When the American Honda Motor Company decided they wanted to explore a new kind of corporate philanthropy in 1980s, education reform was at the forefront of the discussion. “After talking with folks in big cities and small towns all over the country, the challenged state of public education came back as a resounding cry for help, “ explains Dan Condon, Associate Director of Professional Development at Eagle Rock School.
The early idea around Eagle Rock was teaching professional development. After that came an idea for having learning laboratories in high schools to serve as channels towards education reform, renewal, and reinvention. We are both a professional development center and a high school, that’s how we partner with Berklee City Music Network,” explains Condon. “We have kids from all over the spectrum with three main things in common: They want to finish high school, they want a diploma, and because we are fully funded by Honda, we are interested in serving young people whose families do not have monetary resources.”
The Professional Development Center at Eagle Rock provides an array of tours, visits, fellowships, and residencies through their Professional Development program, but their main focus is working with external schools and organizations. “Much of our high leverage work is focusing on consulting and staff development work in schools, “ says Condon.
But Eagle Rock has a unique approach to their work. Condon emphasizes, “Our vision to our approach to consulting is different than other professional development models. We don’t use an expert model. We aren’t interested in going into a school and telling them all of the things they are doing wrong and coming up with a list of solutions for them. We don’t think that is sustainable.”
Condon says the approach is focused around specific steps. “The first step we take is to listen to the aspirations of the school. Then we immerse ourselves in the school and look at all of their assets, the things they are doing well. Even in schools that think nothing is going well, we are able to go in there and root out some things that are working.”
After the initial “aspirations and observations”, the Eagle Rock team engages students and staff on the ground to move toward their aspirations. “We do that a few times throughout the year, “ says Condon. After that, there are video conferences and leadership coaching over the phone. For whatever group they are working with, they do a post visit survey asking a few questions to see how well the process went.
“ The studies around professional development are showing that there are a certain amount of hours over multiple years that are necessary for sustainability plans to kick in. Our interest is in allowing groups to crowd source their solutions so that Eagle Rock can step out. It’s not a ‘blow in, blow hard, and blow out approach.’ We are very interested in sustainability, “ explains Condon.
So what are Eagle Rock’s plans for the future?
Condon is optimistic:
“We are pretty excited. We are in our 20th year of operation. About ten years ago we were able to increase capacity in terms of staff. We are currently in exciting talks for our professional development center where more resources are going to be allocated to increase our capacity to serve other schools around the country.”
How can the Berklee City Music Network support Eagle Rock’s initiatives?
“Currently we only have two full-time consultants who go out and consult with schools around the country. Throughout this past year we have been trying to figure out how to increase our staff capacity. We have brought school leaders and instructors into the mix. Ike Leslie is one of those folks. We know his ties to PULSE and the City Music Network. He has come on the road with us and has been instrumental in delivering a professional development school reform mission related to us. If there are schools in the Berklee Network that resonate with our mission about urban, high school reform and renewal, we would love for them to reach out to us. In addition to traveling on the ground level, we also have a professional development center here on site. We can host folks at a cheap rate. We don’t charge anything for our services. We only charge $30 per day for meals and lodging. So that’s an open invitation.”