What are Challenge Academies?

Challenge Academies are monthly working groups that create space for learning through peer networking, problem-solving, and real-world action research.

The Power
of the

Challenge Academies are made up of educators from schools and districts across the Houston region.

Together, these educators reflect on professional challenges, share common school dilemmas, gain insight from current research and fellow practitioners, set goals, and test solutions to improve outcomes for students.

Best Practices

All A+ Academies are grounded in a similar set of ideas and tools so that — regardless of role — participants speak a common language.

Houston A+ Challenge’s approach to professional learning is aligned with Robert Marzano’s School Leadership Evaluation Model and ISLCC standards. Participants set goals and work toward outcomes in accordance with these models.


While knowledge is important to a practitioner, skill development and practice are critical.

Academy participants not only learn about best practices — they put them into practice. Educators use time within their cohort to “work on the work” that is critical to their responsibilities in their schools.


Common challenges give each Academy a framework for moving learning and innovative ideas into action.

Design thinking empowers and challenges educators through a structured approach to creative problem-solving, experimentation and evolution.

2018 – 2019 Academies

Working Groups for Working Leaders

Houston A+ Challenge has over 20 years’ experience as a convener of education professionals.  Academies provide like-minded professionals from a wide variety of districts and schools an opportunity to study, and learn and discuss ways they can improve their performance toward becoming more effective in their current positions. Participants can reflect on professional challenges, gain insight from fellow practitioners, take part in professional development tailored to their unique position and goals, or simply step back from the work to assess, strategize and regroup. Challenge Academies are driven by you and your work, and provide the flexible support you need.


Houston A+ Challenge presents a leadership academy customized to meet any district’s need, whether it is executive leadership, district management, or aspiring district leaders.

Possible topics for study include:
• Mission, vision, values, and goals
• Effective communication
• Building professional relationships
• Managing people and processes
• Change leadership and leadership courage

Participants will gain professional skills in:
• developing collective commitments
• using protocols to improve team effectiveness
• establishing collaboration
• learning how to give feedback
• understanding the relationship between why, what and how
• professional interviewing
• organizational leadership
• communication
• relationship building
• talent management
This academy is designed to be a stand-alone or as part of an already existing district leadership academy.

Houston A+ Challenge is available for small group or individual coaching for those leaders enrolled in the ISD Leadership Academy. Small group/individual coaching begins with identifying leadership intentions, building action plans based on those intentions, and focusing on results connected with the leader’s intentions.



Grounded in effective leadership practices, participants will learn how to navigate between and across both Management AND Leadership responsibilities. Campus administrators will learn and practice how to prioritize and execute on keeping the advancement of student learning as their primary focus and ultimate purpose.
These academies are tailored to participants goals and afford time to assess, strategize and regroup as needed. Principal and assistant principal academies are driven by you and your work, and provide the flexible support you need.


The need to move to a learner-centric model of education is more pervasive today than ever. Transform your campus by learning how imperatives like growth, relationships, empowerment, anytime/anywhere access, and technology combine to build powerful self-directed learners. Academy sessions include:

• Growth (academic, social, and emotional) outcomes and actions (using data) needed to arrive at those desire outcomes
• Building relationships between adults and kids, between adults and adults, and between kids and kids
• Empowering learners to have responsibility for accessing their own learning resources and directing their own pathways toward standards
• Figuring out anytime/anywhere learning and what protocols and agreements must be in place to see success
• Understanding and utilizing technology in order to help learning move toward desired outcome standards



Everybody needs a coach. Come engage in peer networking, problem-solving and real-world action research with other coaches across the city. During this academy we will collectively share expertise in effective instructional strategies for increasing access and equity, assessment for learning, engaging in crucial conversations and coaching cycles. Participants will find fresh ways to look at various aspects of their jobs and gather different perspectives from others across the city.



First year teachers face many exciting challenges. This academy will allow teachers to build a community of support and make connections with other new teachers in the same and surrounding districts. A myriad of learning opportunities will be offered such as effective classroom management strategies, how to access and make sense of state standards, ways to reference and effectively use curriculum documents and ideas for effectively implementing instructional practices. New teachers will be equipped with resources and strategies that will allow them to provide quality instruction for all students and have a successful year.