Update From the Eagle Rock Professional Development Center

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If our recent level of activity is any indication, Tolstoy was right… Spring is the time of plans and projects. And while the first day of spring is still 30 days away, as you’ll see, we’ve been hard at work tilling the soil, so to speak, so that the seeds we plant these next few months will bear significant bounty along the education landscape for quite some time to come.

To start things off, we recently played host to Xylem Larla Day, a graduate student in education from Cal State-Chino, who visited our Estes Park, Colo., campus to research teaching and assessment methods. In addition to pursuing a Masters degree in Education, Curriculum & Instruction, Xylem is in the midst of starting Earth Arts Academy – a community-oriented movement that aims to open an environmental high school in Nevada City, Calif., by fall 2016.


Next up, our staff recently collaborated with IDEA (The Institute for Democratic Education in America) to design a tour in New York City for a group of 30 educators, youths, parents and community leaders from South Burlington, Vermont. Lead by former Eagle Rock Math Instructional Specialist, Jason Cushner – who now works with Big Picture South Burlington, a school-within-a-school at South Burlington High School – the group from Vermont was in search of tips, insights, strategies and tactics that may help in their efforts to shift their approach to graduating students from a seat-time requirements basis to a more proficiency-based system. Once the tour began, our role was to facilitate key reflection meetings and debrief the learning from the visits so that immediate action could occur back home in Vermont. And to help support the effort even further, a group from Eagle Rock will travel to South Burlington in mid-March to follow up with the Vermonters (more info on that trip appears below).

Moving on, upcoming visits we’re looking forward to hosting here at Eagle Rock under the auspices of the Professional Development Center (PDC) include:

  • A staff member from Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning (Washington, Heights, NY) will be visiting with our PDC staff as he explores ways to start up his own Expeditionary Learning School (i.e., a school that inspires the motivation to learn and transform urban, rural, and suburban education by empowering students and adults to become leaders of their own learning).
  • Staff from Holy Heart of Mary High School in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, will be on campus this spring to learn how Eagle Rock works with ‘opportunity youth’ (i.e., young people who are both out of school and not working).
  • Staff from the Donnell-Kay Foundation will also be visiting Eagle Rock soon to learn about work with ‘opportunity youth.’ The foundation, which is committed to reforming and improving public education in Colorado through research, creative dialogue and critical thinking, is based down the road in Denver.
  • Staff from the Los Angeles Small Schools Center in California – a Coalition of Essential Schools member since 2006 – will be paying us a visit to learn about how they can support us in our work with the Los Angeles Unified School District.
  • Staff from North Carolina’s Voyager Academy return to Eagle Rock this spring to work on strengthening their internal professional development systems that are aimed at supporting their project-based learning high school.
  • Staff from California’s Los Angeles Unified School District who are working on project-based learning initiatives, along with exploring ways to build community and student accountability, will be meeting our PDC staff on campus here in Estes Park this spring, as well.
  • Reviewers from the Association of Colorado Independent Schools (ACIS) will be on campus in March conducting an evaluation for Eagle Rock’s own accreditation. Here at the PDC, we’re responsible for key activities associated with our reaccreditation, including publishing Eagle Rock’s self-study and coordinating the reviewers’ visit to campus.
  • Big Picture Learning will be paying a visit to Eagle Rock this April when they use our facilities for a Coaches Retreat aimed at strengthening and supporting their network of schools (which now includes programs in 14 states).

As for our work off campus and in the field, here’s what we’ve got planned for the next few months:

February 24-26, 2014: New Mexico Center for School Leadership (Albuquerque, NM). Here, in an effort to convince charitable foundations to consider metrics outside of the traditional standardize-test approach, we’ll be facilitating a meeting between local schools and the Marshall L. and Perrine D. McCune Charitable Foundation. Participating schools include ACE Leadership, American Sign Language Academy, Health Leadership High School, South Valley Academy, and Native American Charter Academy.

March 19-20, 2014: South Burlington High School (South Burlington, Vermont). Here, PDC staff will be working with departments within South Burlington High to shift to proficiency-based systems for graduation. This work will include interfacing with many of the same people who participated in the New York City tour referenced above. While in South Burlington, we’ll also be working with parents, students, and other stakeholders from South Burlington to facilitate neighborhood level conversations about what the shift to proficiency would mean for them.

April 3-6, 2014: Noble Impact (Little Rock, Arkansas). Here, the PDC’s own Dan Condon will be in Little Rock to support Noble Impact as they play a critical role in the state’s first-ever High School Startup Weekend.

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About the Author: Michael Soguero is the director of professional development at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colo. There, he is primarily responsible for developing strategy that positively affects public education throughout the United States.

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