Eagle Rock’s PDC Has a Busy Calendar for the Cold Winter Months

If you know anything about the goings-on at Eagle Rock, you’re probably aware that our Professional Development Center (PDC) works hand-in-hand with educators from across the nation.

Educators and others come to us for insights on how to successfully re-engage, retain and graduate students. They come to us because we’re experienced and really good at what we do. There’s a bit of a boast in that statement, but it’s the truth.

And what we don’t do is tout ourselves as the only solution available. In fact, solutions aren’t what we offer. What our PDC offers is a process that enables schools to re-engage with their students within their own particular campus environment based on what resources are available to them and how the educators and students themselves define success in such endeavors.

As a result of our efforts, we continue to attract schools from all corners of the country. Take educators in Iowa, for example. Sometime early next year, we’ll be conducting observations of competency-based systems for the Iowa State Department of Education. We’ll be visiting a pair of school districts in Collins-Maxwell and Van Meter — both situated near Des Moines.

Also, you might recall back in September we told you about how we were helping six schools in New Mexico develop metrics for success. Come next month, we’ll also be conducting observations at those six schools. They include ACE Leadership, Health Leadership, Amy Biehl High School, South Valley Academy, Native American Community Academy and American Sign Language Academy. Our plan is to follow up our observations by meeting up with leaders of these schools — along with Tony Monfiletto, executive director of the New Mexico Center for School Leadership (NMCSL) — and the good folks at the McCune Charitable Foundation.

Also in New Mexico, the NMCSL will soon be launching the chartering process for a new Entrepreneurship-focused school. As we have with their previous three charters (ACE, Health, Tech), we will facilitate the initial curriculum vision for the school, which involves engaging industry partners.

Eagle Rock Professional Development Center WorkingAbout four years ago we assisted in the launch of the Mid-Atlantic Critical Friends Group (CFG) for Big Picture Learning. In 2015, those CFG gatherings will continue in Philadelphia, Pa. (Wed, Jan 14 at El Centro), Newark, N.J. (Fri Mar 13 at Big Picture Academy), and in March and April (dates TBD) at Fannie Lou Hamer High School in Bronx, N.Y.

Speaking of Fannie Lou Hamer, we have two visits in the pipeline to continue supporting the Bronx school. Previously, we’ve helped them launch their peer observation system, which is built around Fred Newmann’s Authentic Intellectual Work framework.

And we plan to continue our support of transforming public education in the state of Washington to better meet the learning needs of all students — particularly those least effectively served by existing programs — by supporting the work of the Puget Sound Consortium for School Innovation (a Big Picture Learning initiative).

Below is a listing of our Professional Development Center’s activities scheduled from now through the end of March. If you would like to know more about our work or how your school or community program can work with our Professional Development Center, please contact our associate director of professional development, Dan Condon, by emailing DCondon at EagleRockSchool dot org.

Jan 7 and Mar 11, 2015

We’ll be in Winooski, Vt., where PDC Associate Sarah Bertucci continues consulting with the Winooski School District as they move toward proficiency-based graduation systems.

Jan 8, 2015

We return to Albuquerque, N.M., where Dan Condon, associate director of professional development, will be Continue reading…

Effective Schooling Shouldn’t Place All of its Cards on High-stakes Testing

Editor’s Note: Eagle Rock works hard for high school reengagement nationally. One of our partners in this work is Tony Monfiletto, who is the executive director of the New Mexico Center for School Leadership. Monfiletto penned the provocative piece that follows on the counterproductive effects of narrow measures on school reform. And, as a result of Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center recent visit with the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives in New Orleans, we can confirm that most school models in New Orleans have adopted a narrow approach to school reform. We strive to connect work in one place such as developing New Metrics in Albuquerque, N.M., with work in another such as the education reform efforts in New Orleans, La., to make an impact that lifts all students in their engagement. 

By Tony Monfiletto

I am a former school principal and I currently lead an incubator for new schools in my hometown of Albuquerque N.M.. The schools are focused on project-based learning as a means to provide a thrilling and relevant education to young people who are off track on the road to graduation or who have dropped out of school and are returning to earn a diploma.

Just yesterday, I was listening to NPR while making my daughter’s breakfast. Cooking a meal from scratch for her is a highlight of my day, and most times we listen to one of hers — or my — favorite Pandora stations while we eat. But yesterday, we happened to be tuned into NPR and heard a report entitled “A New Orleans Charter School Marches To Its Own Tune  (editor’s note: please have a listen).

It’s a story that hit close to home and adds a new dimension to the school reform discussion and movement. New Orleans is a city that has been dominated by schools that specialize in preparing students to score well on high-stakes standardized tests.

The currencies for these high-stakes tests are math and reading scores. These scores are the blunt instruments that our policy makers use to determine whether schools are effective, and these metrics drive the “no excuses” type of attitudes that dominate in New Orleans. The charter school movement was intended to inspire educational innovation, and it’s remarkable to me that a school focused on acquiring project-based learning through art would be considered such an aberration.

While New Orleans has staked its future on schools that focus on improving basic skills, the real world is focused on Continue reading…

Sustainable Solutions in Education Supported by our Professional Development Center

At Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center, staff and students alike share in the principles of positive growth and addressing the greater good.

And while Eagle Rock’s backdrop is beautiful Estes Park in Colorado, our Professional Development Center team travels throughout the United States, engaging in the improvement of other learning institutions through consulting and coaching. This spring, that “greater good” took our PDC staffers to Albuquerque, N.M., where they worked with three new charter high schools — all part of the New Mexico Center for School Leadership — and all at various points in their development.

The New Mexico Center for School Leadership currently consists of three leadership high schools:

The center, founded by Tony Monfiletto, is dedicated to the premise that “learning by doing, positive youth development and the highest level of private industry collaboration, results in schools that can dramatically improve the graduation rates in our (their) community.”

As the New Mexico Center for School Leadership grows, we provide guidance and support through professional development, aiding in teacher learning, community development, metric development and any number of other projects.

Participants discussion designing new metrics.

Participants discuss designing new metrics.

At Health Leadership High School, where our focus is on aiding teacher learning, our Professional Development Team recently engaged staff in a session on improving group-work in the classroom. Dan Condon, associate director of professional development, engaged teachers through Continue reading…

Performance-based Assessments: Difficult to Measure — But Decisive

Editor’s Note: Eagle Rock’s connection to the Performance Assessment work in New Mexico is working with the New Mexico Center for School Leadership in helping both ACE and Health Leadership high schools understand assessment practices and the processes and structures that allow for high-quality performance assessments to take place. Today’s post, authored by Larry Myatt of Educational Resources Consortium, dives deep into what’s happening with this issue in New Mexico.

Performance-based Assessments: Difficult to Measure — But Decisive

By Larry Myatt, Co-founder – Education Resources Consortium

There is no standardized test for music performance, but that doesn’t prevent listeners from knowing a quality performance when they hear one. Music performance is frequently used as an analogy among a group of New Mexico educators who are seeking new ways to assess academic learning.

Their work is part of a growing national movement called “performance-based assessment,” which is centered on the idea that student learning can be systematically measured on the basis of what students can do — not what they can demonstrate on a standardized written test.

The educators from the New Mexico Performance Assessment Network (PAN) say their work is important because so many reforms – teacher evaluations and school grades, for example – rely heavily on standardized tests to measure what students learn.

What it looks like

Principal Gabriella Duran Blakey offered an example of how performance-based assessment will look at Health Leadership High School in Albuquerque, which has a focus on health professions. She said students might do a unit of study on “food deserts,” or areas where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain.

Based on demographic and other research, students might decide an area needs a new grocery store, and then they would have to explain and justify where they would situate that store, how they would market it and then develop a business plan for its successful operation. They would simulate its construction plan, decide which products to stock and what to charge. Students would then defend their work before a panel of professionals, which might include store owners, nutritionists and doctors who work with diabetes patients. The panel would assess the students, deciding the extent to which each student demonstrated mastery of particular skill levels and curriculum standards.

Their aim is to build a better test. Tori Stephens-Shauger, principal of ACE Leadership High School and founder and facilitator of the PAN, says that the network is not starting from scratch. Its efforts are based in part on the work of 28 schools called the New York Performance Standards Consortium. These schools only take one (English Language Arts) of New York’s many Regents standardized tests for graduation and have been assessing students based on performance since 1997. Several dozen schools await membership in the consortium, which cites lower dropout rates and higher rates of college acceptance than the overall rates for New York City.

Stephens-Shauger adds Continue reading…

An Innovative Model For School Improvement

The difference between the sense of hearing and the skill of listening is attention.” – Seth S. Horowitz

In a school with a comprehensive innovative vision that breaks the mold for school as we know it, I watched Michael Soguero and Dan Condon from Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center provide a range of support that equally breaks the mold for conventional educational consulting. I returned to my own work in schools with renewed optimism in the possibilities for supporting innovative educators to achieve their visions.

Tony Monfiletto’s vision for ACE Leadership High Schools is far-reaching and significant for the field. Not just anyone could step up and match this level of creative courageous thought and commitment to action.

Michael and Dan step up. From the minute we arrived at the school, they paid attention. Throughout the three days, I saw them bring a breath of optimism, a belief in possibilities for what we can accomplish for our kids, and that we can find our way in a complex educational landscape in a diverse nation.

They backed that optimism with a wide range of experiences and learning in multiple modes of organizational and individual professional support, from education and from business and other fields. They offered a breadth of experience from schools across the country along with depth of experience from their own Eagle Rock School. Being in a school themselves, they understand the continuous challenges that keep us grounded and humble. Furthermore they offered specific field-tested examples, solutions, and stories.

Their agility was inspiring as they turned on a dime from Continue reading…