Thursday, March 04, 2010

Professional Development Center and Grad Nation

The Professional Development Center at Eagle Rock School has been working through networks and organizations, bringing together schools in large numbers who are working with disenfranchised youth. We see General Powell's Grad Nation campaign as part of the mission we have been working on for the past 17 years.

Read more at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center for the role we play.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Anger, Blame and Organizational Priorities

In a previous post, I mentioned two educators who widely share their materials on quality professional development. Their blogs show off some nice clips of their own professional development sessions. Meanwhile, I still have photos on my digital camera because I'm not sure how to download them onto my computer (more importantly, I'm never sure where these photos go when I download them or how to manage the files into logical categories). You will notice no nice clips on this blog. Using and integrating technology is not my area of expertise and I'm not always clear on how to direct my own learning in this area.

Recently, I filmed our instructors teaching lessons and wanted to post the video on a school server for other teachers to view. I spent hours one weekend trying to transfer the film from a camera to my laptop and then trying to move that clip to the server. These were hours confronting the difference between compressed and uncompressed film and learning that my conversions to Quick Time only pick up what is in my project library in iMovie. I couldn't transfer film to the server and didn't know how to manipulate the film I was importing. I wanted to toss the camera and laptop in the nearest trash bin, as I experienced the equivalent of road rage.

I wish I had been more reflective in that moment and thought -- "hey, it's my fault trying to do something on the weekend when no one is around to help and I probably should have listened better or taken better notes when I was instructed on how to do all this." those opportunities to reflect just go whooshing by. Instead, I ranted. I sent an email to a colleague complaining about the lack of technology support.

My wise and thoughtful colleague replied, "I'm sure that we all have a perspective on something that could/should work better. I guess the trick is continuing to explore those things with an eye toward the overall priorities. Some things will rise in importance and some we'll just have to live with as is. I do think that in the absence of any guiding principles with regard to organizational priorities, any one of us can become consumed with our own perspective."

He got me thinking about how any one who is experiencing any problem at any time could be prone, as I was, to wondering how others could improve. We operate always and automatically from our own self-interests and forget about the needs of others. How many teachers are teaching right now while I'm composing this blog wishing that I or my department were in their classroom helping them with their instruction, taking more time to provide feedback on their lesson plans or working on their behalf to gather resources they need to teach? I am learning to be more patient in getting my own needs met as well as empathetic about what others need.

Another point raised in my colleague's response, is that some of the frustration could be mitigated if we were all clearer on organizational priorities. That way we would know what is on the horizon for planned improvement and how we were all playing a part.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Take Leadership in School Reform

ACE Leadership High School seeks the founding instructional leader for a cutting edge small high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico

The New Mexico School for Architecture, Construction and Engineering (NMACE) will open in July 2010 and our goal is to name the Principal in June of the 2010. The Principal position is the most critical initial hire for the school and he/she is considered to be a co-founder of the institution who is chiefly responsible for further developing and ultimately implementing the vision of the school. Our goal is for ACE Leadership to be a catalyst for reform in New Mexico and across the country and the principal will be intimately involved with creating a strategy to make this happen.
The Principal will be a partner to the Executive Director who is chiefly responsible for the business operations of the school and public positioning of the institution as a leader in school reform. We envision a dynamic working relationship that leverages philanthropy, public-private partnerships with the construction industry, and relationships with policy makers to ensure a lasting impact of the school.
ACE Leadership has a three pronged strategy for change:
9-12 high school (325 students) focused on preparing low income young people of color to become leaders in the construction profession
Re-engagement Center (100 students) focused on providing industry specific coursework and support that prepares young adults who wish to re-engage in high school and transition to an apprenticeship upon graduation.
Professional Development Center that will ultimately replicate the ACE Leadership model, provide for the ongoing training needs of the staff and disseminate the best practice to others outside the institution.

Essential Facts: Opening July 2010 ∞ 430 students when fully developed ∞ Year round calendar ∞ six annual weeks of staff planning/training ∞ Competitive compensation and benefits ∞ Relocation expenses ∞ Sponsored by the Associated General Contractors, the most highly regarded Construction industry organization in the country ∞ small high school leadership experience and applied learning expertise are the key attributes for the position.

Contact: Tony Monfiletto, Executive Director New Mexico Building and Education Congress, (505) 573-4024,

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Participate in Student Exhibitions

We celebrate National Exhibition Month ( three times a year at the nationally recognized Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center ( located in Estes Park, Colorado.

At the end of our trimesters, Eagle Rock students prepare a presentation that displays evidence of their learning during that trimester. The presentations are made before members of the Eagle Rock community and a panel composed of guests who may be teachers, administrators, community members, representatives of participating school districts and higher education, and others who are interested in alternative assessment, education renewal & the progress of Eagle Rock School & our students.

Each student prepares for a 30-minute discussion of her/his learning: 15 minutes for a formal presentation and 15 minutes to answer questions from the panel.

Would you consider being a part of our panel for our winter/spring trimester? The Presentations of Learning will take place on Monday, April 5th and Tuesday, April 6th, 2010. We would be pleased to have you participate on a panel for a morning, an afternoon, or a full day. A reply form may be found here (print and return by mail or fax):

Because of the scheduling involved, we would like to have your reply by March 1, 2010. If the form is not returned by then, we will assume you are unable to join us for our celebration of learning this trimester. Additionally, we may be able to provide overnight accommodations and meals, with prior reservations made with Kelsey Glass ( )

Please learn more about our exhibitions here (including viewing video samples online):

We hope to see you in April in the Mountains!

Feel free to forward this email to other educators who may benefit from learning about schools that promote and celebrate exhibitions as a preferred form of student assessment!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spanish Instructional Specialist / Houseparent

Newest position avaialable at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center. It's a great place to work.

RESPONSIBILITIES: Instructor Component: Develop, implement, and oversee Spanish instruction, coordinate other part-time language instructors (historically we’ve offered Latin, French, Italian, and American Sign Language). Includes opportunity to expand current program; construct curriculum; co-teach interdisciplinary classes; draft and maintain a budget; and mentor a Public Allies fellow (teacher in training). Participate as part of the instructional team. Actively participate in other duties related to a residential, community oriented high school (leading evening and periodic weekend duty, playing intramurals, attending all school events, house parenting, leading an advisory, etc.). Review Eagle Rock's curriculum overview here:

House Parent Component: Depending upon availability move into house parent role (openings occur periodically, candidate would typically not become a house parent until after 1st year on staff). Role includes living in an apartment attached to student housing. Providing supervision and support to up to 8 female and 8 male students. Coordinate the house team consisting of 4 full time staff and 2 Public Allies Teaching Fellows. Review Eagle Rock's living village here:

QUALIFICATIONS: BS/BA required, 3 years previous experience in a high school language department with a wide variety of course designs and program models (i.e., Total Physical Response (TPR), Total Physical Response Storytelling (TPRS), the Natural Approach, immersion models, and / or the Communicative Approach). Native speakers are strongly encouraged to apply. Experience with interdisciplinary curriculum design, experiential education, project-based learning, and Understanding by Design process helpful. Experience embedding skill development through active-learning within the realm of authentic projects helpful. Excellent collaboration skills with teachers from other disciplines to supplement and enhance projects with language elements, instruction, themes, and products. Experience working with diverse populations including a mix of LGBTQ students; students from low and middle income backgrounds; students from suburban, urban, and rural settings; and students from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds all of whom have not found success in traditional educational settings. The successful candidate for this position will possess the following attributes: a deep love for high school students; demonstrated success in collaborative work with external and internal colleagues; adept interpersonal skills; a sense of humor; visionary thinking; a commitment to lifelong learning; and a realization that working at a residential school is more of a calling than a job.

COMPENSATION: Salary competitive based upon experience, excellent benefits, professional development support.

TO APPLY: Position open until filled. Start date August 30, 2010 with possible early start (Summer 2010). Send cover letter (please address 3 components of the job: instruction, community involvement, and house parenting in the letter), resume, 3 professional reference names & phone numbers, and a sample project-based learning experience to Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center, Attn: Spanish Language IS Search Committee, 2750 Notaiah Road, Estes Park, CO 80517 or email to No phone calls please. Eagle Rock School does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. Eagle Rock School proactively seeks a diverse workplace and therefore members of racial/ethnic minorities and other protected classes are encouraged to apply.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Twitter and Quality Professional Development

There has been a lot of talk about Twitter as a useful tool for educators. Some folks I follow on Twitter rave about their Professional Learning Network (PLN) and how they receive so much support from folks far and wide tweeting from the comfort of their laptops.

I do appreciate the tweets that provide a link to material that I find helpful. I’ve bookmarked (“favorited”) links on learning to podcast, making sense out of Google Wave and teaching a lesson on the Bill of Rights. Good stuff.

On the other hand, I look back at questions I "tweeted" to the amorphous group of educators – my PLN – and most just stay out there in the cloud. Looking at the past 20 questions I have posted, about 4 have received direct answers. I’ve asked about resources for counseling first-generation college goers, understanding response to intervention, looking for sources of classroom simulations and researching performance based assessments. No response. Perhaps they were tweeted at the wrong time.

One new and pleasant development has been noticing certain tweeters out there who seem to be engaged in efforts similar to my own. When I rea their blogs or websites and contact them offline, it appears there may be some promising leads.

Specifically, I am interested in how to provide high quality professional development in a school or district. Research points to using local expertise, job embedded work, sustained focus over time and protocols to make the students' work and teachers' practice more amenable to study. This constrasts with bringing in experts and delivering some decontextualized set of lessons without sufficient follow up.

Here are some cool folks I have met virtually through Twitter who appear to be implementing high quality PD.

Neil Stephenson
@Neilstephenson on Twitter
Calgary Science School

Neil has launched an inquiry process around the work students produce in response to projects. I love that he has posted audio of teacher comments, powerpoint of his presentation and a clip of a professional development session. Check out his post on Examining Student Work – Reflective PD

Kim McGill
@KimMcGill on Twitter

Another great one. Check out Kim’s blog here and Open School Network. Kim takes a deliberate and reflective approach to professional development linked to dilemmas experienced by the teachers. The site has useful resources for developing inquiry based professional learning communities.

In fact, since I drafted the comments above about Kim and Neil, Kim organized a web conference using Elluminate and brought together a dozen consultants to discuss the meaning of job embedded staff development. I was inspired by some new ideas to better integrate our teaching context into powerful professional development.

Unbeknownst to these two, they have inspired me to push harder for quality PD as well as share more widely. They are examples of a great contribution to the field.

The Eagle Rock School version of professional development has some similarities. School leadership and staff identify an instructional need (i.e., literacy practices) and we introduce and model how some of that instruction can be incorporated into one's practice. Then teachers are asked to incorporate in a way that makes sense to them and they (a) are observed, videotaped and receive feedback from colleagues, (b) bring their lesson plans and reflections of how implementation went back to a small group and use protocols to receive feedback and (c) bring student work produced as a result of implementation and we use protocols to dig into what we can infer from the student work.

We keep this focus for one school year. Planning the time together is done with a core team of teachers and leadership but all meetings are open so interested additional teachers can come and plan sessions anytime they want. We run the PD planning sessions itself as a critical friends group using protocols to look at our plans and studying some common text together (i.e, reading Linda Darling Hammond).

I am excited about how we can improve professional development here as well as connecting with educators world wide to help me in this endeavor. Maybe Twitter does have something to offer. Follow me at @tiomikel.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Blogging, Julie & Julia

This blog lives in the back of my mind as a nagging concern - I rarely update it, worry about writing something clever and wish I could use it more to promote thoughts on educational reform. I also have so many things I'm interested beyond organizational leadership like teaching & learning, evolution, skepticism, science, politics, comic books & television shows. I journal almost every day but there's not one consistent thread through all those writings.

Now I'm watching Julie & Julia - great movie. And, it's inspiring me to blog more regularly. Julie Powell blogged every day about her efforts to cook every recipe in Julia Child's book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie weaves in memories and daily views into her life as she works on the recipes. Would love to develop a thread of my own.

On another note, Julie & Julia is a great story about following one's interest - both were amateurs who dived deeply into an interest and brought meaning to their lives. Great example of how education and learning could be.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Linda Darling Hammond Keynote

School Reform Initiative Winter Meeting at Cambridge, MA
Keynote: Linda Darling Hammond

"Nurturing schools cannot be about flowers peeking out of cracks in the concrete but needs to be a whole field of flowers."

The Path of Learning: Metaphors from the Trenches
(Demonstrating how learning is more like the path of a butterfly than like the flight of a bullet - real attempts at metaphor from young children)

  • He was as tall as a six foot three inch tree.
  • John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
  • He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.
  • Even in his last years, Grandpappy had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.
The Need for More Powerful Teaching
See Ferris Bueller clip of Ben Stein's teaching. It's the model of teaching in the head of the policy makers. Just know content and deliver it.

Effective Teachers
(do both / and not engagement in false either/or battles like skills vs. knowledge, basics vs. higher's all "both / and")
...engage students in active learning
...use a wide variety of teaching strategies
...assess student learning continuously
...create ambitious tasks
...provide clear standards, constant feedback and opportunities for revising work
...create and manage a collaborative classroom

"More new knowledge created in a 3 year period than in all previous years of history put together"

Many students come to classroom not accustomed to doing the work of school and beyond being motivated by extrinsic rewards. Therefore they need authentic tasks. But many also do not have skills to be initially successful on authentic tasks. So, the correct response is to provide safety, feedback and revision (rather than what critics say...."don't do authentic tasks until they have the skills" It's "both/and"). Linda recommends the work on formative assessment of Dylan Wiliam and Paul Black research in UK

What does an equitable teacher do? Consider these questions...
  • How do we see the child?
  • What tools do we use to learn about children's strengths, experiences, prior knowledge? (promising practice: home visits, positive calls home to parents)
  • What is our repertoire of practices for teaching a wide range of learners?
  • Can we plan and scaffold the curriculum?
  • How do we reinforce learning, sense of competence and attachment?
US Outcomes in International Perspective

Linda Darling Hammond focuses on achievement and equity in Finland, Korea and Singapore as success stories.

We have more percentage (22%) kids in poverty than any other industrialized country. Educational inequality exacerbates the effects of poverty.

What are high achieving nations doing?
  • Access to health care and preschool.
  • Equitable funding
  • Elimination of tracking
  • Investments in high-need schools and students
  • Lean curriculum focused on higher order skills, supported with technology.
  • Performance assessments to guide and gauge progress
  • Massive investments in teacher education and school level teacher support
  • Assessment systems are entirely local in response to very lean national curriculum.
(All covered in Linda Darling Hammond's latest book: The Flat World and Education)

Recommendations for Transformation
  • Focus on meaningful learning
  • Support for professional practice
  • School designs that support high quality learning
  • Equitable education funding
Expectations for learning are changing

Ability to communicate, work in teams, problem solve, manage oneself, analyze and conceptualize, create, innovate, criticize, engage in learning new things at all times.. (from Chris Worldlaw in Hong Kong).

NAEP test questions do not test any of the above.
Victoria, Australia has powerful performance assessments.
Singapore has only open ended questions.

Overall, Linda Darling Hammond was pleasant to listen to but mostly preaching to the choir in this setting. I'm not clear that we leave with anything actionable or have a new insight about what we need to do. I think she is on point with all the issues she addressed but it's not hard to find agreement at the level of generalities: need to be more equitable, more support for teachers, more challenging tasks for students.