Summer Break 2017 at Eagle Rock School

To paraphrase the American nonfiction writer Charles Bowden, summertime at Eagle Rock offers the best of what might be.

For new students who arrived in early-June, it’s the beginning of a new high school experience and the wilderness orientation trip that accompanies it. For our Public Allies fellows, it’s the end of an advanced year-long service and leadership development experience. And of course, summer signals the graduation of another group of Eagle Rock School students.

(Image ©2017 Joven Nichols)
(Image ©2017 Joven Nichols)

The summer months on our mountainside campus never fail to impress upon us some of the values we hold so dear — namely, that we choose to focus on continuous improvement and that we are a small organization with an outsized impact.

Along those lines, summer break at Eagle Rock School offers time for some staff, instructors, and administrators to regroup by focusing on Continue reading…

Summer 2017 Professional Development Center Update

Editor’s Note: The Eagle Rock Professional Development Center works with educators and schools committed to making high school a more engaging experience for our youth. That’s because we envision high schools as high functioning centers of learning that are fueled by engagement. Through our offerings (click here for a full list), we facilitate school improvement and support the implementation of engaging practices that foster each students’ unique potential and help young people use their minds well.

Below is a list that’s inclusive of where we’ve been thus far this spring, along with information about where our staff is headed between now and August. Complied by Eagle Rock’s 2016/17 Public Allies Fellow in Professional Development, Sebastian Franco, this list demonstrates just a portion of Eagle Rock’s relevance on a national scale, and offers inspiration for educators and schools interested in professional development initiatives of their own.

Traveling separately, and sometimes as a team, our professional development staff members facilitate, convene, support, participate and work with local schools through the following engagements:

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May 8 – 10: Austin Independent School District (AISD), Austin, TX — The Austin Independent School District is responsible for the quality of education in the Austin District of Texas. Its mission is to prepare students for college and beyond as they live in one of the best cities for working and living. Eagle Rock’s director of professional development, Michael Soguero, will continue working with the leadership of AISD, as it continues to develop and support an entrepreneurial education program. This is part of efforts to better prepare students for 21st century demands. Michael will be traveling with Eagle Rock Human Performance and Outdoor Education Instructional Specialist, Jon Anderson to continue working with AISD from June 26 – 30.

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May 11: Estes Park School District (EPSD), Estes Park, CO — The EPSD is in charge of all education programs in the Estes Valley area and its focus is to prepare students to shine as citizens in a world that is increasingly diverse and technological. Sarah Bertucci, Professional Development Center Associate, and Sebastian Franco, Professional Development Center Public Allies Fellow, have supported the school district on outreach efforts in conjunction with the district’s Estes Thrives initiative. This Professional Development Center’s work focused Continue reading…

Eagle Rock’s Michael Soguero Highlights ‘Getting Smart’ Podcast

Michael Soguero, Eagle Rock’s director of professional development, discusses what he believes high-quality professional learning looks like — within the context of secondary education — and what it entails for educators in a recent podcast produced by Getting Smart.

The 20-minute podcast focuses on Michael’s take on the quality professional development offered through our Professional Development Center and how great teaching is the key to increasing student engagement. The Getting Smart Podcast covers topics in K-12, higher education and lifelong learning, with episodes that cover developments in educational research, technology and methods. Michael was interviewed by Emily Liebtag, herself a teacher in settings ranging from K-12 public schools to online institutions of higher learning.

As you listen using the embed above, you’ll hear as Michael uses the metaphor of a cooking school, stating that the concept of quality learning is based on teaching students how to cook with the ingredients to be found in their own kitchen. Calling it an “asset-based approach,” he said good educators begin by completing an inventory of the assets on hand.

“What we do is ask the folks that we work with,” Michael says, “what got your attention? What is it that you’re aspiring to (what is your vision)? And then we help them develop their own answer / version of that aspiration by building on their local context.”

Michael then goes on to say Continue reading…

Spring Break at Eagle Rock School is Worktime for Many Eagle Rockers

Eagle Rock School’s 71st trimester officially ended last week, with students from all points of the compass heading home for a well-deserved break. Same goes for many staff and instructional specialists — many are welcoming a short break afforded by the trimester cycle. But as you’ll see from reading on, not all who call Eagle Rock home are on break.

Eagle Rock School

Staff that are on break return to campus on Monday, May 8, followed by veteran students who come back on Sunday, May 14, to participate in some All School activities and house retreats before classes start on Monday, May 22.

Eagle Rock’s new students — the incoming group we’ll refer to as ER 72 — arrive on Saturday, May 20, just in time for a week of being on campus before heading out for their Continue reading…

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…

Eagle Rock Staffers Recommend Their Favorites Podcast Episodes

If you’re a frequent reader of our blog, you’ve noticed that our staff isn’t the least bit shy about recommending books and movies to our peers in progressive education. It is in that vein that we’re pleased to recommend the below episodes from among some of our staffers favorite podcasts. If one or more of them grab your attention, just click on the title and listen in:

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Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem? An episode from the Freakonomics Radio Podcast

This episode of the Freakonomics Radio Podcast goes to great lengths to explore the notion that maybe some students aren’t succeeding today because of teacher quality. While it’s true we spend more money per student than practically any other nation in the world, the U.S. education system is failing on many fronts — especially in math. It begs the question: Are our students getting the Continue reading…

Using ‘Improvement Science’ to Advance Teacher Preparation

Editor’s Note: Today’s Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center blog post comes to us by way of Kari Thierer, organizational director at School Reform Initiative (SRI) — a nonprofit that works to support the creation of transformational learning communities fiercely committed to educational equity and excellence. Eagle Rock recently hosted Kari and some of her SRI colleagues for a two-day retreat centered on improvement science. Below, Kari discusses her group’s work and its experience with tapping into Eagle Rock’s professional development services.

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Using ‘Improvement Science’ to Advance Teacher Preparation
By Kari Thierer, Organizational Director — School Reform Initiative (SRI)

We have the privilege of working with educators serving pre-kindergarten students all the way through college, in schools throughout the world. Our work began in 1995 as a way to provide better professional development for the schools that were part of the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) network, and this mission has continued to grow and evolve over the years.

We are fortunate to have a relationship with Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center, both through our work as a CES National Center, as well as having the opportunity to work alongside amazing facilitators like Eagle Rock’s Michael Soguero, Dan Condon and Anastacia Galloway — all of whom are part of the SRI community of facilitators.

As our work has evolved, a growing area of conversation has centered around how to support pre-service education programs and bring the principles and practices of SRI critical friendship into licensure programs. Our belief is that these tools and practices will Continue reading…

Michael Soguero Hosts TeachingPartners Office Hour

Each week since the end of April, education startup TeachingPartners has been inviting classroom teachers and education thought leaders to share and learn from one another online. Using TeachingPartners.com and the hashtag #TPOfficeHour on Twitter, participants submit questions and thoughts about the week’s topic, and then gather at 6pm PT / 9pm ET on Thursday evening for a one-hour ‘edchat’ about the topic at hand.

Well in advance of each week’s production, TeachingPartners asks one thought leader or educator to share their own ideas and host the week’s Thursday night gathering online, also known as Office Hour.

TeachingPartners Michael Soguero

As you can see from the image above, this week, Eagle Rock’s own Michael Soguero is the host of TeachingPartners Office Hour. As Eagle Rock’s director of professional development, Michael has much to say about the Continue reading…

Spring 2016 Update from the Professional Development Center

“Plan your work, then work your plan.” I’m not sure who said it first or if it really matters. All I know is if you decide in advance precisely how you’re going to get from where you are to where you want to be, you stand a much better chance of getting there.

At the level of the lowest common denominator, that’s the essence of any plan, including Eagle Rock’s strategic plan for 2015-2020, aptly titled Vision 2020. And as I shared just last week here on the Eagle Rock Blog (see: Strategic Plan Update: National Contribution), the Professional Development Center team is hard at work facilitating programs, trainings and other custom offerings that lead the high schools with whom we work to transform themselves into high-functioning centers of engagement and learning.

Eagle Rock Professional Development Center Update June 2016

More than half of Eagle Rock School’s instructional specialists — those educators who work within our own school — are now engaged in supporting this national mission-related work, along with the entire professional development center team. As a reminder, “national contribution” is the fifth domain within our strategic plan, a document that enables us to fulfill our organization’s mission and make significant steps toward realizing our vision. And, of course, that vision is that this country’s high school youth be fully engaged in their education.

The Eagle Rock Professional Development Center staff kicked off the spring by actively participating in a number of seminars, retreats, focus groups, workshops and educational events across the country, including the ones mentioned below. If you would like to know more about our work — or how your school or organization can work with the Eagle Rock Professional Development Center — please contact Dan Condon, our associate director of professional development, by emailing DCondon at EagleRockSchool dot org.

May 2 and 3

The Professional Development staff traveled to the Ryan Banks Academy in Chicago, helping to develop STEM and Humanities curriculum for the academy, which is an urban boarding school scheduled to open in September 2017.

May 2 and 3

Our staff also attended an advisory leader retreat to develop advisory vision and plans at Randolph Union High School in Randolph, Vermont.

May 4 and 5

We conducted asset-based observations and appreciative interviews with the staff of Continue reading…

Strategic Plan Update: National Contribution

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is the fourth in a series of updates about Eagle Rock’s strategic plan — Vision 2020. Below, Michael Soguero, our director of professional development, provides the Eagle Rock community with an update on our efforts related to the plan’s fifth domain: National Contribution. If you’re interested in learning about the overall aim of the plan, please see News From The Rock: Vision 2020.

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When it comes to Eagle Rock’s strategic plan, that part of the document that falls under the National Contribution section, speaks to our nation’s high schools as high-functioning centers of engagement and learning, and our own role in helping make that vision a reality. As a result, we’re continuing to articulate our notion of national impact and to refine our approach in support of that outcome.

While exploring this concept, we have found many nonprofits make one of two mistakes while attempting to do good works:

  1. They either focus on performing a number of activities — counting the activities themselves as a success; or
  2. They assess satisfaction with the activity as a measure of success.

Problems arise when schools put on workshops, send their personnel to speak at conferences or hold events — all of which are well received — but with little sense as to whether there is an impact on the community issue they were addressing. The other mistake goes in the opposite direction. The organization will put a stake in the ground around some large social condition such as teen crime, poverty or the environment, not realizing how little impact one isolated group can have on solving such complex issues.

What you end up with are organizations that are either declaring victory with small programmatic events, or excessively touting influence with a social condition that actually requires many allies contributing to the issues just to move the needle.

Eagle Rock is charged with having a positive impact on high school engagement nationally. Our strategy includes Continue reading…