Eagle Rock Convenes Coalition Of Essential Schools Affiliate Centers

On May 16 of this year, eight folks sat around a long conference table in a windowless room – except for the windows to the hallway – of a high school in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. The sky was clear and, if you squinted hard enough down East 35th Street, you could catch the glint of Lake Michigan lapping against the south shore of the city. Bringing their focus to students, affiliate center directors from the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES), flying in from both coasts and cities in between, convened at Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts), college-preparatory and training program for dance, music, theater, and the visual arts started in 2009. ChiArts is also a CES affiliate school.

CES affiliate centers provide technical assistance to schools that have embraced the Common Principles. Each CES center is an independent organization with the autonomy to create services appropriate for the schools it serves. Directors and staff from CES centers meet regularly to exchange ideas and share resources. CES centers intentionally describe themselves as affiliate centers rather than regional centers, reflecting the capacities that they have not only to focus within a region but also to provide technical support to schools and school systems elsewhere.

“I’m so glad to be rooted in a school this time. It’s such a good way to stay grounded in our practice,” said Mary Hastings at the start of the day. Coming from Maine, Mary is a Senior Associate with the Great Schools Partnership in New England and has done extensive coaching with schools in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.

Timothy Sermak, part of the academic faculty team teaching social studies at ChiArts, sought out Dan Condon, Associate Director of Professional Development at Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center, to discuss his interest in Continue reading…

The Professional Development Center: A Force For Good

In 1989, American Honda Motor Co. designed and executed a philanthropic initiative that would strengthen American Honda’s good corporate citizenship. Tom Dean and Mak Itabashi identified widespread student disengagement in high school as an issue that American Honda could directly address. This would take the form of a school that served high school students as well as a professional development center that would contribute to improved results in public secondary education nationally.

The school exists for the purpose of professional development. It is through professional development that Honda’s investment is leveraged into the greater good. ~ Tom Dean (founding board chair)

According to Forces for Good, a study on what makes great nonprofits great, “Great nonprofits spend as much time working with institutions outside their four walls as they do maintaining their internal operations.” Many consultants to schools practice an “expert / export” model of professional development. Such providers have developed a package of “answers” and they charge significant fees to give that answer to schools all over the country without regard to context. They take a one size fits all approach.

While we do share some successes at Eagle Rock with others through conference presentations, this is not the heart of our work. Our approach finds us working with organizations and public high schools across the country in their setting such as Health Leadership High School through the New Mexico Center for School Leadership. We optimize our reach by working primarily through organizations that convene large numbers of schools and touch hundreds sometimes thousands of students’ lives. Our approach is to discover the client’s aspirations, surface the assets that already exist in their setting and, through facilitation, engage the local expertise in a process of continuous improvement towards their vision. The contextual, strengths based and facilitative approach constitute what Jim Collins would call our hedgehog strategy.

In Jim Collins’s words, Continue reading…