The Search for Common Ground

We often assume we have the answers to what will work for all students, yet despite multiple policy-makers, consultants, educators and activists claiming to know “what works for all kids” the reality is that meaningful progress in learning outcomes remains elusive.
In the 2018 Houston A+ Challenge Speaker Series, we wish to highlight the necessity of improved civic discourse as a means of achieving better outcomes for Houston’s 1.2 million current PK-12 students.
We believe that a willingness to engage respectfully with those holding divergent viewpoints is absolutely vital to our progress and that we can find common ground.
View videos from past speakers

2018 Series


Former U.S. Secretary of Education (2009-2016)

Arne Duncan was the ninth U.S. Secretary of Education. Duncan served under President Barack Obama from January 20, 2009 through January 1, 2016.  Duncan’s tenure as secretary was marked by a number of significant accomplishments on behalf of American students and teachers.

Before becoming secretary of education, Duncan served as the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), a position he held from June 2001 through December 2008. In that time, he won praise for uniting education reformers, teachers, principals and business stakeholders behind an aggressive education reform agenda.



Award Winning Education Journalist

Kyle Spencer is an award-winning education journalist and New York Times contributor who writes and speaks about life inside the American classroom.

Her widely-read New York Times pieces about high-poverty schools have made her a noted voice in the school reform movement, an impartial – but deeply knowledgeable – commentator on all things education-related. Her writing has also appeared in New York magazine, The Washington Post, The AtlanticPOLITICO Magazine, Slate, The Daily Beast, The Baltimore Sun, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The International Herald Tribune and many other publications.

2017 Series


Author of The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness

Todd Rose is the director of the Mind, Brain, and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he leads the Laboratory for the Science of the Individual. The Lab’s flagship project is the Individual Mastery Project, also at the Harvard School of Education, a long-term study investigating the development of individual excellence and expertise. He is also the co-founder of The Center for Individual Opportunity, a non-profit organization that promotes the principles of individuality in work, school, and society. He is the author of The End of Average. Learn More


Co-Founder & CEO, Mindset Works

Eduardo is the Co-Founder and CEO of Mindset Works, a leader in growth mindset training which he co-founded with Carol Dweck Ph.D., Lisa Blackwell Ph.D., and others. Mindset Works now provides digital and printed growth mindset training and resources to thousands of schools and their teachers and students.
Eduardo has spoken at numerous industry conferences for school leaders, educators, students, business executives, and policy makers. He delivered two highly-rated TEDx talks on the growth mindset and learning which have been viewed by millions of people, and he has been featured in EdWeek, NPR, The Huffington Post, EdSurge, and others. Learn More

2015-2016 Series


Author of  Deeper Learning: How Eight Innovative Public Schools Are Transforming Education in the Twenty-First Century

As author, education strategist, advisor to major foundations, speaker on the future of education, and former President of a network of innovative schools, Monica shares with audiences and individuals what are effective practices to ensure all students can thrive in the 21st century. Monica’s expertise is in secondary education and college success. She has worked across the K-16 sector primarily on high school reform and innovation as well as access and success in higher education. She serves on the White House Commission for Excellence for Hispanics Students and is a non-resident Senior Fellow for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Learn More


Co-author of Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools 

Heather Staker is the founder and president of Ready to Blend, a research initiative focused on helping educators and families use blended learning to improve the achievement and well-being of K-12 children. She is also an adjunct fellow for the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a nonprofit think tank that promotes disruptive innovation in education and health care. Learn More


Author of Creative Schools

An internationally recognized authority in creativity and innovation in education and business, also one of the world’s leading speakers. Videos of his famous talks to the prestigious TED Conference are the most viewed in the history of the organization and have been seen by an estimated 300 million people in over 150 countries. Learn More

2014-2015 Series

The Smartest Kids in the World - and How They Got That Way


Journalist and New York Times Bestselling Author

Ripley looks for students who are engaged in the work, teachers who have time to prepare and collaborate, and school administrators who prioritize helping teachers improve their craft.

Visible Learning: The Surprising Research Behind What Works in Education


Visible Learning Plus Consultant, Cognition Education, Auckland, New Zealand

At Visible Learning Plus, JAYNE-ANN YOUNG works alongside John Hattie to ensure that schools around the globe focus their limited resources and energy not just on what works – but on what works best.

Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World


Education advocate, venture capitalist, former Gates Foundation education chief

In the nation’s leading edge schools, blended learning – which leverages technology to enhance and expand the impact of traditional resources like teachers and books – is ubiquitous.

Next Generation Schools: Breakthrough Models in STEM and Personalized Learning


Deputy Director, Next Generation Learning Challenges

What will the schools of the future look like? As a convener, promoter and catalyst of school innovation, Next Generation Learning Challenges is defining the answer. The Gates-backed national nonprofit works to ensure that emerging ideas have the resources, connections, and data-supported proof of efficacy they need to reach deep into traditional school environments.

Previous Speakers

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A great education for every child is possible – and data suggests that the U.S….

Originally posted on By Rusty Graham Delivery platforms may have changed and numbers may…