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Changemaker Cohort: A New Version of Eagle Rock’s Graduation Requirements

Changemaker Cohort: A New Version of Eagle Rock’s Graduation Requirements

by Eagle Rock Students Topaz S, Aiden S, and Senaida V, edited and contributed to by Mike Dunn

Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center (ERS) has a mission to give each student a chance to actualize their full potential as young people. We – Topaz S, Aiden S, and Senaida V – started at ERS in September of 2021 and worked together with staff as a part of the first Changemaker Cohort. The Changemaker Cohort is an initiative launched by ERS in the spring of 2022 to help better integrate young people into school change processes. We were pilot members of this cohort and are excited to be part of the wonderful movement to help revolutionize how students engage with their schools. 

Our project focuses on ERS’s graduation requirements. We are partnering with Director of Curriculum Janet Johnson, Dean of College & Career Counseling Mike Dunn, and Instructional Specialist Josán Perales to explore what could be possible if all of our graduation requirements were fully competency-based. Some of the goals of this project include creating a more user-friendly version of our learning plan, making graduation requirements more clear for external stakeholders, and moving away from just checking boxes to graduate.

Engaging the Community in Information Gathering

We started our rigorous process by interviewing current and past students, graduates, and staff members. Through these interviews, we found that many students and staff did not feel like the current graduation requirements and resulting transcript clearly represented our values to people outside of our community. Those who were interviewed found these graduation requirements to be difficult to access and understand. Others found that the current graduation requirements did not fully capture the learning that students are doing while at ERS. For example, students learn a lot about their personal well-being at Eagle Rock, and that learning is not fully represented by the current set of requirements. For these reasons and a few others, we decided that re-working our graduation requirements was a great project idea for the first Changemaker Cohort.

Connecting with Outside Institutions

As of writing this blog post, we have made a ton of progress, but it hasn’t always been easy. We’ve had many discussions about what we want our graduation requirements to reflect, and how to format them in a way that would be more accessible to ERS students and staff, as well as external individuals. We have also taken a look at and spoken with other non-traditional schools to see how they format their graduation requirements, including One Stone in Boise, ID, the Workshop School in Philadelphia, PA, Boston Day and Evening in Boston, MA, and the Denver School for Innovation & Sustainable Design right here in Colorado. 

We collected many ideas and values from these schools, took a look at the Durable Skills model, and examined our own work to compare and contrast. Through this process, we have both removed and added things to our requirements, revised the overall look and feel of our documentation, and problem-solved the possible mechanics to capture learning. Our ultimate goal is to have a fully functional and holistic set of new graduation requirements that the Eagle Rock community is proud of. By doing this, we hope to better prepare future graduates for a fulfilling and successful life after Eagle Rock.

Intentional Shift to Competency-Based Curriculum 

One of the most important ideas that we’ve explored is making our transcript and requirements entirely competency-based. Competency-based means that our classes are built around helping students get a true understanding and grasp on a skill, as opposed to testing successfully in a subject like traditional schools often do. We want to make sure that our students are able to grow holistically: academically, personally, and creatively. This has resulted in the narrowing of our focus to a core collection of competencies that still align with Eagle Rock values of 8+5=10. Our current stage is one of production, where we are creating rubrics to accompany each of these competencies and will begin piloting some this summer!

The six of us have all worked very hard on this project, and we are very excited to see the progression of this group, as well as the rest of the projects in the Changemaker Cohort. While this may be a multi-year project, we are glad that we got the opportunity to be part of the important work of defining what our school is, and what it can do, for future graduates.