October 2007
News From Houston A+ Challenge

Last Day To Register For National Speakers Series with Michael Fullan
Join Houston A+ Challenge for our ongoing National Speaker Series, when internationally acclaimed education researcher and author Michael Fullan will present research-based insights and information on:

  • What public school leaders and leadership teams must do in order to move their campuses from adequate to excellent
  • What it takes to move beyond "turnaround schools" to transforming entire school systems
  • The keys to sustaining that change over time

This is a final call for registration, as seats are limited. To register, go to www.houstonaplus.org/rsvp. Michael Fullan will also present a free lecture, which is open to the public:

Wednesday, October 3, 2007
5 to 6:30 p.m.

University of Houston Hilton
4800 Calhoun Road Houston, Texas 77204 (map)

“Give Kids Good Schools” Week, OCT. 15-21
Houston A+ Challenge and public schools across the region will celebrate Give Kids Good Schools week Oct. 15-21, by hosting community members, business leaders and members of the media at open houses spotlighting “best practices” in education.

While the campaign for Give Kids Good Schools is nationwide, several campaign events will be held in the Houston area. Please visit our website for a listing of local events to promote public school excellence – Learn, Vote, and Act.

Houston A+ Challenge Awarded Two Major Grants
In August, Houston A+ Challenge was awarded a $300,000 planning grant from the Houston Endowment to aid in the development of a regional principal leadership academy. Planning and development of the academy and its curriculum will continue through next year, with the intent to begin training new principals in the fall of 2008.
The United Way has awarded a $30,000 grant to help support Houston A+ Challenge’s public engagement activities.  The funding will help provide action labs and school sharing visits aimed at increasing college readiness for all Houston-area students.

School News

School Bonds on November Ballot
This November several local ISDs are asking for voters to approve a district wide bond proposal to help fund infrastructure improvements.

  • Houston ISD - $805 million proposal to build and renovate schools and to improve school transportation, athletics, security, technology and maintenance.  Harris County voter information is online here.
  • Cy-Fair- $807 million proposal aimed at building and renovating schools to accommodate the district’s rapidly expanding student population.
  • Fort Bend ISD - $428 million package to build eight new campuses to support growing student enrollment and facility, technology and school bus upgrades.
  • Spring Branch ISD - $597 million to buid new classrooms and provide districtwide improvements to all Spring Branch ISD schools.

Students Unveil Beacon Sculpture For Kashmere High
On October 23, students from Kashmere High School, in collaboration with the Museum of Cultural Arts, will showcase the Kashmere Beacon Sculpture as part of the Kashmere High School Community Arts Initiative to celebrate the 50 year legacy of Kashmere High School. Students participated in a series of interviews, workshops, and field trips to help inspire the students. In addition, the project combines community outreach and art to support a project-based learning experience for the students. Houston A+ Challenge supports Kashmere High School through a school improvement grant aimed at strengthening the entire school community through student personalization. For more information about the Kashmere High School Community Arts Intiative click here.

Creating Readers From Students
Keller, Texas middle school teacher, Donalyn Miller, is known in Trinity Meadow Intermediate School for inspiring her sixth grade students to become avid readers. Each student under tutelage reads approximately 50-60 books a year, including one student who read 300 books a year. Donalyn Miller shares her expertise in Teacher Magazine’s three part interview. The first interview she divulges her technique for interested educators who want to encourage readership amongst their students. In the second and third installment she shares her thoughts on inspiring boys to read and a list of recommended books for 13 and below.

In Focus With … Lance Menster

ExxonMobil, Houston ISD and Houston A+ Challenge came together in 2000 with a desire to improve math instruction.  The resulting ExxonMobil Math Initiative has been so successful that it has spread to more than 20 elementary schools and now into middle schools in Houston ISD’s west region.

Lance Menster was a program coordinator with Houston A+ Challenge and led the development of the math initiative with Houston A+ Challenge.  He now serves as Manager, Elementary Mathematics, for Houston ISD.

Tell us about the Math Initiative.
We started on the ExxonMobil Math Initiative with a small team of five math specialists, going into uncharted territory. We tied some key elements together to really support high quality teaching and learning for math. It is exciting to see the work that we started in 2000 with five of us turn into a wide scale program that now impacts more than twenty schools in the West Region and is expanding to the middle schools.

What are you trying to bring to the math department at Houston ISD?
One of the big pieces we are really focusing on is helping students become more confident in mathematics and their ability to solve problems accurately, efficiently, and flexibly. That’s the big piece – teaching students to use concrete and pictorial models, to have images in mathematics. What’s important is to recognize that there’s more than one way to solve a problem. We’re not focused on prescriptive procedure for solving a problem, but rather on having many strategies to attack a problem.

Why is that important?
You have to do something different to get something different. If we really listen to kids about what they understand and what they don’t understand and the way they solve problems, we shouldn’t have this sense of there’s only one way to solve a problem.

How has the Houston A+ Challenge work and the things that you’ve learned and the qualities you developed here, how has that changed you as a leader?
The original imperatives for Houston A+ were about teacher learning, personalization and reducing isolation. To me, those three imperatives were a catalyst for really thinking strategically and systematically: identifying what the important goals are to support student learning and then crafting a plan to reach those goals. The other piece that was life-changing was the critical friends work – the notion of having processes for engaging in challenging conversations around what students need to learn, how do we know they are learning, and how do we respond to their not learning. This concept of professional learning communities actually started ten years ago through Houston A+, and ten years later it seems to be actually really taking hold. The focus has shifted away from teaching, and on learning.

So one big idea that began with A+ was teachers talking to other teachers, then it became bigger, where schools were talking to other schools, and then districts started talking to other districts. It was through the work of this organization.


Grants to Support Literacy Programs for New Readers
Dollar General Youth Literacy Grants provide funding to schools and local nonprofit organizations to help with the implementation or expansion of literacy programs for new readers, below grade level readers and readers with learning disabilities. Maximum Award: $3,000. Eligibility: K-12 schools and nonprofit organizations located within 20 miles of their nearest Dollar General Store. Deadline: October 5, 2007.

Grants to Promote Soccer in Urban Areas
U.S. Soccer Federation Grants Program is accepting proposals for programs that develop players, referees, and coaches through programs, field enhancements or the Foundation's All Conditions Fields Program, with special emphasis on the economically disadvantaged in urban areas. Maximum Award: varies. Eligibility: Anyone with a soccer-specific program or project that benefits a non-for-profit purpose and meets the established focus for the 2008 grant cycle. Deadline: October 15, 2007.

Career & Technical Education Month Public Service Announcement Contest The Association for Career and Technical Education announces its first CTE Month Public Service Announcement (PSA) Contest, inviting submissions of PSAs designed to celebrate and promote CTE Month during February 2008. Maximum Award: $750; Apple's Final Cut Studio 2. Eligibility: Secondary and postsecondary students in CTE-related film, video and production classes. Deadline: November 15, 2007.

USPB’s School Wellness Grant Program
The U.S. Potato Board (USPB) has supported nutrition education in schools for decades. In its newest educational initiative, the USPB has teamed up with the Child Nutrition Foundation (CNF) of the School Nutrition Association to launch its first-ever School Wellness Grant Program. Ten (10) grants of $2,500 each will be awarded to public elementary schools in the United States for equipment and/or educational programs that will help move children toward healthier diets and improve their overall wellness. Eligibility: School administrators, food service staff, teachers and parents are invited to submit an application for the USPB?s School Wellness Grant Program on behalf of their elementary school. Maximum Award: $2,500 Deadline: February 01, 2008

TOSHIBA Grants Program for 7-12 Science & Math Education
Toshiba America Foundation encourages projects with potential for improving classroom teaching and learning in science and mathematics. The Foundation strongly encourages projects planned and led by individual teachers or teams of teachers for their own classrooms.
In addition, projects funded by the Foundation enable forward thinking teachers to use science and mathematics to engage students in positive and challenging learning experiences. Many successful grantees have designed projects that have tapped into the natural curiosity of their students, have enabled students to frame their own scientific questions, and have incorporated the expertise of community partners. If you have questions about the application process, please feel free to contact the Foundation. Phone: 212-596-0620, E-mail: foundation@tai.toshiba.com. Eligibility: Projects for grades 7-12 are eligible for funding. The grants program is national in scope. Proposals are welcome from public and private (non-profit) schools throughout the United States. The Foundation has also made a special commitment to support projects in regions where Toshiba America Group companies have offices. Maximum Award: $500-$4,900. Deadline: February 01, 2008

Knowledge Adventure Schools in Need Competition
The Knowledge Adventure Schools in Need Competition is open to schools that need to raise reading scores by at least 30 percent among a population of students between grades kindergarten to eight. Schools must also show a need to have supplemental reading materials that address specific reading deficiencies and to use the technological investments the school has made for reading instruction. Winning schools will receive the new Knowledge Adventure Academy® line of products for early literacy, reading comprehension and vocabulary, along with training and support. Schools may enter by completing an online form at www.knowledgeadventureschool.com that allows them to explain why their school is in need of reading assistance. Eligibility:      Contest is void where prohibited and is open only to Educators and administrators at public, private and parochial schools within the United States. Maximum Award: $12,000. Deadline: December 15, 2007.

Air Force Association Educator Grant Program
The Educator Grant program is designed to promote aerospace education activities in classrooms from kindergarten through twelfth grades. The program encourages development of innovative aerospace activities within the prescribed curriculum. The program also encourages establishing an active relationship between the school and the local Air Force Association organization. Grant applications must be completed and submitted online at http://www.afa.org/aef/aid/educator.asp. Eligibility: Acceptable activities may include but are not limited to: Classroom science or technology, demonstration kits, Classroom science supplies, Science and technology software for K-12 use, Science manipulatives, Supplies for making flying objects, Supplies for robotic program. Maximum Award: $250. Deadline: November 15, 2007.

2008 National Schools of Character Awards
Every year Character Education Partnership (CEP) recongizes 10 schools for their outstanding work in character education. Winning schools and districts receive a $20,000 award, half of which is used for outreach to other schools and districts. Winners may differ in their methods and implementation but all have comprehensive, exemplary character education programs that exemplify CEP’s Eleven Principles of Effective Character Education and serve as models for others. The criteria used to judge National Schools of Character award winners is CEP’s Character Education Quality Standards. As part of the application process, applicants score themselves using this document. Eligibility: To be eligible, a school must have been engaged in character education for a minimum of three full years, starting no later than December 2004 for the 2008 awards. Districts need to have been engaged in character education for a minimum of four full years, starting no later than December 2003. Schools must have a minimum of 175 students to apply. Smaller administrative units that maintain a separate identity within a large district may apply in the district category, e.g., a school pyramid or cluster. Previous National Schools of Character are ineligible to apply. Maximum Award: $20,000. Deadline: December 03, 2007.

NEAs Books Across America Library Books Awards
The NEA Foundation will make $1,000 awards to public schools serving economically disadvantaged students to purchase books for school libraries. The NEA Foundation makes these awards in collaboration with the National Education Association. The 2008 NEA's Books Across America Library Books Awards are made possible with support from individuals who donated to NEA's Books Across America fund to bring the gift of reading to students. Eligibility: The applicant must be a practicing preK-12 school librarian, teacher, or education support professional in a U.S. public school.At least 70 percent of the students in the applicant?s school must be eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program. The applicant must agree to serve as the contact person for the award and all related public relations activities. Maximum Award: $1000. Deadline: November 12, 2007.

Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honor young people in grades 5 through 12 who have demonstrated exemplary voluntary service to their communities. Maximum Award: $5,000. Eligibility: Students grades 5-12 who have conducted a volunteer service activity within the past year. Deadline: October 31, 2007.

Free Adobe Digital Careers Teaching Resources
The International Society of Technology Education and Adobe have collaborated and produced 3 sets of yearlong curriculum to teach students digital print, web design, and basic video production. The yearlong, project-based curriculum available on Adobe's website is here for free.

Free Lesson Plans Build Racial Understanding
A set of four lesson plans on race and diversity can now be downloaded by educators at no cost. Designed for high school teachers, and suitable for youth leaders in non-school settings, the lessons are designed to promote greater understanding of differences among high school students. The activities in the four lessons have been tested with high school students in Chicago and have been found to open up constructive dialogue among students. Teachers have reported that the activities encourage students to recognize and respect differences in the classroom and also promote a sense of community in their classes. Each of the lessons is completely self-contained and can usually be completed during a 45-minute class period. One whole-class activity causes students to examine issues of identity and then commit to making personal changes in behavior. Another lesson utilizes personal stories to reflect on the Thanksgiving holiday and on Americans’ acceptance of difference. In a third, students explore the meanings of "race" and "racism" and consider how they might personally work to overcome their own biases. The final unit enhances a sense of community in a classroom and promotes a broader sense of community outside of school.

On The Bookshelf

Charles J. Sykes is an accomplished author of five books (A Nation of Victims, Dumbing Down Our Kids, Profscam, The End of Privacy and The Hollow Men) and columnist of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He recently published a book, “50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School: Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education” by St. Martens Press, providing no-nonsense yet humorous life rules directed towards kids. The following is an excerpt published by St. Martens Press:

“ ‘Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.’---Mark Twain

“Charles J. Sykes offers fifty life lessons not included in the self-esteem-laden, reality-light curriculum of most schools. Here are truths about what kids will encounter in the world post-schooling, and ideas for how parents can reclaim lost ground---not with pep talks and touchy-feely negotiations, but with honesty and respect. Sykes’s rules are frank, funny, and tough minded, including:

#1 Life is not fair. Get used to it.

#7 If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he’s not going to ask you how you FEEL about it.

#15 Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it “opportunity.”

#42 Change the oil.

#43 Don’t let the success of others depress you.

#48 Tell yourself the story of your life. Have a point.

“Each rule is explored with wise, pithy examples that parents, grandparents, and teachers can use to help children help themselves succeed---in school and out of it.

“A few rules kids won’t learn in school:

#9 Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn’t.

#14 Looking like a slut does not empower you.

#29 Learn to deal with hypocrisy.

#32 Television is not real life.

#38 Look people in the eye when you meet them.

#47 You are not perfect, and you don’t have to be.

#50 Enjoy this while you can.”


October 2
Coffee With The Candidates
(Pastor Larry T. Williams, Carol Mims Galloway, Reginald C. Adams, Michael Yarborough, Charles McCloud)
Wheatley High School, 4801 Providence

October 3
National Speaker Series: Michael Fullan
University of Houston Hilton Hotel

October 6
Coffee With The Candidates
(Dr. Davetta M. Daniels, Paula Harris)
Thompson Elementary, 6121 Teirwester

October 7
Accountability Session
The Metropolitan Organization (TMO)
Trinity UMC, 2600 Holman

October 11
Fort Bend ISD Community Bond Forum
Bush High School cafeteria, 6707 FM 1464, Richmond, TX

October 11
Fort Bend ISD Community Bond Forum Marshall High School cafeteria, 1220 Buffalo Run, Missouri City, TX

October 13
Coffee With The Candidates
Austin High School,1700 Dumble

October 15-21
Give Kids Good Schools Week

October 15
School Sharing Visit: Best Practices in Literacy across the Curriculum
Milby High School (Houston ISD), 1601 Broadway

October 15
Fort Bend ISD Community Bond Forum
Travis High School cafeteria, 11111 Harlem Rd., Richmond

October 15
Fort Bend ISD Community Bond Forum
Clements High School cafeteria, 4200 Elkins Dr., Sugar Land

October 16
School Sharing Visit: Best Practices in Small Learning Communities

Atascocita High School (Humble ISD), 13300 Will Clayton Parkway, Humble

October 17
School Sharing Visit: Best Practices in Shared Leadership
Stovall Academy Middle School (Aldine ISD), 11201 Airline Drive

October 18
School Sharing Visit: Best Practices in Arts Integration
Pine Shadows Elementary School (Spring Branch ISD) , 9900 Neuens

October 19
School Sharing Visit: Best Practices in High-Performing Small Schools
Eastwood Academy High School (Houston ISD). 1315 Dumble

October 19
School Sharing Visit: Best Practices in Making the Work Public
Hastings High School (Alief ISD), 4410 Cook Road

October 20
Link Up Greater Houston
George R. Brown Convention Center

Statistic of the Month

According to a new report by the Urban Institute, 56% of private schools in the US do not take federal funding, even though private schools are entitled to funding by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Source: “Private School Participants in Programs under the No Child Left Behind Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Join the Houston A+ Challenge Team

Executive Director of Houston A+ Challenge

Houston A+ Challenge

1415 Louisiana, Suite 3250
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

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

Betsy Broyles Breier
Special Projects Coordinator

Administrative Assistants
Imelda Cardoza
Benedicta Forson
Joan Zuniga

Tuan Amith
Webmaster/Public Affairs Assistant