December 2007
News From Houston A+ Challenge

'Preparing to Dream' Unites K-12 Districts Around College Success
Seventy-seven percent of Houstonians agree that a high school education is not enough to get a good job in today's economy. At the same time, the state of Texas needs to enroll 630,000 more college and university students by the year 2015, just to close the gap between Texas and other states.

The new "Preparing to Dream" initiative will help five Houston-area K-12 districts share strategies as they focus on one target: helping more low-income students and first-generation collegegoers realize their dream of attending and succeeding in college.

The participating districts – Houston, Cypress-Fairbanks, Aldine, Spring Branch and Goose Creek – will join with Houston A+ Challenge and experts from the National College Access Network to analyze student data, current programs and successful models from across the country.

District teams begin meeting this month, and over the next four years will plan and implement pilot projects with an eye toward policy change. Click here to sign up to receive quarterly updates!

Empowerment, AIS Awarded Early College Model Grants from TEA
Empowerment College Preparatory High School and the Houston Academy for International Studies are among just seven schools statewide awarded a 2008-2010 Early College High School grant, the Texas Education Agency announced in November.

Grantees will serve as success and sustainability models among Early Colleges, which give traditionally underserved students (economically disadvantaged and first-time college goers) an opportunity to earn a high school diploma and 60 credit hours towards an associate's degree and/or a baccalaureate degree at no cost to the student.

Houston A+ Challenge is a founding partner of both small schools.

New Small School Introduces Students to the World
Students at Sharpstown International SchoolLast month, Sharpstown International High School students, staff, supporters and community members formally dedicated the new campus, which offers a globally focused, rigorous and highly personalized education to its students.

The school opened in August with 100 ninth graders, and is the second of its kind created through a partnership between Houston ISD, Houston A+ Challenge and the Asia Society.

Students at the school will take four years of a foreign language, participate in international trips and projects, and complete a globally focused internship before they graduate.

Click here to see photos from the dedication and to learn more about Sharpstown International High School. The dedication was also featured on 88.7 KUHF-FM and KPRC Channel 2.

Sign Up for the CFG Newsletter: Coaching Facilitates Greatness
Calling all Critical Friends! Whether you were trained last month or last decade, now is the time to sign up for 'Coaching Facilitates Greatness', a new e-newsletter from Houston A+ Challenge.

The biweekly publication will provide tips, protocols and inspiration for Critical Friends Group coaches and members of professional learning communities -- all brought to you by Houston A+ Challenge's Tim Martindell and Donna Reid.

Distribution of the CFG e-newsletter will begin in January. To sign up, click here and check the box, "Sign me up for Coaching Facilitates Greatness: e-support for Critical Friends Groups."

School News

'Tis the Season: Give Directly to a Classroom For The Holidays
At, visitors can browse thousands of proposals from public schools across the nation and make a donation directly to a favorite school or project. Here are just a few of the nearly 200 Houston-area school proposals you could contribute to this holiday season:

Houston-Area Public Schools Named to 'Best Of Texas' List
Texas Monthly magazine's fourth annual ranking of the state's top public schools is out this month, and dozens of Houston-area schools have made the grade. Out of 7,956 public schools in the state of Texas, just 859 were named to the list, including:

Click here for a detailed description of how schools were evaluated.

Six Houston ISD High Schools Named Among Nation's Best
U.S. News & World Report has given a "gold medal" rating to DeBakey and Carnegie Vanguard high schools -- placing them in the top 100 high schools nationwide. The schools, which ranked 87th and 96th respectively, were the only Harris County district schools named in the top 100. YES College Prep charter school is listed at number 38.

In addition, Houston ISD charted two "silver medal" winners -- High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice and High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Challenge Early College High School and Eastwood Academy were named "bronze medal" winners.

Visit the magazine's website for a full report, or to see methodology.

In Focus With … Paul Castro

Great schools have great leaders – that's why Houston A+ Challenge invests in Houston educators like Paul Castro. He is one of more than 200 principals and APs from six area K-12 districts that have graduated from Houston A+ Challenge's two-year New Visions in Leadership Academy since 1999. Participants meet in groups to study the latest research, develop their leadership styles, and learn new techniques for helping teachers reach and inspire today’s students.

Paul CastroPaul Castro is Principal of Westside High School in Houston ISD and a 2002 graduate of the New Visions in Leadership Academy. He now serves as a coach for principals currently in the Academy.

What was your first impression of the New Visions in Leadership Academy?

When you join, the first thing they do is give you books. At first I was like, 'Oh great now I have something to put on my shelves so I can look informed.' But the expectation is that you actually have to read and participate in the dialogue and actually be involved. In other professional development trainings, that had never really been emphasized before. The idea was that being an active participant is important for us and the kids we serve. It was a very different concept. It was the first time I felt treated like a professional.

How has the work that you've done with Houston A+ changed you as a leader?

It has provided me with something that I can't quantify or explain –  it's a different way of thinking.  Now I read all the time, I'm always searching, always looking.  A+ is really dedicated to proving that the work we're doing matters, that it's relevant to the classroom – and that we're making an impact on kids. Out of all the things that I have done to improve myself as a leader, this has been the most valuable.

How have these changes impacted your teachers and students?

Houston A+ provided the learning on how to be accountable. It changed the way I work with my teachers, and gave me more of a "show, don't tell" philosophy. If I expect my teachers to engage their students in meaningful work, then I need to engage my teachers in meaningful work. If I tell my teachers that every minute they have with kids is important, and then I need to plan well for our monthly faculty meetings, so I don't waste their time. Knowing this allows me to be a better leader in my school.

On The Bookshelf

Prize-winning scientist and bestselling author James Trefil centers his latest book on the vital importance of 'science literacy' for all students and U.S. citizens. "Why Science?" is written with a clarity that non-scientists will enjoy; according to the New York Times, Trefil "surpasses almost all other scientists writing about science for the public." Trefil is the Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Physics at George Mason University. His books include The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, 1001 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Science, Are We Unique? A Scientist Explores the Human Mind, and The Nature of Science: An A-Z Guide to the Laws and Principles Governing Our Universe.  The following is a description of "Why Science?" by the publisher, Teachers College Press:

"Trefil knows that initiating a national scientific literacy program won't be easy, but he convincingly argues that it is essential to our national future. After reading this book, you will agree that, whatever the cost of teaching scientific literacy, we simply can't afford not to heed his advice. In this enjoyable read, a well-known critic of the status quo in science education:

  • Describes the woeful state of science knowledge today.
  • Explains why today's science education is insufficient for tomorrow's needs.
  • Tackles the key topics of 'scientific literacy' and explains how to teach them.
  • Confronts headline issues, including stem cell research, global warming, cloning, and 'intelligent design.'
  • Shows why science education is essential to an informed citizenry and how scientific literacy is achievable.
  • Suggests a middle way between the two prevailing approaches to science education: 'deep and narrow' vs. 'broad but shallow.'"

Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program
The Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program supports efforts to recruit and educate the next generation of librarians and the faculty who will prepare them. It also supports grants for research related to library education and library staffing needs, curriculum development and continuing education and training. Maximum Award: $1,000,000. Eligibility: All libraries, except federal and for-profit libraries. Eligible libraries include public, school, academic, special, private (not-for-profit), archives, library agencies, library consortia and library associations. Institutions of higher education, including public and not-for-profit universities and colleges, also are eligible. Deadline: December 17, 2007.

College Access Funds for Houston-Area Sophomores and Juniors
The Linda Lorelle Scholarship Fund, a local nonprofit, is now accepting applications for its 2007-08 scholarships to enable Houston-area high school sophomores & juniors to access and complete a college education. Maximum Award: $12,000. Eligibility: Sophomores and juniors with a 2.0 GPA or higher in eligible public, private or charter schools within Harris and Fort Bend counties. Deadline: Feb. 22, 2008.

Toshiba Grants for 7-12 Science & Math Education
The Toshiba America Foundation funds 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. Eligibility: Currently, proposals for projects serving grades 7-12 are welcome from U.S. public and private (nonprofit) schools. The Foundation has also made a special commitment to support projects in regions where Toshiba America Group companies have offices. Maximum Award: $5,000. Deadline: February 1, 2008.

Prize to Reward Civic Contributions
The Civic Ventures Purpose Prize awards Americans over 60 whose creativity, talent and experience transforms the way the nation addresses critical social problems. Maximum Award: $100,000. Eligibility: Americans who are 60 years of age by January 31, 2008, and currently working in a leadership capacity in an organization or institution (public, private, nonprofit, or for-profit) to address a major social problem. Deadline: March 1, 2008.

2008 Verizon Tech Savvy Awards
The National Center for Family Literacy is now accepting nominations for the 2008 Verizon Tech Savvy Awards. These are the first national awards to honor programs that improve parents and children's understanding and use of technology. Maximum Award: $5,000-$25,000. Eligibility: Organizations that are 501(c)(3) nonprofits, such as community-based non-profits, libraries and schools, should apply. Deadline: January 11, 2008.

Nominate a Teacher for the National Teachers Hall of Fame 2008
The mission of The National Teachers Hall of Fame is to recognize and honor exceptional career teachers, encourage excellence in teaching, and preserve the rich heritage of the teaching profession in the United States. Maximum Award: $2,000. Eligibility: Nominees must: 1) Have a minimum of twenty (20) years of full-time preK-12 teaching experience. 2) Hold or have held a valid teaching certificate or license from the state in which he or she is teaching/has taught. 3) If selected, attend induction activities in Emporia, Kansas and other potential locations in June 2008. 4) Be nominated via submission of the official nomination form, obtained by calling 800-96-TEACH or by downloading it from the NTHF web site. Deadline: January 2, 2008.

ThinkQuest International Competition
The Oracle Education Foundation is once again sponsoring its annual ThinkQuest International competition. The 2008 competition invites student teams and their teacher coaches to create innovative, educational websites on a variety of topics. Eligibility: Students ages 9-19 and their teacher coaches. Maximum Award: Laptops worth up to $1,500 retail; $1,000 cash awards for top teams' schools; expenses-paid trip to ThinkQuest Live in San Francisco for top three teams; winning teams' websites featured on ThinkQuest website. Deadline: April 2, 2008.

ING Unsung Heroes Awards Program
The ING Unsung Heroes Program has helped more than a thousand K-12 educators and their schools fund innovative classroom projects through awards totaling more than $2.8 million. Do you or does someone you know have a creative, unique educational program that is helping students reach new heights? Or is there a program you'd like to implement, if only you had the proper funding? Eligibility: All K-12 education professionals, whether or not they are clients of ING. Maximum Award: $2,000 to $25,000. Deadline: April 30, 2008.

Goody’s Good Deeds for Schools
Goody's wants to help our teachers and schools get the little extra they need to keep up the good work. Eligibility: K-12 schools where Goody's stores are located. Maximum Award: $10,000. Deadline: December 31, 2007.

Digital Wish Grant
Tool Factory and Olympus launched Digital Wish to help educators locate much-needed funding for technology. Regardless of whether you win one of these grants, your technology wish list will be posted publicly so that donors can make a contribution to your classroom. It's basically a wedding registry for technology products! There's a searchable library of grants, and a myriad of ideas for fundraising. The entire site is designed to help teachers find funding for technology for the classroom. Eligibility: America's K-12 schools. Maximum Award: $380 to $10,350. Deadline: June 28, 2008.



Dec. 3
Houston Katrina/Rita Fund Educational Initiative: Lessons Learned
4:30-6 p.m.
United Way, 50 Waugh

Dec. 5
Sonia Nieto
7-9 p.m.
University of St. Thomas

Dec. 13-14
Preparing to Dream Kickoff Meetings
Univ. of Houston Hilton, Invited Guests Only

Dec. 15
Houston ISD Winter Fest Arts Festival
George R. Brown Convention Center

Statistic of the Month

Fewer than one out of every three 13-year olds is a daily reader, a 14 percent decline from two decades ago. On average, Americans ages 15 to 24 spend nearly two hours each day watching TV, and only seven minutes of their leisure time on reading.

Source: National Endowment for the Arts, "To Read or Not to Read"

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
Tim Martindell
Angela Prince
Mike Webster
Alejandro Morúa

Terrie Roberts
Event Coordinator

Betsy Broyles Breier
Special Projects Coordinator

Administrative Assistants
Imelda Cardoza
Benedicta Forson

Tuan Amith
Webmaster/Public Affairs Assistant