By The Numbers

  • 2013-14 is YEAR 4 of our Challenge Network pilot cohort.
  • A+ focuses on 3-5 teachers per school at each of our 18 sites - impacting more than 4,000 students across the Houston area.
  • More than 9,000 students total attend these schools. By strengthening teacher practice, we have the potential to impact all of these students, PLUS future students of A+ teachers.

A History of Success

The Challenge Network launched in 2010 with a specific goal: identify 150 students whose scores on the TAKS test placed them in the "Meets Standard" (passing) category and move them into the "Commended" (on track for college) category.  

Research suggests that students who score in the "Commended" range are up to five times more likely to be on track for college & career success.

To achieve this goal, A+ placed Performance Coaches - all of them top-performing classroom teachers - on campuses full-time to work directly with students on their literacy and numeracy skills.

While our strategy has changed over the four years of this initiative, results from our first year demonstrate the effectiveness of our coaching work in core academic skills.  (Data from subsequent years is still in the analysis stage.)

Results from Our Pilot Year (2010-11)

  • An independent analysis of student data by the Center for Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis at Penn State University “strongly suggests that the reform effort is having a positive impact on student performance.” Read the full report.
  • 218 A+ Scholars reached the post-secondary readiness standard in the targeted subject. An additional 219 students came within one to four questions (out of 42-48) of achieving “commended” performance this year. All students continue to receive support to reach higher standards during this second year of implementation.
  • At least 8 in 10 A+ Scholars surveyed reported that, because of their A+ Coach, they worked harder in class, don’t get into trouble as much, pay attention in class more, do better in class, understand the teacher better, and feel more confident about school.

The New Challenge Network - Targeted Coaching, Broader Impact

 In order to impact more students over more time, the Challenge Network has shifted its strategy from full-time, on-campus work targeting 150 students to weekly on-campus coaching targeting teachers most ready for improvement.  Key features of this strategy include:

  • Establishing Buy-in: To ensure consistent buy-in by principals and teachers, the leadership teams for all Challenge Network schools first participate in A+'s yearlong Middle School Leadership Academy, laying the groundwork for success the Challenge Network's two-year intensive coaching process.
  • Coaching for Sustainable Change: To nurture sustainability, each CN school has identified at least one administrator and one school-based instructional leader (typically a specialist or assistant principal) in each subject (literacy and numeracy) who together provide ongoing support for implementation of best practices, and who will help continue the change effort once A+ departs.
  • Promoting Non-Cognitive Skills: Recognizing new research correlating traits such as perseverance, curiosity and grit with post-secondary success, A+ has redoubled efforts to help teachers foster these qualities in their classrooms.