Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center Staff Crisscrosses the Nation

If what Newton says is true, a body at motion will remain in motion unless it is halted, and so far this year, nothing has slowed down our Professional Development Center (PDC). Our PDC staff has been working nonstop since late summer, and there are still plenty of engagements to facilitate, guide and complete before year’s ends.

Since late summer, we’ve been working side by side with educators from throughout the country who borrow our expertise and experience in a continuing effort to retain, reinvigorate and re-engage young people in school districts spreading from Washington, D.C. to Washington State.

ER_PDC

In late August and the first week of September, PDC staffer Anastacia Galloway and world languages instructional specialist Brighid Scanlon visited Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in Bronx, N.Y., to launch peer observation cycles focused on Fred Newmann’s Authentic Intellectual Work framework. Teachers were asked to focus specifically on substantive conversation in the classroom.

Also in early September, PDC associate director Dan Condon visited Tech Leadership High School in Albuquerque, N.M., a project-based school that develops leaders in the technology field. These young students explore the technology, startup and business professions by engaging in collaborative work within in a small, supportive, school environment.

At the same time, Sarah spent three days at Innovations High School in Reno, Nev., focusing on learning that is relevant, interesting and vigorous. Sarah performed an assets observation of this “engaged learning” concept that she will use as examples at a work fair this winter.

Mid-September found our director of professional development, Michael Soguero, in Santa Fe, N.M., for youth summit meetings sponsored by the city of Santa Fe. Eagle Rock is a cosponsor of the 2015 Youth Summit, training local young people beforehand in the planning of this youth-oriented event. The summit is run on behalf of Santa Fe’s Children and Youth Commission and the youth recommendations gathered by Michael will be a source of a position paper drafted by the Santa Fe mayor’s office.

While in New Mexico, Michael attended a Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Instructors Work Together on Formative Assessment

JanetJohnsonJenFrickeyBy Janet Johnson and Jen Frickey

Each year, our school’s instructional team fine-tunes its collective classroom practice by learning together. Instructors submit ideas for possible topics of study and the director of curriculum, in conjunction with our Professional Development Critical Friends Group, chooses an area of focus for the year.

The Critical Friends Group then meets weekly to plan for four instructional meetings each trimester. The members of the group — both instructional specialists and Eagle Rock Public Allies fellows who are seeking Colorado state teaching licensure — volunteer to study an annual theme, design and deliver engaging adult learning, and facilitate our weekly planning meetings.

A hallmark of these meetings is using School Reform Initiative protocols to share our instructional meeting plans and get feedback about them. We commonly use The Charrette Protocol (note: link opens a PDF) and Tuning Protocols (note: link opens a PDF) to examine our works in progress. These protocols — as well as those that help us to learn from texts, investigate teaching, learning and assessment, and examine student work — are often the backbone of our instructional meetings.

This year’s annual theme is Formative Assessment. For assessment to be formative, teachers and students must ask themselves where they are going, have a realistic appraisal of where they are now, and make a plan together for how to get there. These questions are central to our formative assessment approach.

We attempt to develop our skills in four distinct areas:

  1. Communicate learning targets and criteria for success
  2. Provide effective feedback
  3. Foster strategic questioning among students and teachers
  4. Promote self-assessment and goal setting

Formative assessment is student centered and transparent, with students and teachers working together to set learning objectives and collect evidence of meeting goals. The explicit result, of course, is improving student achievement.

Since the Critical Friends Group had varying levels of understanding and experience with formative assessment, we decided to ground our work together using two texts: Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Staff Descends on Tucson for School Reform Initiative Winter Meeting

With five staff members in attendance, Eagle Rock was well represented at last month’s School Reform Initiative (SRI) Winter Meeting in Tucson, Ariz.

The theme for this year’s meeting was “Place,” and while our visit included learning a lot about Arizona and Tucson, what truly brought the conference to life was coming together with educators from around the country to share in the common struggle and opportunity of teaching.

Unlike traditional conferences, where participants sign up for various workshops and lectures, most of the work at the SRI Winter Meeting takes place in small groups. Within these gatherings, 10 to 12 educators share dilemmas facing them in their practice. And, through the use of collaborative protocols, these groups work to reach a greater understand of issues, solve problems or uncork ideas.

The work in small groups is also a chance for educators to practice using protocols and facilitating Critical Friends Groups®, which we use in many different ways here at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center.

SRI_WinterMeeting15In our Critical Friends Groups at Winter Meeting, Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center staff worked through a variety of dilemmas. Science instructor Janet Johnson got her plan for internally run professional development at Eagle Rock tuned, and Societies and Cultures instructional specialist Diego Duran-Medina got a fresh perspective on his “Heartivism” class. Public Allies Fellow in Professional Development Kelsey Baun worked on ways to increase diversity in the Public Allies Fellows corps, and I received feedback on plans to increase literacy across the curriculum at Eagle Rock.

Even though we were working with Continue reading…

Fall 2014 Update From The Eagle Rock Professional Development Center

A new trimester is about to get underway here at Eagle Rock and — just as in Septembers past — our Professional Development Center (PDC) finds itself gearing up to help schools across the country learn more about reengaging students in their own education.

Here in Estes Park, we’ve got a new cohort of Public Allies Fellows arriving on campus and the PDC team will help by launching a Strengths-based Fellowship Initiative that enables these fellows to access their strengths and talents in order to thrive in this demanding year of service and leadership.

And as we welcome six new staff members (in addition to the new Fellows mentioned above), the PDC team will be facilitating sessions for the Eagle Rock orientation for new staff.

Below is a listing of our Professional Development Center’s activities scheduled from now through the Thanksgiving holidays.

Sept. 18

Sep. 25

  • Facilitating the third monthly Google Hangout in our series with Public Allies Alumni in the education space.

Sep. 25 – 26

  • We regularly explore new opportunities for mission appropriate projects and have recently been introduced to the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives in New Orleans, La. We will be meeting with John Ayers, Executive Director, to explore intersections in our work for reengaging youth in their own education and communities.

Sep. 29

October 6 — 7

  • We’ll be hosting Rochester Public Schools (N.Y.) as a group of teachers, principals and district-level administrators look to continue their work in improving student engagement efforts.

October 8 — 10

  • We’ll be hosting Expeditionary Learning Schools where school leaders from a variety of schools nationally will convene to work on continuous improvement of their model. This is where teaching and learning inspires and empowers teachers to Continue reading…

Collaborating on Collaboration and Professional Development

The word “collaboration” can often have a messy connotation. To some, that five-syllable word is associated with confusion. It can be loud, unstructured, overcrowded, and things rarely resolve perfectly when collaboration is involved.

That having been said, collaboration is also a core value of teachers at Voyager Academy High School. We not only require it of our students, but we practice it professionally.

At our campus in Durham, N.C., teachers work in Critical Friends groups twice a week to share ideas, debrief projects and lessons, discuss pedagogy and encourage cross-curricular teaching.

But just having these collaborative groups in place doesn’t mean they always work as well as we want. And even when they do, it doesn’t mean we always get the results in the classroom that we desire. The values are there, and the system is in place, but — as is often the case — more needs to be done.

As such, we brought a team of five teachers to Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center with the goal of improving our Critical Friends groups. Of course, we knew that was our goal, but that didn’t mean that we were able to articulate that to anyone else. And the irony did not escape us that we needed outside collaboration to help us realize that our goal of providing more effective collaboration. Eagle Rock gave us the place and the people necessary to achieve that goal.

voyager academy at eagle rock

Simply getting off our campus and isolating ourselves in the school was a start. A change of venue, a library of professional development resources, and quite frankly, a gorgeous Continue reading…