Nominate The Next Potential Public Allies Fellow

Do you know a passionate young professional committed to serving students with an antiracist, social justice lens?

We want to get to know them too!

We have made it easy for you to nominate potential candidates — they may be your students, program participants, mentees, friends, family, or entrepreneurs. It just takes about 60 seconds and gives them a leg up in the admissions process.

Not sure who would be a good fit for our fellowship program?

Check our position posting at this link

Please nominate candidates by following this link.

Cameron Peak Fire Update

As you may be aware, the largest forest fire in Colorado history, the Cameron Peak Fire, is burning just north of our campus.  At this time, the campus is safe and we are hopeful that the fire doesn’t take a turn south in our direction.  Yesterday, the fire flared up with high winds and dry conditions.  This activity was visible from campus and is the closest the fire has been to us, though it is still a safe distance away.  If you are familiar with the area, you’ll recognize the communities of Glen Haven, Storm Mountain, and the Retreat.  Those communities have been evacuated but as of this morning, the fire has not moved into those spaces.  The fire started in August and we’ve been monitoring it from the start.  If you are interested, you can follow the fire updates on Facebook by searching for “Cameron Peak Fire” and on the Larimer County Website here.

If things change, we will post updates but for now, we’re safe and are taking all the appropriate precautions and are in touch with local authorities to keep our school community and campus safe.  Due to COVID-19, we do not currently have students on campus so we are not also managing the potential of a full school evacuation.

Finally, we want to express our deepest gratitude to all of you who have reached out to check on us, all the first responders working tirelessly to keep us safe, and most specifically all the firefighters for their selfless dedication to our safety.  Thank you!

Leadership Transitions Announced at Eagle Rock

September 4, 2020

Dear Eagle Rock Community,

I’m writing to share that I will be retiring as head of Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center this school year.  As I enter my 21st year at Eagle Rock and 9th as head, I’ve been reflecting on just what an honor it has been to live and work side by side with such brilliant, courageous, curious, and committed students and staff.  And while it has been an absolutely amazing journey, the time has come and Nannette and I are now looking forward to our next chapter together — our “Life After Eagle Rock.”

It has truly been an honor to evolve the vision that Tom Dean, the late Mr. Makoto Itabashi, and founding Head of School, Robert Burkhardt imagined so many years ago.  I’m certain I’ve learned more than I’ve contributed, and I have been touched deeply and changed permanently by so many over my time.  I want to thank our students, staff, parents and sponsors, and the Board of Directors for trusting me and giving me the opportunity to serve.  It has truly been a life changing experience.

I feel really good about where Eagle Rock now stands and am ready to step aside as the next generation of leadership takes the wheel.  We have a strong team and the Board’s plan is a solid one.  As a society, we are living in a very important time.  The pandemic is calling into question the status quo and the racial awakening is transforming the conversation in this country.  The time is ripe for innovation and transformation and the future is bright for Eagle Rock!

As for me, I will miss life on campus – the laughter, the tears of joy and some of sorrow; the fierce competition of intramurals; the aikido grapples in the dojo, the hours of deep conversation; the elusive challenge of getting engagement just right; and the inspiration that comes from being in the company of people so deeply committed to this work and their own transformation.

Finally, there’s a lot of work to do in this upcoming year and I look forward to supporting a smooth transition.  I’m more optimistic than ever about the promise of Eagle Rock and in these challenging times, our mission is at least as important as the day we were founded.  Thank you all, and I look forward to a great final year.

In gratitude,

Jeff Liddle, Head of School



September 4, 2020

Dear Eagle Rock Community,

American Honda Education Corporation is pleased to announce the appointment of Megan Trudy Rebeiro as Head of School at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center, in Estes Park, Colorado, effective January 2021. Megan will succeed Jeff Liddle, who is retiring this year after over twenty years of exemplary service.

Megan’s experience with Eagle Rock is rich, deep, and diverse, starting in the mid-90’s when she graduated from the school. Since then, Megan has been a sponsor of many Eagle Rock students, has been a guest instructor, and has taken the lessons she learned here and applied those to numerous educational and leadership positions she has held across the country.  Megan returned to Eagle Rock in 2016 to serve as the Director of Students.  During that time, she restructured Student Services to better facilitate a 360˚ approach to student support. Megan was also responsible for the strategic implementation of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work and in that capacity, she has provided transformational leadership.  In her current role as Associate Head of School, Megan has been working closely with the Board of Directors and Jeff Liddle on completion of  organizational priorities such as the Vision 2020 plan and the launch of our current focus areas. Megan brings boundless energy and an embodied commitment to young people.

With over 15 years in educational leadership, Megan is well-positioned to assume the Headship.  She started working in education in San Francisco in 1999 as an AmeriCorps Fellow, and continued her work in schools, non-profits, local community programs, and some of the largest, and well-respected youth programs across the country. Megan has served young people in roles ranging from teacher and coach to curriculum designer and school leader.  Megan holds a Bachelor’s Degree from University of Massachusetts and a Master’s Degree from Boston University.

Megan lives on campus with her partner, Tara, their 16-year-old daughter, Keeilah, and their two dogs, Olive and KuMi. Megan’s journey proves that Eagle Rock graduates are prepared to make a difference in the world, and we are thrilled to now call her our next Head of School!


Rich Richardson, Board President, American Honda Education Corporation


WoBistDude: Interview on the Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center ft. Chelsea Ehret

How did you find out about the Eagle Rock School and why did you decide to get involved?

After I finished my master’s degree and moved to the state of Colorado from Germany, I decided to become a high school science teacher. I found Eagle Rock through their offering of a certified Colorado Department of Education teacher licensure program, which is a part of their professional development mission. Along with a handful of other programs in the state, it allows a person to pursue a teaching certificate through an alternative licensing process instead of going back to school. It’s a training program that you do on-the-job to become a teacher. I decided to join Eagle Rock’s community after learning about the unique offering they have to become a teacher through a highly supportive mentorship program, the opportunity to learn and put into practice alternative education, and the residential school setting which is in the mountains outside of Estes Park near Rocky Mountain National Park.

Could you talk about the school values and how they serve to guide the overall design of the school?

Eagle Rock is a completely value-driven school. A fundamental philosophy, “Eight Plus Five Equals Ten,” has been a part Eagle Rock since its inception. The eight themes serve as guideposts for the overall school design. These themes are monitored by the school’s leadership team to ensure that they are alive and well in the school. The five expectations serve as the organizing framework for our academic program. Students have to demonstrate proficiency in each of the five expectations prior to graduation. The ten commitments are the values our students are striving to internalize as they live the experience of Eagle Rock. Here are each of those in a graphic:

Could you give us an example of how proficiency in any one of these values would be demonstrated by a student?

As you might have noticed, these values can be reflected in many different ways. Students are encouraged to develop all of these values in ways that truly reflects their best self. A few things that I’ve witnessed students practice often at Eagle Rock are daily morning exercise routines and “gate runs.” The hilly road down to the gate of the road is about a 3-mile run, which students are expected to complete 2x per week in the morning before breakfast. Students also become leaders in the community and through those leadership roles they definitely exhibit many Eagle Rock values. There are endless opportunities for students (and staff) to align their actions with these values, and I think the emphasis on these values leads to lifelong impacts for everyone who has been a part of this community.

What was your own school experience (kindergarten-grade 12) like and how does the Eagle Rock School differ. Or what are the major ways that this system differs from the typical American public-school system classroom?

Growing up, I went to public schools in different parts of the country, including urban and rural settings, and the way that I learned to succeed in school (stay quiet, listen to the teacher, follow the rules) doesn’t always translate to success in real life. University level education helped me break out of some of those patterns, but I still felt frustrated by the end of my time in school because even with my academic success, school still failed me in a lot of ways. Eagle Rock has an entirely different approach to thinking about and doing education. At Eagle Rock, learning is recognized as an integral part of life and something that happens all the time, every day and doesn’t have to be restricted to a specific environment, classroom or culture. School here is designed to be authentic, meaning that learnings can be applied to real life and will contribute to growth and future success. We don’t do school just because we have to. Explaining all of the differences between Eagle Rock and a typical American public school would take a response as lengthy as a book to explain. Simplifying an answer to this question, Eagle Rock is a community that operates through passion, compassion and love, and continuously challenges and creates new norms.

Colorado Eagle Rock
Late summer sunset over the Professional Development Center – the main office hub at the school

What does it take to be a teacher or instructor at this school?

You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. In my experience, becoming a teacher alone has been one of the biggest challenges of my life, but doing it at a place like Eagle Rock has simultaneously put me face-to-face with all the best and worst parts about myself. You have to be ready to dig deep into learning about your identity and how that interacts with and impacts others. When it comes to the instructional aspects of working at Eagle Rock, you should be ready to throw out most of what you think you know about education. Eagle Rock definitely has opened my eyes to new and exciting ways to be an educator, as well as shown me the not-so-perfect side to education.

What is your responsibility as an instructor?

Grossly oversimplifying, my main responsibility as the Science/Math Instructional Fellow is to provide learning opportunities for students through classes alongside co-teachers. Most of my focus is on planning and teaching classes while also going through the Colorado state licensure program to continue growing in my practice as a teacher. It’s important to note that my position as a Public Allies Fellow also means that I have a large variety of responsibilities connected to leadership, growth, and community involvement. Working at Eagle Rock also means that I’m automatically a member of a community and choosing to be an active member of this community is a really important part of the job for me. I’m a part of a house team (students live in houses and all staff are also associated to one of the houses), play a role in student advisory, take part in weekly intramurals (before the pandemic), and have evening duty shifts (also before the pandemic).

Could you talk about the orientation, this 24 day isolated wilderness experience that students have to undertake?

I think this might be one of the most intriguing parts of Eagle Rock and something that I’ll always share because it helps people understand the priorities and values of the school more deeply. At the beginning of each trimester, new students come to campus for only the first week, and then leave for their New Student Orientation – which is a 24-day wilderness trip. Throughout this journey, students are backpacking in a wilderness area in the western U.S. and learning backpacking skills, but importantly intensely focusing on group dynamics and self-reflection. The trip includes a “solo” in which students spend 3 days alone with minimal contact to other people. I’ve witnessed students bring back things from wilderness such as conflict resolution skills and techniques like “circles” as well as newfound confidence in who they are. Students also come back knowing one other better than most know them – spending extended amounts of time in the wilderness as a group brings out the rawest forms of people. Knowing how my own experience submerged in nature impacted me, I’m sure that these wilderness orientations leave a profound impact on the students that complete them.

A view of the science building and Shaman (the mountain) after an October snow

What kind of changes have you seen the students at Eagle rock go through as a result of their experience there?

I can’t pull this from my own personal experience because I haven’t had the opportunity to watch a student from their first trimester all the way to graduation, so my perspective is piggy-backing a lot off of the reflections of long-term staff that I work with. Students are spending their late teen – early adult years at Eagle Rock, which are usually very dynamic times in people’s lives and decisions made during this time can arguably have a higher impact on life trajectories than other times in our lives. Eagle Rock provides so many different opportunities for students to grow and learn in ways that they can highly personalize to their own lives and allows students to use that time to set their own trajectory. Some systemic and personal factors that would have impacted a student before they came to Eagle Rock can be mitigated in ways that wasn’t possible before, and the brilliance of the individual shines brighter than ever before. I have witnessed students graduate recently who have so many amazing characteristics and talents that range from advocating for themselves and others, practicing a growth-mindset, or being amazing artists and musicians. I don’t necessarily give Eagle Rock all of the credit for the successes of these students, but I know the school providing the opportunities that it does makes a huge difference.

If people are curious and want to either learn more or get involved with Eagle Rock School, where can they go to learn more?

All of these answers are based on my own personal experience, and everyone will have their own view and perspective about an experience at Eagle Rock. If you want to learn more go to If you’re interested in their awesome year-long fellowship program, visit

Eagle Rock – Public Allies 2019-2020 Fellows

Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center is a full-service not-for-profit educational reform organization. Eagle Rock operates a tuition-free, year-round residential high school in Estes Park, Colorado, and provides professional development services at school and community sites around the United States.

Dear Eagle Rock Community

Para ver esta información en español, por favor ver al final de esta sección

Dear Eagle Rock Community,

We have witnessed the deaths of Black Americans including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others who have been targeted because of their skin color. This is horrific and unquestionably wrong. Period.  These tragedies go against everything we stand for. We denounce this violence with every cell in our bodies. The pain, hurt, frustration, and anger felt by countless Americans, but especially communities of color must be acknowledged.

The recent events have left the Eagle Rock community reeling — we are angry and sad, yet determined. We are committed to stand for justice for as long as it takes. The call is for everyone in the ERS community to stand in solidarity with the Black Community. We call for justice.


Your voice matters. We hear you. We see you feeling, learning, questioning and taking action. Each of you has something to contribute to our community and world because of your own unique lived experiences. Artists, make art. Speakers, speak out. Question everything. Wherever you are and whatever it is that you do, we invite you to use what is in your reach to get educated and educate others. We must choose to learn the lessons these times are delivering to us; we have a sacred obligation to equip ourselves with the knowledge of history in today’s reality.

Knowledge is power. Continue to have courageous conversations with others and within our community. Take action, in big and small ways. If you can, GO VOTE.  The time for change is now. We need politicians that reflect our values of antiracism and justice, and we need necessary laws to be put in place. This is how we practice the arts of citizenship and democratic living. We invite you to organize, stay alert, and stay focused. Most importantly, stay alive.

Eagle Rock is committed to fighting injustice through education and advocacy. We stand united in love with an uncompromising commitment to justice.

Embodying our Eagle Rock values and commitments is how we fight racism and seek justice in the world.

Living in respectful harmony means we cannot be silent.

Living in respectful harmony means supporting oppressed people.

Living in respectful harmony means fighting for justice for all.

Living in respectful harmony means Black Lives Matter.

Love, Light, Leadership, Power, and Freedom,

Megan Rebeiro, Nia Dawson, Jesse Tovar, Beth Ellis, Sarah Bertucci, and Jeff Liddle

In solidarity with Eagle Rock staff:  Amelia la Plante Horne, Anastacia M. Galloway Reed, Annie Kelston, Aspacelia Geranios, Brett Youngerman, Burt Bowles, Carlos Perez, Cedric Josey, Chelsea Ehret, Chris Lamar, Christi Kelston, Christopher Iafrati, Courthney Russell, Jr., Cynthia Elkins, Dan B. Marigny Jr., Dan Condon, Dan Madson, Diana Rusin, Ed Perry, Eliza Wicks-Arshack, Elizabeth Rivera, Janet Johnson, Jesse Tovar, Joan Cordova, Jocelyn Rodriguez, John Marshall, Josán Perales, L’Tanya Perkins, Laila Hosseinzadeh, Lucía Sicius, Mary Loomis, Michelle Franco, Nannette Chisholm, Sandy Rivera, Sara Benge, Shortz Ziegler, Stephany Subdiaz, Susan D’Amico, Terry Tierney, Tommy McAree, Travis Burhart


Estimada comunidad de Eagle Rock:
Hemos sido testigos de la muerte de muchos afroamericanos, incluyendo a George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor y muchos otros que han sido agredidos por el color de su piel. Esto es horrible e indudablemente incorrecto.  Estas tragedias van en contra de todo lo que representamos. Denunciamos esta violencia con cada célula de nuestros cuerpos. Hay que reconocer el dolor, sufrimiento, frustración y enojo que sienten innumerables estadounidenses, pero especialmente las comunidades de color.
Los eventos recientes han dejado a la comunidad de Eagle Rock en choque: estamos enojados y tristes, pero al mismo tiempo determinados. Estamos comprometidos a defender la justicia por el tiempo que sea necesario. El llamado es de que todos en la comunidad ERS se solidaricen con la Comunidad Negra. Hacemos un llamado a que se haga justicia!
¡Basta ya!
Tu voz importa. Te oímos. Te vemos sintiendo, aprendiendo, cuestionando y tomando medidas. Cada uno de ustedes tiene algo que aportar a nuestras comunidades y al mundo gracias a sus experiencias únicas. Artistas, hagan arte. Oradores, compartan su mensaje. Cuestionen todo. Estés donde estés y hagas lo que hagas, te invitamos a usar lo que esté a tu alcance para educarte y educar a otros. Debemos escoger de aprender de las lecciones que estos tiempos nos están dando; tenemos la sagrada obligación de equiparnos con el conocimiento que da la historia para entender la realidad que nos rodea hoy día.
El conocimiento es poder. Continúen teniendo conversaciones valientes con otros y dentro de nuestra comunidad. Tomen medidas, de manera grande o pequeña. Si puedes, VOTA. El tiempo de cambio es ahora. Necesitamos políticos y leyes que reflejen nuestros valores de antirracismo y justicia. Así es como practicamos el arte de ser ciudadanos democráticos. Te invitamos a organizar, permanecer alerta y concentrado. Y sobre todo a que te, mantengas vivo.
Eagle Rock se compromete a combatir la injusticia a través de la educación. Estamos unidos en el amor, con un compromiso inquebrantable por la justicia.
Encarnando nuestros valores y compromisos de Eagle Rock es cómo luchamos contra el racismo y buscamos la justicia en el mundo.
Vivir en armonía respetuosa significa que no podemos estar en silencio.
Vivir en armonía respetuosa significa apoyar a las personas oprimidas.
Vivir en armonía respetuosa significa luchar por la justicia para todos.
Vivir en armonía respetuosa significa Las Vidas Negras Importan (Black Lives Matter).

Amor, Luz, Liderazgo, Poder, y Libertad,

Megan Rebeiro, Nia Dawson, Jesse Tovar, Beth Ellis, Sarah Bertucci y Jeff Liddle

En solidaridad con el personal de Eagle Rock:  Amelia la Plante Horne, Anastacia M. Galloway Reed, Annie Kelston, Aspacelia Geranios, Brett Youngerman, Burt Bowles, Carlos Perez, Cedric Josey, Chelsea Ehret, Chris Lamar, Christi Kelston, Christopher Iafrati, Courthney Russell, Jr., Cynthia Elkins, Dan B. Marigny Jr., Dan Condon, Dan Madson, Diana Rusin, Ed Perry, Eliza Wicks-Arshack, Elizabeth Rivera, Janet Johnson, Jesse Tovar, Joan Cordova, Jocelyn Rodriguez, John Marshall, Josán Perales, L’Tanya Perkins, Laila Hosseinzadeh, Lucía Sicius, Mary Loomis, Michelle Franco, Nannette Chisholm, Sandy Rivera, Sara Benge, Shortz Ziegler, Stephany Subdiaz, Susan D’Amico, Terry Tierney, Tommy McAree, Travis Burhart



Dear Eagle Rock Community/Estimada comunidad de Eagle Rock

Para ver esta información en español, por favor ver al final de esta sección

Dear Eagle Rock Community,

As we watch the nation and world confront the reality of systemic racism, we want to acknowledge that we also have work to do here. Eagle Rock, too, is examining our past to identify experiences that need reconciliation. When former community members speak out about their painful experiences on our campus, we must take a deeper look. We’re committed to following up on these issues. We want to confront our past — it’s the only way to build a new future. 

Our first job is to listen and then to take action to continue the work to dismantle the horrific legacies of racism and sexism. We are committed to our diversity, equity, and inclusion work that has been our organizational priority for the past two years. It will continue to be our priority for as long as it takes to manifest a just and equitable community. This work is uprooting hundreds of years of oppression and is critical, messy, and necessary. We don’t want to hide from our past — we want to listen, learn, repair, and grow. 

You have our commitment that all of these concerns get reviewed and have follow-up. Culture change happens when we name that racism or sexism has occurred when we compassionately support healing of those who have been harmed, and when people are held accountable for the harm they have caused. This has been and will continue to be our process. Eagle Rock will not tolerate racism or sexism in our community. We will look into all matters past and present. If you have any questions, comments or need to express a concern please reach out to Jeff Liddle, Head of School, or any member of leadership: Megan Rebeiro, Nia Dawson, Jesse Tovar, Sarah Bertucci, and Beth Ellis. 


Estimada comunidad de Eagle Rock:

Mientras observamos a la nación y al mundo confrontar la realidad del racismo sistémico, queremos reconocer que también tenemos trabajo que hacer aquí. Eagle Rock también está examinando nuestro pasado para identificar experiencias que necesitan reconciliación. Cuando los ex-miembros de la comunidad hablan sobre sus experiencias dolorosas en nuestro campus, debemos escucharlos más profundamente. Estamos comprometidos a realizar un seguimiento de estos problemas. Queremos confrontar nuestro pasado: es la única forma de construir un nuevo futuro. 

Nuestro primer trabajo es escuchar y luego tomar medidas para continuar con el trabajo de deconstruir los horrendos legados de racismo y sexismo. Estamos comprometidos con nuestro trabajo de diversidad, equidad e inclusión que ha sido nuestra prioridad organizacional durante los últimos dos años. Seguirá siendo nuestra prioridad tanto tiempo como sea necesario para manifestar una comunidad justa y equitativa. Este trabajo está arraigando en cientos de años de opresión. El trabajo es crítico y extremamente necesario. No queremos escondernos de nuestro pasado, queremos escuchar, aprender, reparar, y crecer. 

Tienen nuestro compromiso de que todas estas inquietudes se revisen y tengan seguimiento. Históricamente el cambio cultural ocurre cuando se nombra lo que ha ocurrido en relación con el racismo o el sexismo, cuando apoyamos con compasión la curación de aquellos que han sido perjudicados, y cuando las personas son responsables por el daño que han causado. Este ha sido y seguirá siendo nuestro proceso. Eagle Rock no tolerará el racismo o el sexismo en nuestra comunidad. Analizaremos todos los asuntos pasados ​​y presentes. Si tiene alguna pregunta, comentario o necesita expresar una inquietud, comuníquese con Jeff Liddle, el director de la escuela, o cualquier otro miembro del equipo de liderazgo: Megan Rebeiro, Nia Dawson, Jesse Tovar, Sarah Bertucci y Beth Ellis. 

Eagle Rock’s Update on Preparation and Response to COVID-19

The health of Eagle Rock students and staff is a primary focus of ours. As we monitor the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease-2019), we are writing to keep you apprised of the actions and policies we are enacting to keep students and our staff protected.

In response to the rapidly changing COVID-19 circumstances — and in consultation with state and national agencies — we have placed restrictions on student and staff travel, as well as on visitors to our campus in Estes Park. We’ve also increased our diligence around campus in the areas of cleaning and sanitizing, and we’ve mounted a campaign to encourage hand washing and even healthier habits.

With all of this in mind, students returned home on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 with a plan for supporting remote learning so they can stay on track with their academic progress while at home as we wrap up our winter trimester.  

At this time, we anticipate starting the summer trimester as previously planned — on May 11. We expect before that time, that a lot more will be known about COVID-19, including whether our summer trimester start date will hold.

We are very grateful for the strength and togetherness of the Eagle Rock community. These are difficult times and we appreciate our community’s understanding and flexibility as we sort through this uncharted territory. We’ve been through tough times before, and without fail, they teach us important lessons and strengthen our resolve. The health and wellbeing of students and staff is one of our highest priorities and we’re holding that at the center of our decision-making.  

Eagle Rock Continues Partnership With The Robert R. McCormick Foundation’s Democracy Schools

The Professional Development Center at Eagle Rock will continue education renewal work in Illinois in collaboration with the Robert R. McCormick Foundation’s Democracy Schools.  On November 21, Eagle Rock will facilitate Instructional Rounds with Democracy Schools at West Aurora School District 129 in Aurora, Illinois

Instructional rounds are a disciplined way for educators to work together to improve practice.  This combines three common elements of improvement: observations, an improvement strategy, and a network of educators.  Many educators currently use one or more of these elements, often with some success. It’s the combination of elements that are most powerful.  It’s hard to dislodge familiar habits and behaviors that serve different purposes, the most ingrained of which are supervision and evaluation.

Instructional rounds contrast with supervision and evaluation on a number of dimensions, the first of which is learning.  Rounds are an inquiry process. People doing round should expect to learn something themselves. In supervision and evaluation, only the person being observed is expected to learn.  Participants in rounds emphasize the learning they do as observers. Rounds are NOT about “fixing” individual teachers. Rounds are about understanding what’s happening in schools, how we as a system produce those effects, and how we can move closer to producing the learning we want to see.

Rounds are fundamentally descriptive and analysis, not evaluative.  At no point in rounds do we declare what we see to be “good” or “bad” or something we “like” or “don’t like.”  Observers don’t tell the observed what to do next to improve. However, observers do think about the “next level of work” or what the school could do to make progress toward solving their problem of practice.

Getting Smart Podcast: Dan Condon on Eagle Rock School and PD Center

Something wasn’t working about high school. Either they were brilliant and bored or addicted and homeless. Eagle Rock School is a residential high school for young people not well-matched with their prior school.

Located on a square mile of mountain wilderness in Estes Park Colorado, Eagle Rock is a project of American Honda.

Students apply to the tuition-free school with the support of an adult sponsor. Students enter before the age of 18 and spend at least two years on campus.

Eagle Rock learners start with a three-week wilderness experience (watch the trailer of a documentary). For most students, the interpersonal dynamics are even more challenging than the outdoor experiences.

There are eight themes that serve as guideposts for the overall school design. Four related to individual integrity: intellectual discipline, physical fitness, spiritual development, and aesthetic expressions. Four relate to citizenship: service to others, cross-cultural understanding, democratic governance, and environmental stewardship.

There is no scope or sequence but there are five expectations that guide course and project design: developing an expanding knowledge base, communicating effectively, creating and making healthy life choices, participating as an engaged global citizen, and providing leadership for justice.

A series of interdisciplinary projects are organized into trimesters. All students engage in maker and art experiences. Students track their progress as an individual learning plan. They petition to graduate when they’re ready to demonstrate proficiency in each of the five expectations.

Eagle Rock students live in six student houses. They meet weekly with their advisor to discuss a mix of personal and academic topics. In a residential facility, there is a lot of shoulder-to-shoulder advising.

Students have a voice at Eagle Rock–both in their course of study and in how the place is run. They sit in on staff meetings and disciplinary actions, they help to hire staff and teach classes.

Dan Condon came to Eagle Rock as an intern in 1995. He returned in 2002 leading a fellowship program. Today, Condon leads the professional development center which provides pro bono experiences based on the Eagle Rock model. They serve as school change consultants to clients coast to coast using a mixture of improvement science and design thinking.

Key Takeaways:
[:56] How did a kid from Wisconsin arrive in Estes Park, Colorado?
[2:07] Dan speaks about his career journey after he first arrived at Eagle Rock School.
[3:03] Dan speaks about what the learner experience is like at Eagle Rock.
[6:02] Dan describes the academic program at Eagle Rock.
[6:36] Dan talks about the advisory program at Eagle Rock.
[7:33] Dan speaks about the unique experience new students do in the first trimester once they arrive at Eagle Rock.
[8:27] Dan’s experience working with kids who are not experienced campers and what he thinks they gain from such an experience.
[8:52] About the opportunities for expression in the arts at Eagle Rock and why it is so important.
[9:27] How and when do students graduate from Eagle Rock?
[10:15] How is the school program is organized? And how long do the students attend?
[10:21] Dan speaks about the various courses that are offered at the school and how the curriculum is organized.
[11:06] How much voice and choice do students get at Eagle Rock in terms of what they can study?
[12:11] Dan speaks about the professional learning practice that he runs.
[13:45] Do they work with any big, traditional public schools that are trying to embrace some of their practices?
[14:36] Is Dan encouraged by what he sees happening with American education? And is he seeing more educators and schools adopting some of the practices that they’ve honed here at Eagle Rock?
[16:01] How is Eagle Rock paving the way for learner-centered environments… and why you should come down to visit the school for yourself!
[17:47] Tom and Jessica wrap up this week’s episode!

Mentioned in This Episode:
Eagle Rock School
Dan Condon
Public Allies
All Who Dare (Documentary, 2018)
Big Picture Learning

Forbes – 11 Alternative Schools That Are Real Alternatives

Tom Vander Ark,
Health Leadership High School in Albuquerque.

Health Leadership High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

High school is tough for a lot of kids. The trudge through disconnected courses that seem irrelevant. The social scene is debilitating. Life challenges may include food and shelter insecurity. This combination of challenges, boredom, frustration, and social humiliation is more than they can take. Some ultimately drop out or look for an alternative.

Trying to push all kids through a content-centric, compliance-oriented model just won’t work. A variety of alternative approaches have been attempted. Following are a few approaches educators have to develop for youth that haven’t been successful in traditional schools.

Ten years ago, many of us were hopeful about blended alternative high school programs—but (like credit recovery programs before them) many of those half-day, sit in a computer lab and click through online content learning experiences turned out to be boring and not very effective. There are still a handful of regional chains operating these kinds of programs, but many are under attack given weak performance (even considering growth).

The best of blends are typically not more than 50% online, feature small group, teacher-led instruction, real world connections, and strong youth and family supports.

Today In: Leadership

Engaging Alternatives 

Bronx Arena High School serves over-aged, under-credited youth who have dropped out or are not on track to graduate; these are typical characteristics of a transfer school in NYC. The small, relationship-based school (with no more than 200 students) partners with nonprofit SCO for youth and family services. Each student is paired with an advocate counselor, who provides guidance and support for individual goal setting in the personalized, self-paced environment.

Boston Day and Evening Academy is a student-centered, competency-based school where students progress based on demonstrated mastery rather than seat time. Enrollment begins with an intensive orientation including post-secondary planning. Groups of about 18 students spend time every day with an advisor. Students benefit from wraparound services and a school open 12 hours a day. Teachers use a variety of digital tools that help create a personalized approach. The school year includes breaks for community-connected projects (see feature).

Health Leadership High School in Albuquerque is a small project-based high school for students not well served by traditional schools. The hands-on, community connected, project-based school prepares young people to become community health advocates and leaders in the healthcare industry.

Each summer the staff solicits project ideas from community health providers. Most students work on three per day. Every project must have deliverables valuable to the community. Students meet with their advisor for an hour each day, where they check in on projects and build social and emotional skills using asset-based resources. Students also participate in a paid internship (see feature).

ACE Leadership High School, an affiliate of Health Leadership in Albuquerque, serves about 400 students who have already or were on their way to dropping out of high school. The project-based approach provides authentic and meaningful learning experiences for young people who love to design and build things and want to become leaders in the construction profession (see feature).

Liberty Academy, north of Kansas City, organizes learning in six-week bursts of interest-based learning often connected to one of 100 community partners. Students set goals in about four success skills during each burst. Teachers in this competency-based school help students to document their growth weekly.

Integrated Supports

RISE High, a program of DaVinci Schools, serves the unique needs of Los Angeles youth   navigating foster care, housing instability, probation, or other circumstances that have disrupted their academic journeys. The integrated flex-schedule, credit recovery model gives youth the voice and choice necessary to pursue their academic goals while honoring the responsibilities they have in their lives. Opened in 2016, RISE won an XQ grant.

RISE High works with a network of youth-development agencies, municipalities and support centers to provide counseling, case management, tutoring, job readiness training, career pathways, internships, extracurricular opportunities, leadership development, and more. RISE sites are co-located with service providers across the city.

Eagle Rock (@EagleRockSchool) in Estes Park, Colorado (above), an initiative of American Honda, is both a tuition-free private residential high school and a professional development center for educators (and a very cool place to visit). There are five expectations that guide course and project design: developing an expanding knowledge base, communicating effectively, creating and making healthy life choices, participating as an engaged global citizen, and providing leadership for justice.

High Dose Tutoring

Brooklyn LAB personalizes learning with a next-gen platform and two hours of small group tutoring daily (see feature). The middle and high school serves students in the heart of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. While not considered an alternative school, about 40% of LAB learners have complex needs. Opened in 2017, the high school won an XQ grant.

Fusion Academy, founded in Solano Beach, California, is a network of 52 one-on-one private schools educating middle and high school students with particular attention to social-emotional learning.

Alternative Networks 

The Upstream Collaborative is a project led by Big Picture Learning and supported by the Stuart Foundation to redesign alternative education schools in California. This community of practice includes schools across the state classified as ‘alternative’ and supports strategies that offer students equitable access to deep and sustained learning.

Another Big Picture partnership in a high-challenge community is Vaux High School. Big Picture works with the School District of Philadelphia, the local housing authority, the teacher’s union, Community College of Philadelphia, and youth and family services. Ninth graders take a Real World Learning class to gain work-ready competencies and they start internships in tenth grade. Students present public products at exhibitions at the end of each semester.

The Internationals Network for Public Schools serves immigrant youth who are new to learning the English language. The 29-school network integrates language development and academic content while building student and family capacity for integration into American society (featured on CompetencyWorks and EdSource).