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!

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.  

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).

Independent School Magazine – School News: Documentary Follows Students Through Their Orientation Journey

All Who Dare

Before joining Eagle Rock School (CO), students are tested. Though probably not in the way you think. 

As the recent documentary All Who Dare showcases, each cohort of new students leaves behind their families, friends, and familiar environments for a 24-day orientation program in the remote wilderness. 

Eagle Rock, a tuition-free, residential high school, is committed to helping the most disengaged students find their way back to an appreciation of education. For many students, it’s a last chance to find educational success. The school is an initiative of the American Honda Education Corporation, a nonprofit subsidiary of the American Honda Motor Co., Inc. 

Honda and Eagle Rock were looking for unique opportunities to showcase the school’s 24-day wilderness experience and landed on the idea of a documentary film. All Who Dare—also the school’s motto—follows nine incoming Eagle Rock students who embarked on the orientation trip in Colorado’s Lost Creek Wilderness in May 2016. Guided by experienced wilderness educators, the students are challenged physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. They quickly learn that completing the trip is only the first step in taking responsibility for their lives.

Pictured: The documentary debuted in September 2017 at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. It continues to be shown across the country. Courtesy of Eagle Rock School (CO)

Local Memphis – WEB EXTRA: A Look At The New Crosstown High School

MEMPHIS, Tenn. ( – The new Crosstown High finally opened its doors to their inaugural freshman class this week. According to Principal Chandra Sledge Mathias, students can look forward to a curriculum-based around partnerships with over 40 local businesses within Crosstown Concourse.

“The partners in this building are really excited about working with our students, which is incredible because we’re not having to beg people to work with teenagers. They’re open to that and they’re excited about sharing what they’ve learned in their professions with our students,” says Mathias.

The staff at Crosstown High is thinking outside the box when it comes to their project-based learning curriculum. “Our teachers are developing curriculum and they’re working with partners at MIT and Eagle Rock Professional Development Center in Colorado. We have a support team that’s really helpful when we’re thinking about how do we take these innovative projects and make sure there’s still a deeper learning aspect,” says Mathias.

Parents beware. Crosstown High’s first freshman class of 150 was selected from a lottery of over 300 applicants. The already popular school will be enrolling an additional 3 freshman classes over the next 3 years until they arrive at capacity.

If you’d like to learn more about Crosstown High, CLICK HERE.

Estes Park Trail Gazette – 25 years of learning at Eagle Rock School

By Nic WackerlyTrail-Gazette

As Eagle Rock School celebrates their 25 years of learning, they have reflected on the key learnings experienced with both the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center.

“We have been in a reflective mode in the last year, just in terms of what have we learned in the last 25 years,” Head of School Jeff Liddle said. “We have done that internally with some of our staff and leadership team and we did an alumni survey, … plus some exercises we have done with the board of directors.”

It is through this reflection that Eagle Rock School was able to generate a long list of learnings that have occurred over the past 25 years. This was then boiled down to a list of ten learning from the Eagle Rock School and five from the Professional Development Center.

American Honda President Toshiaki Mikoshiba and Eagle Rock Head of School Jeff Liddle break ground on new faculty housing.

American Honda President Toshiaki Mikoshiba and Eagle Rock Head of School Jeff Liddle break ground on new faculty housing. (Courtesy Photo)

“We are a small school of 72 students, boarding year round, so we learn a lot from working with those students who have been underserved in other schools and not successful, part of the reason we do that is to directly serve those students and give them an education,” Liddle said. “The other reason we do it is because we have a professional development center that works with schools all over the country and our work with these students helps us stay grounded in challenging issues and really learn about that.”

The ten lessons derived from working with students at Eagle Rock School include: a shared culture, engaging the disengaged, asking more of your students, the art of civic engagement, students taking ownership of their own learning and development, a holistic approach to growth, developing trusting relationships, embracing differences in people and in thought, a sense of community and the voice of a student has value in teacher development.

Just reading through the ten lessons gives one an understanding of what is important to Eagle Rock School. One very unique feature is the holistic approach to growth. This starts for students during their first trimester at Eagle Rock School.

“There is an integration or orientation to the school culture that helps people from the beginning understand ‘oh I signed up for something that is more than what it was like at my public school,’ and the 24 day wilderness trip really is the beginning of that,” Liddle said.

After being at school for around a week, the new students go on a 24 day wilderness trip where they have a holistic experience. Students take their intellectual experience from the classroom and recognize what they do not have an understanding of or need help with from instructors or peers through the immersive wilderness experience. It allows the student to create a framework for when they are in the next challenging situation, Liddle said.

Civic engagement is another key learning that is a major focus at Eagle Rock School.

“High school education should not just provide technical opportunity, in other words, I can be prepared for college, be prepared for the workforce, but…if we are in a democratic society we need to know how to operate inside that context,” Liddle said. “For us, it has to do with student voice and allowing for different opportunities for students to have a voice inside our community.”

Students at Eagle Rock School run gatherings, have input on hirings and policies and discipline, Liddle said. There is also a community service point of civic engagement, where service is integrated into the academic program, including working with students at Estes Park Elementary School through tutoring Spanish and English.

Over the last 25 years, there has also been key learning from the Professional Development Center.

“Through our Professional Development Center we are working with other schools that are typically underfunded, underserved and underresourced, around the country who are dealing with a similar demographic, we have a different kind of credibility with those schools because we are doing the work on our own school,” Liddle said.

The five lessons from the Professional Development Center deal with their experiences supporting other school around the country. These include context is everything, learning from the inside out, focus matters, asset-based approaches stick and inspiration is an ongoing pursuit.

Learning from the inside out has been an important key for the Professional Development Center. The work that they do is job-embedded or work based, where they go into a school and look at what a school is already doing and facilitate different protocols to help strengthen what the school does well, Liddle said.

Focus matters has also been a big piece for the Professional Development Center. They have learned that they are most effective and have the most impact when they focus on the implementation stage of change, and making sure what they do sticks well. Part of that is another key learning: inspiration is an ongoing pursuit. The Professional Development Center has found that the schools they work with need continued support to help implement changes and make sure they stick, Liddle said.

Even though Eagle Rock School has been reflecting on the last 25 years, they are excited about what the future will bring.

“We are working on a campus master plan, the idea there is to build some more buildings, they are mostly faculty housing,” Liddle said. “That is going to help us programmatically, we want more people on campus working and living in the community, it also helps us with the affordable, accessible housing issue and to recruit and retain a really diverse staff.”

Through the Professional Development Center, the future is focused on exploring networking through technology to try practices with multiple schools instead of just at Eagle Rock School, Liddle said.