CES Gathering Provides Educational Participants with the Essentials

Earlier this month, the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) – a national organization that works to create and sustain equitable, intellectually vibrant, personalized schools and to make such schools the norm of American public education — held an extraordinary national gathering in Providence, R.I., where its work first began back in 1984.

Called Fall Forum 2016, this most recent event featured a gathering of educators and progressive education advocates skilled at — and committed to — student-focused, teacher-led, equitable, and challenging learning.

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During the Dec. 1-3 event, participants reflected on the work of the Coalition of Essential Schools, the contributions of CES Founder Ted Sizer and generations of CES educators, the inheritors and sustainers of CES’s work, and the future of schools led by the passions of students and teachers.

Eagle Rockers in attendance included Jeff Liddle, Head of School; Dan Condon, Associate Director of Professional Development; Sarah Bertucci, Professional Development Center Associate; and Eagle Rock students Nigel Taylor and Soren Arvidson.

On Thursday evening of the event, Dan and the students attended a viewing of the film Most Likely to Succeed, followed by discussion with local and national education change leaders. (As an aside, if you haven’t watched Most Likely to Succeed, add it to your list. Many people are saying it’s the best film ever made on the topic of school. For those of us who saw it, we believe it has the potential of bringing communities together in re-imagining what our students and teachers are capable of doing. In other words, it’s a must-see film for anyone working in education.)

The following day, Sarah and our students presented a session entitled Growing Equity Together: Using Student Independent Projects and Improvement Science to Ensure Success for All Students. The session suggested that students need choice and independence in school in order to self-actualize and walk into successful futures in a complex world, and explored concepts of equity, deeper learning, and improving equity through rigorous student independent projects. Participants heard examples of successful school improvement approaches facilitated by students, and engaged participants with concepts and tools that they could immediately implement in their class, school or organization.

On Friday our Professional Development Center hosted a “Meet the CES Centers – A conversation among friends” reception at the hotel.

Also on Friday, Dan participated in an “At the Copier” event with personal stories of schools, the journey of CES, and the impact of the Common Principles where he read an original piece honoring Sizer.

On the last day of the event, Dan — along with staff from Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom School in the Bronx, N.Y., — presented a session titled Peer Observation of Substantive Conversation. Using the Newmann Authentic Intellectual Work rubric, staff from Fannie Lou showed how it had adapted peer observation to promote collaborative professional development. The school believes this form of observation allows teachers to share different approaches used in the classroom and provide valuable feedback to one another. As a result of their work in this are, the workshop focused on how Peer Observations were introduced and implemented into the Fannie Lou school community, in collaboration with the Eagle Rock School Professional Development Center, which has worked with the schools for several years.

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