Eagle Rock and Big Picture Learning Share a Very Common Thread

In the U.S., one student drops out of school every 12 seconds. That’s 1,129,291 students so far this school year, according to Big Picture Learning (BPL) – a nonprofit organization that was founded in Rhode Island back in 1995 by Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor, who insisted that education is everyone’s business.

In fact, the two men made that the company’s motto in their goal to demonstrate that schooling and education can and should be radically changed to the benefit of the student. What these two educators envisioned was an environment where schools would start with a student’s interest and build a curriculum around it rather than start with a curriculum and force students to fit in.

And therein lies the common thread between Big Picture Learning and Eagle Rock — a shared belief that students need to be reengaged in their own learning. The founders of BPL believe students should spend considerable time doing real work in the community under the tutelage of volunteer mentors, meaning they wouldn’t be evaluated solely on the basis of standardized tests.

That doesn’t mean students in Big Picture schools can just take a pass on a formal education. In truth, they still must meet each state or district’s requirements for graduation. No alternative or lower, softer standards here.

Rather, Big Picture schools focus on a high school experience that leaves students well prepared for college — and the world of work. In fact, students in BPL schools are held to higher levels of academic and professional standards as they complete their in-school advisory, as well as the real-world work of their internship site.

As a result, BPL students are assessed on their performance — on exhibitions and demonstrations of achievement, on motivation, and on the habits of mind, hand, heart, and behavior that they display — all reflecting the real world evaluations and assessments that all of us face in our everyday lives.

Due to the efforts of Littky and Washor, the state of Rhode Island took a close look at Continue reading…

Our Professional Development Center Reinforces Highline Big Picture’s Goals

Editor’s Note: Part of the mission of Burien, Wash.-based Highline Big Picture School is to use internships and interest-based projects to immerse students in work they are passionate about. That, the school believes, develops the skills, habits, and knowledge for students to ultimately succeed in higher education, overcome obstacles to their well-being, and contribute positively to their communities. Twice in the past three years, Highline’s building leadership team visited Eagle Rock to pick the brains of our Professional Development Center staff. And twice they have left our campus, armed with an even better vision of what it is that needs to be done — and how to get there.

By: Garth Reeves & Loren Demeroutis, co-principals of Highline Big Picture School

Highline Big Picture School is a part of the Big Picture Learning network — a consortium of more than 100 national and international schools that encourage student success by putting them in contact with the rigorous learning opportunities of real-world contexts, built around real-world issues.

Taking an ethos of “learning by doing,” these schools co-construct personalized educational plans, one student at a time, measuring success by the demonstration of competency and growth as assessed through portfolio and public exhibitions.

At Highline Big Picture, our staff serves up an equity agenda that unfolds along at least two paths. One, we seek to serve and support students who have not been well served — or served at all — by traditional schools. And in order to do that, we focus on the development of meta-cognitive skills and dispositions and model restorative practices focused on developing student well-being and efficacy.

Second, we seek to influence how people view and think about school design, pushing an agenda focused on the issues of student disengagement with, and disenfranchisement from, “school.” There is a deeper than ever disconnect for students and the adults who work with them who feel school as defined in a last century context doesn’t fit them, doesn’t know them, and won’t consider their expectations or goals.

We have been fortunate to be frequent collaborators in this work with the Eagle Rock School Professional Development Center, both as an individual school and a network since 2008. In 2010, we took our building leadership team to Eagle Rock, ostensibly to conduct an inquiry process into our assessment practices. Working with the PDC staff, and in particular Continue reading…