the reporting relationships are set up as a grid, or matrix, rather than in the traditional corporate hierarchy.

Eagle Rock Staff Thrive

We believe that once a robust system with clear foundational practices is in place, we could drive almost any other initiative addressing staff engagement and it would have a much greater chance of taking root, disseminating practice and sustaining for the long term. We were initially inspired by a great management resource called Manager Tools. While much adaptation has taken place for our mission driven, nonprofit setting we have remained true to instituting the top three management behaviors: Continue reading…