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.
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 on the road. As a result, the team has created shared documents, standard operating procedures, and a weekly face-to-face huddle to maintain a sense of coherence. We have an online space with updated metrics, a scoreboard for our key projects, and even space for each team member to share and update the specific and measurable aims connected to each project. Given the number of nationwide trips and meetings our staffers participate in, these practices are key to moving our programs to fruition so quickly.
Another challenge to our focus is the fact that by design, the Professional Development Center’s staff are firmly embedded in Eagle Rock School’s own operations. On average, the team spends about 30 percent of its time into pulling duty, serving in advisory roles to our students, house parenting, joining weeklong school retreats, and more right here on our mountainside campus in Estes Park, Colo. In addition, the team chooses one internal school improvement project each year to focus its collective efforts on.
How the team regularly meets the challenge of such a heavy workload has been a real education for me. And it’s an understatement when I share I’m looking forward to another six months building my knowledge of how such a small team can consistently accomplish much. In an effort to build my own skills — such as learning the framework of improvement science or practicing with an ever-increasing repertoire of protocols — I will be participating in more of the events you see listed below. In the meantime, if you would like to know more about the work we do at Eagle Rock, or how your school or organization can connect with the Professional Development Center team, please contact Dan Condon (associate director of professional development) by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
And with that as the backdrop for today’s post, here’s what’s on the Professional Development Center team’s plate thus far this winter and spring:
Jan. 18 – 20
Jefferson County Educational Services Center (JCESC), Ohio Valley, Ohio — The JCESC provides services and leadership to various school districts and counties throughout Ohio Valley. Its mission is to improve the quality of education provided to the students. Professional development associate Anastacia Galloway worked with this center to build a Universal Design for Learning that would work with the needs of schools around the area. Anastacia will re-visit the group again between March 7 and 10.
Jan. 19 – 20
New Mexico Center for School Leadership (NMCSL), Albuquerque, NM — The NMCSL is a not-for-profit organization that has been focusing on supporting families, students, and communities to succeed at the academic level through alternative education. Its main goal is to create a network of schools that will pave the way for education policy reform in New Mexico. Our director of the professional development, Michael Soguero, traveled to Albuquerque in mid-January to continue working with NMCSL on New Metrics and finding methods to improve upon work previously completed between Michael and the organization. He will visit this group again on Feb. 16 and 17 with the support of Anastacia Galloway to check up on progress.
Jan. 23 – 24
Big Picture Learning (BPL), San Diego, CA — Big Picture Learning (BPL) was founded in 1995 with the sole purpose of having students be at the center of their own education. Instead of focusing on standardized testing, the mission is to have students evaluated through demonstration of knowledge and achievement from their classes and hands-on experiences in the real world. Michael Soguero and Eahle Rock’s Restorative Justice Associate & Explore Week Coordinator Jimmy Frickey went to High Tech High where they supported the conference on Big Picture Learning.
I Have a Dream Foundation (iHAD), Boulder, CO — iHAD of Boulder has the task of providing support and resources to high school students by helping them graduate and achieve their dreams of attending college. Most students in this program have an opportunity to receive a four-year scholarship to help them economically succeed a college or vocational school degree. Associate Director of Professional Development, Dan Condon, has been supporting this program since 2016 as they work on improving literacy across their program sites.
E’tude, Sheboygan, WI — The E’tude Group is an organization that teaches students a set of skills and values that can become crucial as they prepare to become apart of the ever-changing American workforce. Dan Condon met with the group’s leadership as it began defining student learning as a part of our larger strategy of mapping and developing a balanced scorecard.
Jan. 25 – 27
Santa Fe Youth Summit, Santa Fe, NM — Last year we trained students from across Santa Fe schools to design and run a youth summit program in coordination with the town’s mayor. This program is designed to keep the Mayor and City Council updated on youth issues and programs that might be needed to improve the quality of education. Anastacia Galloway and Literacy and Literature Instructional Specialist, Dan Hoffman went to Santa Fe to support and continue developing the Youth Summit Program. They also focused on Project Based Learning because it is a style of learning that will enhance the program that is being created. Both Anastacia and Dan will be meeting with this group again on March 30 and 31 to continue progress on the Youth Summit Program.
The New Teacher Project (TNTP), Milwaukee, WI — TNTP is an organization with the mission of improving the quality of teachers nationally through trainings and resources that can benefit students’ experience in school. Dan Condon met for the first time with this group to explore the needs of the program and to determine if this organization aligns with our mission.
Shabazz City High School, Madison, WI — Shabazz is an innovative and alternative high school that focuses on intentional and critical thinking of its students by applying real-life situations to each class. Dan Condon facilitated a day-long Improvement Science session exploring Shabazz’s decision making problem of practice.
Jan. 30 – 31
Innovation High School, Reno, NV — Innovation High School focuses on alternative methods of teaching and Big Picture Learning to improve the quality of education by both teachers and students. Professional development associate Sarah Bertucci focused on restorative practices with faculty and staff as they searched for new methods to improve the quality of education while enhancing student’s lives outside of school.
Deeper Learning Cohort, Winooski, VT — Deeper Learning is an organization that connects public schools in need of support with a group of fellows that can support the schools as well as learn first-hand what is needed in the public sector. Fellows are individuals whose goal is to support a school entity, as well as learn from experiences gained throughout the project. Sarah Bertucci met with individuals from Winooski Middle/High School — one of five schools that are participating in the Deeper Learning program — as they discussed how their work is progressing.
Boston Restorative Network, Boston, MA — The restorative group is a new program, where education leaders from Boston meet to discuss ways to improve the quality of work produced by teachers around the area. One of the main focuses of this group is restorative practices. Sarah Bertucci met with this group to support the creation of this program, and she also visited Burlington High School to perform an assets inventory focused on restorative practices to support both the school and the Restorative Network.
Winooski Leadership Team, Winooski, VT — This team of leaders from the Winooski School District have been focusing on proficiency-based graduation to improve the education received by students of the district. Sarah Bertucci met up with the leadership team at a retreat that focused on finding alternative ways to achieve proficiency-based graduation. Sarah will be meeting with the same group again at another leadership team retreat in early May to continue the work they are doing.
Burlington School District, Burlington, VT — The Burlington School District has been working on a new vision known as the Excellence and Equity Plan for the past three years in a continuing effort to provide the best possible education to its students. Sarah Bertucci met with the leadership group to further facilitate their work on restorative practices, which they plan to implement in the near future.
Feb. 15 – 17
International Leadership Entrepreneurial Development Arts Design (iLEAD), Santa Clarita, CA — iLEAD is an organization of charter schools that focuses on student-led assessments and project-based learning as a means of improving the quality of education. Dan Condon met with iLEAD to support and facilitate protocols on proficiency-based graduation, which the group intends to utilize for their staff and students.
Feb. 17 – 19
Algebra Project Alliance, St. Louis, MO — This Alliance focuses on providing a greater quality of education through math at a national level. They see the importance of having future generations understand math as the country becomes more technological and math focused. Michael Soguero will meet with this group — with the support of Eagle Rock’s Math Instructional Specialist Becky Poore — to plan a national design that can improve the quality of education delivered by Algebra Project Alliance.
I Have a Dream Foundation (iHAD), Boulder, CO — The overarching objective of the Dream Big Initiative is to “increase Boulder’s collective commitment to eliminate the opportunity and achievement gaps” so that “by 2040, all children in Boulder County, Colo., are succeeding academically and reaching their full potential.” The Dream Big Initiative is dedicated to addressing this by providing low-income youth and their families with Cradle-to-Career support through three tiers – increasing academic success, strengthening family support networks, and promoting student well-being. Dan Condon and Sebastian Franco will facilitate an Interest-Based Problem Solving meeting with the steering committee of the Dream Big Initiative.
Feb. 22 – 24
Austin Independent School District (AISD), Austin, TX — AISD is responsible for the quality of education in the Austin District of Texas. Its mission is to prepare students for college and beyond. Michael Soguero will be working with the leadership group of AISD, which wants to implement an entrepreneurial education program. This new program intends to further develop the business aspects of education because entrepreneurship is a key component of American lives.
Albuquerque Public Schools, Albuquerque, NM — The Office of Innovation at Albuquerque Public Schools endeavors to develop intellectual capital, create choices in education, and transform systems to ensure each student graduates with the knowledge, skills, and capacities for success in a rapidly changing world. Dan Condon will be working with their magnet schools as they implement their new pillar framework.
Rosemary Anderson High School (RAHS), Portland, OR — RAHS campuses are community-based alternative high schools serving at-risk youth both academically and with career training. Michael Soguero will be traveling to Portland with Eagle Rock School Human Performance Center Instructional Specialist Anna Magle-Haberek to focus on curriculum development as they explore new ways to facilitate the advancement of RAHS’ curriculum.
March 7 – 8
Big Picture Learning National (BPL), Camden, NJ — Similar to the San Diego BPL conference, Michael Soguero and Dan Hoffman will be participating at this event in New Jersey where Senior Thesis Projects are being presented at Camden Big Picture Learning Academy. This academy, formerly MetEast, focuses on personalized education in an effort to discover the best possible path for each student in the Camden area of New Jersey.
March 13 – 15
Deeper Learning, Seattle, WA — As mentioned in the February 9 item above, Deeper Learning works with a group of fellows that supports various programs around the country, based on the needs of that location. In this trip, Sarah Bertucci will be working specifically with the fellows, facilitating training to improve the quality of work they produce in the field. Sarah Bertucci will be doing the same thing in San Diego with a different group of fellows on March 28 – 31.
March 13 – 15
Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School (FLHFHS), Bronx, NY — FLHFHS focuses on the development of student minds through academic research and college and career readiness, thus ensuring the best possible future for these high-risk youth. Michael Soguero, Anastacia Galloway, Human Performance and Outdoor Education Instructional Specialist Jon Anderson, and Professional Development Center Public Allies Fellow Sebastian Franco will perform peer observations within the school as they gather information that will support and enhance the quality of education produced at FLHFHS.
May 4 – 5
Rowland Foundation, Stowe, VT — The Rowland Foundation aims to improve the quality of education of schools from Vermont through leadership and commitment to change by both staff and students. They also offer a fellowship program to improve the quality of secondary teachers as they provide training, research, and grants to find new ways of supporting and improving the quality of education the students receive. Sarah Bertucci will be facilitating trainings and support to the fellowship program as it learns more about alternative ways to support students.
About The Author: Sebastian Franco is the 2016/17 Public Allies Fellow in Professional Development at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colo. A recent graduate of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., Sebastian holds double degrees in political science and international studies and a minor in Spanish.