July 2, 2007
Teacher Externship Week 2007
Teachers from 54 local schools got an up-close view of the 21st century workforce during the 2007 Teacher Externship.
Teachers Bring Back Lessons from Houston Businesses
Hats off to the 100 teachers and 40 local businesses who participated in the 2007 Teacher Externship Week, June 4-8. After the fifth annual event, sponsored by Shell Oil Company, teachers and sponsors alike described their experiences as invaluable in helping bridge the gap between classrooms and the 21st century workforce. As one participant noted, "I learned that running a classroom is similar to running a business: be on time, value each other, work together and communicate with each other towards a common goal." (See more feedback on the Houston A+ blog.) And as the Houston Chronicle reported, "One Houston geometry instructor, a 23-year veteran, had to hold back tears because she was so inspired after her first day touring at NASA." (Watch the three-minute video here.) Teachers will now spend the summer working on lesson plans based on their experiences, and Houston A+ Challenge will create an online portfolio of those lessons to share with all area educators. Since 2003, Teacher Externship Week has been an ongoing collaboration between The Houston A+ Challenge and the Greater Houston Partnership.
Still want more? Read about one teacher's experience at the Houston Airport System, or three others profiled in this story from the Memorial Examiner.

Students, Teachers are Lab Partners for Science Institute
This summer, nine teachers, 12 high school students and a Houston Community College student are spending six weeks as lab partners, conducting biomedical research in the Baylor College of Medicine's Discovery Lab as part of the Houston A+ Challenge/Baylor Summer Science Institute. Founded in 2002, the Institute is aimed at sparking economically disadvantaged students’ interest in science-related careers while developing classroom teachers’ understanding of current research practices. Participants began the Institute on June 11 with a week of training in methodology and laboratory procedures, and are now spending the next five weeks in the lab as part of a research team in order to learn the language, processes and culture of scientific research. The teams will present their research at a symposium on July 20 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Baylor College of Medicine, Room N-315.

Houston A+ Grants Will Fund Action Research
Ten teams of Houston-area educators will spend the next two years studying and documenting how their professional learning communities are impacting student achievement, an effort made possible through $100,000 in grants recently awarded by Houston A+ Challenge. Critical Friends Group as Research Team (CART) Grants support educators as they meet in groups to examine student work, discuss the latest research on effective instruction, and reflect on their own teaching strategies. Projects are carried out using the methods of action research, which is aimed at improving student achievement by changing individual teachers' classroom practice. To read more about the projects and teams of educators, click here.

Teacher Externship Week 2007
Team-building exercises, such as the "Mine Walk," built trust and connections among the CFG groups.

New Coaches Emerge from Critical Friends Training
Congratulations to the more than 50 teachers and administrators who completed Critical Friends Group (CFG) New Coach Training at the University of Houston Hilton during the week of June 11-15.  New coach candidates were organized into four groups to develop an understanding of CFG principles, and to learn and practice protocols and facilitation skills. One of the four groups was comprised entirely of educators from Houston ISD’s Neff Elementary, where CFG principles have become central to how teachers work together to improve instruction. (See In Focus, below, for an interview with Neff principal Anita Lundvall.) National Board Certification Teacher candidates, sponsored by Houston A+, formed another group. The other two groups were made up of individual participants or smaller school groups. Also in June, National CFG Facilitators Tim Martindell of Houston A+ Challenge and MichaelAnn Kelley of Aldine ISD, trained new coaches in Denton ISD, outside of Dallas.  Tim and National Facilitator Mary Matthews of Alief ISD also delivered CFG training to a local education fund in Baton Rouge, LA, through a mentorship made possible by the Public Education Network.

Leadership Academy Welcomes Cohort, Celebrates Grads
Houston A+ Challenge's New Visions in Leadership Academy (NVLA) welcomed 58 new members with a three-day training kick-off in late June. At the end of this retreat, a luncheon was held to honor 29 educators from the 2005 cohort who have just completed the two-year leadership program. The 43 members of the 2006 cohort who are half-way through their NVLA training were also honored.  Since its inception in 1999, NVLA has trained more than 200 leaders from seven area public school districts in developing leadership skills, school culture, Critical Friends Group strategies, data-driven decision making, communication, strategic planning and instruction necessary for success in school leadership today. Congratulations and continued success to the graduates!

Three Improving Houston ISD Schools to Stay Open
On June 14, the Houston ISD Board of Education voted to allow McReynolds Middle School and Kashmere and Sam Houston High Schools to remain open in 2007–2008, regardless of the state accountability rating they receive. All three schools have made tremendous progress in 2006–2007, thanks to a lot of hard work and focused effort on the part of students, teachers, parents, and campus and central-office administrators. Houston A+ Challenge provided grant funding over the last two years to these schools, as well as to Wheatley and Yates High Schools, for additional staff support and coaching, and to fund the School Improvement Facilitator and Literacy Coach positions.

Region IV Honors Secondary Principals
Among those honored on June 6 at the Region IV Principal of the Year Celebration were three school leaders who have been frequent participants in Houston A+ Challenge's programs and activities over the years: Tim Salem, Secondary Principal of the Year, West Region, Houston ISD; Aida Tello, Secondary Principal of the Year, North Region, Houston ISD; and Wayne Shaper, Secondary Principal of the Year, Spring Branch ISD. Congratulations!

Aldine ISD Announces Two All-American Scholars
Two Aldine ISD students, Qian Cheng Wang of Eckert Intermediate School and Taylor C. Young of Grantham Academy, have been named All-American Scholars, a United States Achievement Academy (USAA) program that recognizes superior students who excel in academics disciplines. The All-American Scholars must earn a 3.3 or higher grade point average. Only scholars selected by a school instructor, counselor or other qualified sponsor are accepted. The students will appear in the All-American Scholar Yearbook, which is published nationally.

Houston ISD Teachers to Get Pay Raise
Houston ISD teachers will get an average pay raise of 5.7 percent this year — their second pay raise in a row — thanks to a proposal recently approved by the Board of Education. Pay raises for teachers will range from at least 3 percent guaranteed to every teacher to 12.7 percent, with an average pay raise of 5.7 percent under the budget plan. Last year, HISD teachers got an average pay raise of 8.6 percent. This year’s raise makes HISD teachers among the best-paid in the region. The increased pay may help to further reduce teacher turnover at Houston ISD. In 2005, 1,554 of HISD's approximately 12,500 teachers left the district. But in 2006, the number of teachers leaving the district fell nearly 19 percent, to 1,262.

Teacher Turnover Costs the Nation $7.3 Billion
The teacher turnover problem is costing the nation billions of dollars, draining resources, diminishing teaching quality, and undermining the nation’s ability to close the student achievement gap, according to a new policy brief by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF). NCTAF estimates that the national cost of public school teacher turnover could be over $7.3 billion a year. The policy brief is based on an 18-month pilot study NCTAF recently completed on the cost of teacher turnover in five school districts. A user-friendly Teacher Turnover Cost Calculator enables anyone to determine how serious the problem of teacher turnover is for a particular school or district.

Principal, Neff Elementary, Houston ISD
New Visions in Leadership Academy, 2005 Cohort
Neff is a Houston A+ Challenge Fine Arts Grant school

A large group from Neff came to this summer’s CFG coach training. How many educators from Neff have been trained as CFG coaches?
We have been using Critical Friends Groups at our campus for the past year, with nine or 10 trained coaches and several active groups.  This summer we sent a team of 4th and 5th grade teachers to the CFG new coach training.  Neff is opening a 4th and 5th Grade Professional Learning Community (PLC) Model Lab.  The idea is that all the teachers in the group will know CFG protocols and be able to provide visitors to the lab with a meaningful and focused experience.  Protocols for looking at student work will be particularly useful to help visitors see how the PLC framework can impact student learning. The teachers will also use their training to coach CFG groups on campus.

Why is CFG important at Neff, and what difference does it make to teaching and learning?
CFG creates a common language among educators working to meet the needs of all children and to look at student work .  It is imperative that we as educators work together so that each child makes progress, regardless of level.  CFG principles become a part of what we do in everyday practice, so that everything is focused on the progress of each individual child.

What else should we know about Neff?
We are a large school, with 1,100 students on two campuses. We are working to develop a shared leadership model – with a principal and associate principal – to enable us to keep our focus on curriculum, instruction, and our students.  The foundation skills that our students gain in elementary school are fundamental to their success in middle school, high school, college and beyond. We don’t just have these kids through 5th grade; we have them for life.

Road Scholar Puts Educators on the Road to Learning
The Road Scholar Educator of the Year Awards will honor three experienced educators with grants to further their educational adventures. Candidates write an essay, based on the Road Scholar motto, “Learning, It’s a Trip!” explaining where the candidate would like to go using the grant award and why life-long learning is important.
Awards: $7,000, $2,000 and $1,000
Eligibility: More information online
Deadline: August 1, 2007

Engaging the Community Around Special Needs Students
US Airways Education Foundation is accepting applications for its 2007 Community Education Grant Program. Grants will be awarded to educational programs that respond to the special needs of disadvantaged or disabled individuals; teach or enhance social responsibility; facilitate parental and/or community involvement; and enhance academic achievement.
Maximum Award: $5,000
Eligibility: 501(c)3 organizations located in the markets served by the airline
Deadline: August 1, 2007

Study Trips for Teachers for Travel to Costa Rica

The Toyota International Teacher Program will send teachers to eastern Costa Rica from February 24 to March 7, 2008, to study the country's environmental and cultural preservation efforts.
Maximum Award: A fully funded (transportation, lodging, meals, and all program activities) 10-day trip to Costa Rica
Eligibility: U.S. secondary school teachers with at least three years of full-time teaching experience
Deadline: September 7, 2007

Grants to Spread Literacy & Love of Learning
The Ezra Jack Keats Minigrant Program for Public Schools and Public Libraries supports educators, parents and children in their efforts to spread literacy and love of learning.
Maximum Award: $500
Eligibility: Public schools and libraries anywhere in the United States and its protectorates
Deadline: September 15, 2007

Enrichment Opportunities for New Science Teachers
First- and second-year science teachers can apply to become an Associate Fellow at the National Science Teachers Association New Science Teacher Academy for a yearlong term with access to a wide array of professional development opportunities. (see website for more information).
Maximum Award: Yearlong fellowship
Eligibility: First- and second- year science teachers with U.S. residence
Deadline: September 30, 2007

Through July 3
15th Annual Model Schools Conference
Washington D.C.

Through July 21
Houston A+ Challenge/
Baylor College of Medicine Summer Science Institute

July 24-25
Reforming Schools Summer Institute (RSSI)
University of Houston Hilton

September 8
Reach Out to Dropouts Walk, Houston ISD

Join the Houston A+ Challenge Team
Are you passionate about improving public education? Three exciting job opportunities are now open at Houston A+ Challenge:

Full Time
Director of Leadership to oversee a new Principal Academy for the Houston region

Part Time
Webmaster/Public Affairs Assistant

Part Time
Grant Writer

Click to see detailed job descriptions, or to apply for these positions.

Statistic of the Month
Using the Teacher Turnover Cost Calculator from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, the estimated cost to Houston ISD to replace the 1,262 teachers who left the district in 2006 would be more than $11 million.

Source: "The Cost of Teacher Turnover", an 18-month pilot study by NCTAF

Houston A+ Challenge
1415 Louisiana, Box 9
Houston, TX 77002

Board of Trustees
Joe B. Foster
Ann Friedman, Ph. D.

Leonel Castillo
Susan A. Bischoff
Bill Crouch
Jonathan Day
Michael Dee
Thomas L. Elsenbrook
Roberto Gonzalez
H. Devon Graham, Jr.
Jenard M. Gross
Steve L. Miller
Karol Musher, M.A., CCC-SLP
Maconda Brown O’Connor, Ph.D.
J. Victor Samuels
Harry Reasoner
Yava D. Scott
VJ Turner, Jr.
Andrea White
Rosie Zamora

Staff List
Michele Pola, Ed.D.
Executive Director
Suzanne Sutherland
Associate Director/
Director of Programs
Catherine Reed
Director, Finance
Melissa Milios
Director, Public Affairs

Program Coordinators
Brandi Allen
Tim Martindell
Angela Prince
Mike Webster

Alejandro Morúa

Terrie Roberts
Event Coordinator
Administrative Assistants
Imelda Cardoza
Benedicta Forson
Joan Zuniga
Tish Stringer, Ph.D.
Public Affairs / Webmaster
Suzanne Rodriguez
High School Intern

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