A school-reform role model in the Rockies

Giving students a sense of purpose and tools for lifelong learning is at the heart of Eagle Rock high school. But its ultimate mission reaches even further: to change public education so that far fewer kids fall through the cracks each year.

Through the school's Professional Development Center, about 2,000 people each year visit Eagle Rock in Estes Park, Colo. While some just stop in for a student-led tour, the center also hosts groups of teachers, education students, policymakers, and administrators, often for week-long stays with intensive workshops. Staff and students also carry Eagle Rock's philosophies to several education conferences each year.

Seeing the theories put into practice at Eagle Rock makes visitors "more likely to go back to their environments and risk trying [new ideas] than if they'd just read about them in a book," says Lois Easton, the center's director.

"People come here for one hour and they know there's something special about this place," adds Casey Whirl, a student.

Most public schools work with much less funding, but Ms. Easton says it's still possible for them to incorporate the important aspects of Eagle Rock - respect for learners, defined values, community, an innovative curriculum.

"If you want to make an enormous difference, you've got to figure out how to be small and personalized. The good news is there are a lot of schools who have figured it out without spending a lot or any extra money."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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