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Schools, Programs, & Visit Reports - Apr, 1990 Issue 

Eagle Mountain Outpost Visit
Lon Woodbury's Visit: April 11, 1990

Population: Boys, age 10-17, who are failing at school and elsewhere.
Model: Milieu therapy. Point system and levels.
Founded: Fall, 1985
Program Length: One year, flexible.
Current Size: 36
Capacity: 36
Credentials: Idaho Child Care license issued by the Dept. of Health and Welfare, and Provisional accreditation by the Idaho Dept. of Education and the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges. A review for full accreditation started in late April.
Faculty: 20
Academics: Experimental, individualized.
Physical Activities: 1. Intramural sports, noncompetitive. 2. Camping, hiking, rock climbing, snowmobiling, day trips, etc. 3. Competitive sports against local schools.
Family Participation: Regular family conferences by phone and a first on-campus family meeting at 3 months.

This was my third visit to the Outpost in North Idaho. My overall impression was this private residential boarding school is coming of age. The strongest improvement I saw was the consistency and stability of the staff. There are 20 faculty, 18 of which have been there one year or more, and five have been there three years or more. They have successfully survived the difficulties in licensing of a couple years ago and are now getting on with the business of helping young boys. The last few months has included extensive staff training and development with the focus on all staff learning the specifics of the program so all staff will treat the same situation in a similar way. Director Brenda Hammond sees the school as a "turn-around" school which is described as a "community in which all aspects help students." They focus on a positive, supportive atmosphere in which the students learn how to build good relationships and increase their self-esteem by a steady succession of successes. The State has restricted them from enrolling students that have passed their 17th birthday.

The heart of the program, and the key to helping students change, is a point system. From this, the student earns levels of privileges and responsibilities, and has a mirror of his own behavior. Each new student enrolls at a high level, and each student starts each day with the maximum number of possible points. If their behavior is appropriate, the student will stay at that level with all those privileges. Negative behavior, which is explained in advance, will subtract points with clearly understood consequences. The system covers all areas of behavior, and is sensitive enough to respond with appropriate consequences on a day-to-day basis, and over longer terms. It includes reactions of the other students, and when I asked a senior student about positive peer pressure, his answer was, "Heavy."

Academics are individualized, based on performance, and each student proceeds at his own pace. Academic Director Mike Bishop does a skill assessment of each new student in each subject to determine what academic skills the student has. Each course is broken down into skills to be learned. From this, a program is written for each student to progressively master skills needed for graduation. Completion of the week's assignment and classroom behavior is figured into the point system. Classes tend to be students working on their individual assignments with the teacher facilitating.

Currently, the faculty is working on documenting the justification of academic credit for outdoor trips and field trips. The physical activity consists of three elements with Amy Hanson being the Outdoor Director. The first element is exercises and sports all the boys participate in. There is an emphasis on noncompetitive sports to reduce the feelings of "being a loser." Second is the wilderness program which includes canoeing, horseback riding, rock climbing, hiking, and skiing. These are orchestrated so each boy is challenged on the level he needs, along with having fun. Third is the fairly new competitive sports program for those boys who are emotionally ready to handle it. It includes basketball, soccer, and football is planned for next Fall.

The school keeps in touch with graduates and their family on a regular, somewhat systematic basis. There are as of yet no follow-up studies to measure effectiveness, but they have received many comments from parents about the positive change in their child.

Copyright 1990, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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