Spring 2017 Update from the Professional Development Center

Since beginning my Public Allies Fellowship with Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center last fall, I have taken note of the many traits that make our professional development team so successful.

As background, the Professional Development Center team is charged with executing on a mission to support schools (we refer to them as “partners”) around the country to increase high school student engagement. What is not well known is that the team provides those services to our partners at no cost to them, and our team consists of just four facilitators who regularly provide our services. This presents an interesting challenge as we cannot increase our headcount despite the ever-increasing demand for our services.

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To meet that challenge, the team has developed a set of practices characterized by working smarter rather than harder. Hallmarks of the team’s practice include organization, efficiency, and constant communication among staffers. Everyone understands what the goals are for each trimester and how their portfolio of partners needs to be shaped for maximum impact.

In normal circumstances, observing such traits among a high-functioning team should be a simple matter. But circumstances here at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center are not normal, with all six members of the professional development team constantly Continue reading…

One Eagle Rock School Instructor’s Philosophy on Education

As a house parent at Eagle Rock School, I frequently have students over to watch movies on Friday nights. Recently, we opted for a viewing of School of Rock, starring Jack Black — a personal favorite.

As the film began, students started to remark on how similar I was to Jack Black’s character, Dewey Finn. “Oh that’s just like Dan,” one student proclaimed as Finn made some contorted face at the camera. Another student piped up, “This film is about Dan teaching.”

At first I was appalled by their candor. “Do they think of me as some sort of oafish unprofessional fraud?” I asked myself. However, as the film progressed, I found myself increasingly proud of the comparison.

Turns out, young Dewey Finn embodies a lot of the spirit and craft of teaching that I hold at the core of my practice. His class is project-based and student-centered, and he uses the arts to engage students and pull out their unique individual strengths. And, he holds his students to incredibly high standards.

For those who haven’t seen the film, here is a Continue reading…

Winter Classes Range from Musicals and Murals to Soilless Gardening

erslogo2Eagle Rock’s busy student body is already well into the winter trimester, with many among them enjoying a number of class offerings — most of them new — that promise to challenge their intellect and maybe even spark interest in an avocation, adventure or activity that can last an entire lifetime.

Ten-week classes sprinkled among the mix for ER 68 (our 68th semester since our founding of Eagle Rock School in the early 1990s) include:

La Telenovela: In this class, which we first offered in the fall of 2014, students analyze and create their own Spanish-language “soap opera” episodes. By doing so, they are gaining insight into telenovela structure, characters and themes by viewing real telenovelas. (For the uninitiated, a telenovela is a type of limited-run serial drama and popular on European, West Asian, Southeast Asian, Latin American, East Asian, South Asian, Arab World, Brazil, Portuguese and Spanish television networks.) By watching these programs, students are refining their reading, writing, listening and speaking skills in Spanish, which is enhanced by working together on their Spanish in the classroom. As a final project, students will be asked to script and film their own telenovelas — themselves portraying the characters as well as completing all of the required behind-the-scenes production work. They will work on acting as well as filming and directing techniques to produce the final episode. (Brighid Scanlon is teaching this class.)

Data Analysis: In this class, which first appeared at Eagle Rock School in the spring of 2015, students are beginning to explore data sets, looking for patterns and using statistics to answer student-generated questions. Each student explores one question, researching data that will help answer that question. By analyzing the information, they can communicate their newfound knowledge using infographics, written articles, presentation or blogs. Experts in the field, peers, and Eagle Rock staff will review the work and provide feedback for the inevitable revision. (Becky Poore and Helen Higgins are teaching this class.)

Five-week classes offered this trimester include:

101 Years of Murals: This all-day class presents students with the opportunity to appreciate what murals can teach us, communicate and add vitality to our lives. Students are part of a hard-working team with an emphasis on leadership that is designing and painting a mural in the Rocky Mountain National Park. We are learning how to use different mural techniques to create Part 2 in a series of murals. Students in this class are already capable at drawing — or are teachable — and they’re all willing to take risks. This class promises a lot of hard work, but it also promises to yield a lot of new skills as well as possible connections that may benefit them in the future. (Cindy Elkins and Claire Oliphant are teaching this class.)

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The Wiz” Musical: Ease on down the road with Continue reading…

Winter 2016 Update from the Professional Development Center

Maintaining its vision that this country’s high school youth should be fully engaged in their education, our professional development center (PDC) team started off the New Year the same way they start every week — busy and engaged.

The PDC staff kicked off the new year with Dan Condon, associate director of professional development, and Mia Stroutsos, our 2015/2016 PDC Public Allies fellow, making their way to New Mexico for four separate leadership events. Our PDC associate, Anastacia Galloway spent that same week providing follow-up support for Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School (FLHFHS) in the Bronx, New York, where we are engaged in a multi-year project to institute peer observations.

On Jan. 5, Dan Condon found himself in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for leadership support of Tech Leadership High School’s senior management team where he spoke on the importance of intersecting technology with pedagogy for the next generation of students. And on the next day, he visited ACE Leadership High School for project tuning, and then attended an event for a soon-to-open charter school focused on entrepreneurship.

Siembra Leadership is the latest school we support through our work with the New Mexico Center for School Leadership. Mia Stroutsos and Dan Condon wrapped up their stay in Albuquerque by focusing on supporting formative assessment in the classroom for the Health Leadership staff.

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Anastacia Galloway’s four-day visit to New York included a follow-up visit with the staff at FLHFHS where, through a series of class visits and teacher interviews, she surfaced the most successful practices for integrating peer-coaching into their professional learning plans.

It was a busy week, but the PDC team is just getting warmed up. Here’s a quick look at what’s to come in the next few months: Continue reading…

Strategic Plan Update: Curriculum and Instructional Practices Improvement

Editor’s Note: Back in 2013, Eagle Rock’s board of directors embarked on a strategic planning process that resulted in the adoption of a plan titled ‘Vision 2020’ that assures what we do day-to-day reflects the long-term goals that the organization aims to achieve (see News From The Rock: Vision 2020 for an overview of that plan and process). ‘Vision 2020’ includes seven distinct areas of focus (a.k.a. domains) that guide our board, administrators, staff members and students. In today’s blog post, Jen Frickey offers an update on our third strategic domain — Academic Curriculum.

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By Jen Frickey, Director of Curriculum

Here at Eagle Rock, we intentionally place a significant amount of energy into graduating students who have the desire — and are prepared — to make a difference in the world. We implement effective and engaging practices that foster each students’ unique potential and these help young people use their minds well. To support this, we are working on improving our approach to assessment at Eagle Rock so there is more consistency in assessing what we value across all classes.

As we continue to improve our curriculum and instructional practices, it is important to us that we are challenging our students and delivering quality instruction across all classes and other learning experiences at Eagle Rock. For that reason, we are focusing a portion of our strategic work around creating a framework for normed common formative and summative assessments.

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Our aim is that 50 percent of our assessment practices will be normed and shared across classrooms and disciplines by Continue reading…