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February 2008
News From Houston A+ Challenge

Feb. 14: 'College Readiness For All Students'
How can schools and communities help more students successfully navigate the high school-college transition? Learn more when Houston A+ Challenge's National Speaker Series welcomes University of Oregon Educational Leadership Professor David Conley on Feb. 14 at 5 p.m. at the University of Houston Hilton.

Conley is director of the university's Center for Educational Policy Research. He has developed adequacy-funding models for Oregon, Hawaii and Washington, and his publications include: Toward a More Comprehensive Conception of College Readiness, commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Understanding University Success, College Knowledge and Who Governs Our Schools?

Click here to RSVP for this free, public event.

Applications Available for 2008 Teacher Externship Program
This summer's sixth annual Teacher Externship program is doubling in size, thanks to a generous $150,000 donation from Shell Oil Company. Through the Externship, 200 Houston-area teachers will get the opportunity to spend a week (June 9-13) in local businesses, to gain industry insight and inspiration for work-relevant student lessons.

Teachers can apply for an Externship placement by clicking here:

Businesses that would like to host one or more teachers should contact Alejandro Morúa, Houston A+ Challenge program coordinator, at amorua@houstonaplus.org or (713) 658-1881.

For more information about the Externship, click here.

March 28: Save the Date for 'Education 2012'
Please join Houston A+ Challenge and the American Leadership Forum for "Education 2012: Preparing Kids for a Future We Can't Describe" on March 28 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the United Way.

This public convocation will feature a panel with local superintendents and a keynote address from prominent educator, consultant and author David Warlick on the importance of integrating technology in the classroom. Registration information and a full agenda will be available soon.

New Principal Leadership Opportunities in the News
Houston A+ Challenge's new leadership academy for aspiring urban secondary school principals was featured last month in The Houston Chronicle and the Houston Community Newspaper group.

Round 1 applications for the academy will be available later this month. "It's going to be a competitive field," Houston A+ Executive Director Scott Van Beck told the Chronicle. Click here for more information.

In addition, Rice University announced a partnership with Houston A+ Challenge through its new MBA in Educational Entrepreneurship program, which is supported by a $7 million grant from Houston Endowment. Houston A+ will provide coaching for aspiring principals in the Rice MBA program, featured also in the Washington Post.

School News

Houston ISD School to Showcase 'Intelligent Classroom'
A $100,000 donation from Dell will help one Houston ISD school to develop an"Intelligent Classroom" that will serve as a model for maximizing the use of technology in instruction. Schools are invited to submit proposals to become a showcase site.

Proposals must be completed and submitted to the Elementary and Secondary Educational Technology Team at edtech@houstonisd.org no later than 5 p.m. on February 29, 2008. Click here to apply.

Beacon School Hosting Open House
Quest High School in Humble ISD, one of Houston A+ Challenge's original Beacon Schools, will host open houses for prospective students on Feb. 12 and March 13 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Quest is a small, accredited college-preparatory high school with graduates attending major universities across the nation. For more information, call the school at (281) 641-7326 or visit the Quest High School website.

Tools For School Improvement and High School Redesign
The Annenberg Institute for School Reform and the Academy for Educational Development have just published a new framework and toolkit for discussion and action around high school reform.

"Building a System of Excellent High Schools" is based on lessons learned through Carnegie Corporation of New York's nationwide Schools for a New Society initiative, which included work in Houston.

More helpful tools from the Annenberg Institute are online here.

In Focus With … Sue Page

Sue Page Improving education for all of Houston's children isn’t the job of any one school district – it's everyone’s job.  That's why central office leaders from eight area districts meet regularly through Houston A+ Challenge's Regional Senior Fellows network to share ideas and make meaningful connections.

Sue Page is Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education for Alief ISD and an active member of Regional Senior Fellows.

Why do you participate in Regional Senior Fellows?

Networking across districts is really important, because you're sharing your expertise, you're sharing challenges, you’re asking questions and you're thinking through the issues. Our focus becomes broader – it’s not just tied to Alief or any specific district, it's asking 'What am I doing to impact children everywhere?'

How have you used this work to impact schools in Alief?

Probably the biggest thing for us has been to work with the campuses on building professional learning communities. As a district leader, it's powerful when I can help folks understand that it's OK to stop and reflect – that we need to work that way. We know that the most powerful learning occurs when we have that opportunity. This is true for district leaders, principals, teachers – and of course students.

What other resources have you tapped into through Regional Senior Fellows?

Working with national figures like Tony Wagner (of Harvard University's Change Leadership Group) has been very important. It has helped us start looking at what goes on in classrooms in a different way, in terms of asking, 'If it's not translating into achievement for kids, then why are we doing it?' So it has helped change the way each person judges what is going on in our classrooms, and that's been huge.

On The Bookshelf

Chicago-based writer and independent filmmaker G.R. Kearney has a new book out, titled "More Than A Dream: How One School's Vision Is Changing The World". "More Than A Dream" chronicles the obstacles and challenges of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, from start-up to financial crisis.

Cristo Rey provides high-quality college preparatory education to students who could not otherwise afford it, through an innovative funding model and Corporate Internship Program that allows students to earn their tuition by working five days each month in local businesses. In a neighborhood where dropout rates exceed 50 percent, Cristo Rey annually sends well over 90 percent of its graduates to college.

"More Than A Dream" is a story of a school's struggle to stay afloat while serving the students of Chicago's Lower West Side. G.R. Kearney, a graduate of Georgetown University and the University of Chicago's School of Business, was a former teacher and coach at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School.

The following is a description from the publisher, Loyola Books:

"The Cristo Rey Jesuit High School story is one of the more improbable and inspiring educational success stories in decades. Beginning with an audacious dream — to start a new college prep school for the children of Hispanic working poor — the Jesuits in Chicago set to work. But there were many questions that needed to be answered: Would parents support a demanding prep school? Could students overcome deficient academic backgrounds? How could such a school be financed?

"Despite many real and potential barriers, the Jesuits persisted — and in 1996, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School opened its doors in Pilsen, an extremely poor, predominantly Mexican-immigrant neighborhood on Chicago’s Lower West side.

"In More Than a Dream, G. R. Kearney shows how one daring vision became a reality and has turned into a resounding success. Through Cristo Rey Jesuit High School’s innovative curriculum, creative financing model, and intense devotion to the needs of Hispanic students, the lives of thousands of families continue to be changed. In demonstrating how Cristo Rey Jesuit High School has sparked an educational revolution in urban America, the book leaves every reader with a bold challenge: Attempt to change what seems unchangeable."


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: February 22, 2008.

2008 Bank of America Neighborhood Excellence Initiative™
Bank of America offers this signature program for organizations and individuals in the greater Houston area. Applications are now being accepted in three categories: Student Leaders, Neighborhood Builders and Local Heroes. Awards: Bank of America Student Leaders will participate in an eight-week, paid internship with a local nonprofit organization and a week-long leadership summit in Washington DC (July 13-18, 2008). Organizations chosen as Bank of America Neighborhood Builders are awarded a $200,000 grant (operating support) paid $100,000 annually for 2 years, and the organization’s Senior Executive and an Emerging Leader attend leadership training workshops. Individuals chosen as Bank of America Local Heroes are awarded a $5,000 grant to be awarded to the eligible not for profit organization of their choice. Eligibility: Visit the Bank of America website for details. Deadlines: Student Leaders: 7 p.m. CST on Friday, February 29, 2008; Neighborhood Builders & Local Heroes: 7 p.m. CST on Friday, June 27, 2008. Applications accepted only via the Bank of America website.

First in My Family Scholarship Program
This program, developed in partnership with the Hispanic College Fund, offers scholarships ranging from $500 to $5,000 to Hispanic-American students who are the first in their family to attend college and have financial need. Maximum Award: $500 to $5,000. Eligibility: Hispanic-American students who have demonstrated financial need and are the first in their family to attend college. Visit the Hispanic College Fund website for additional requirements. Deadline: April 15, 2008.

Sallie Mae Fund American Dream Scholarship
The Sallie Mae Fund is partnering with the United Negro College Fund to offer scholarships ranging from $500 to $5,000 to African American citizens, legal permanent residents or nationals of the United States who are enrolling full-time at an approved institution as defined as Title IV eligible, accredited, post-secondary two- or four-year college or university, vocational, or technical school in the United States or Puerto Rico for the 2007-2008 academic year. Click here to apply online. Eligibility: Applicants must meet the Federal Pell Grant eligibility criteria and have a financial need as verified by the attending college or university financial aid office. Maximum Award: $500 to $5,000. Deadline: April 15, 2008.

Community College Transfer Scholarships
Offered in collaboration with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, this program provides last-dollar scholarships to Latino students transferring from a community college to an accredited higher education institution. Eligibility: Requirements vary. Visit the Hispanic Scholarship Fund for specific details. Maximum Award: $1000 to $5000. Deadline: Feb. 15, 2008.

American Stars of Teaching
The U.S. Department of Education will continue to honor exemplary classroom teachers who are successful in using innovative teaching strategies and raising student academic achievement as the American Stars of Teaching. One teacher from each state and the District of Columbia will be selected as representatives of the many teachers who are making a difference in the lives of their students. Officials from the U.S. Department of Education will announce the 2008 American Stars by visiting the recipients in the Fall of 2008. Nominations can be made online by clicking here. Maximum Award: National recognition from the Department of Education. Eligibility: Current classroom teacher. Deadline: March 31, 2008.

Schools of Distinction Program
The Intel Foundation Schools of Distinction Program honors United States schools that have demonstrated excellence in math and science education. In order to be considered as an Intel School of Distinction, schools must develop an environment and curricula that meet or exceed benchmarks, including national mathematics and science content standards. Click here for more information. Maximum Award: $100,000. Eligibility: middle and high schools. Deadline: February 14, 2008.

NCFL Grants for Family Literacy
The National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) is seeking five school districts to receive an award of $600,000 each in direct funding and support services to implement the highly successful Toyota Family Literacy Program. The program uses a quality family literacy approach to increase basic language and literacy skills, and provides parents with the specific skills they need to help their children succeed. Maximum Award: $600,000. Eligibility: Communities with high or fast-growing Hispanic and other immigrant populations. Deadline: February 15, 2008.

The Christopher Columbus Awards Program
The Christopher Columbus Awards Program combines science and technology with community problem-solving. Students work in teams with the help of an adult coach to identify an issue they care about and, using science and technology, work with experts, conduct research and put their ideas to the test to develop an innovative solution. Maximum Award: $25,000, an all-expense-paid trip to Walt Disney World to attend the program's National Championship Week and a $2,000 U.S. Savings Bond for each student team member. Eligibility: Middle-school-age (sixth, seventh, and eighth grade) children; teams do not need to be affiliated with a school to enter. Deadline: March 17, 2008.

2008 Horace Mann - Abraham Lincoln Fellowship
Horace Mann and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) have teamed up to offer 50 teachers a Fellowship to study the life and legacy of our 16th president. The Fellowship is open to any full-time teacher of Kindergarten through 12th grade of any discipline in the U.S. The Fellowship features a five-day Institute in June and July 2008 at the ALPLM in Springfield, Illinois and it includes round-trip transportation, lodging and most meals. Winning Fellows will attend the Institute during the following dates: June 22-28, 2008 (25 Fellows) and July 6-12, 2008 (25 Fellows). Click here to submit an online application. For more information contact Paul Wappel at 217.788.5373. Maximum Award: Fellowship for 50 awardees. Eligibility: Entrant must be a full-time teacher (30+ hours a week) teaching Kindergarten through 12th grade at a public or private school in the United States. Deadline: February 15, 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.

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.

Digital Wish Grant for Technology in the Classroom
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.

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Teacher Externship Applications Now Available
Deadline is March 28

Feb. 5
Children at Risk presents Children's Summit
8 a.m - 11:30 p.m.
United Way Building
50 Waugh Drive
Download Registration Form

Feb. 14
National Speaker Series: David Conley on "College Readiness For All Students"
Univ. of Houston Hilton

Feb. 19
Houston ISD's 2008 State of the Schools Luncheon
11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
George R. Brown Convention Center (George Bush Grand Ballroom, third floor)

Mar. 28
2008 Convocation on Public Education: 'Education 2012'
8 a.m. - 3 p.m.
United Way Building
50 Waugh Drive

Statistic of the Month

This year, new and returning college students are eligible for more than $80 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study assistance. Over 95 percent of federal FAFSAs (Free Applications for Federal Student Aid) are now submitted online.

Source: U.S. Department of Education.

To apply or get more information, click here.

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

Houston A+ Staff

Scott Van Beck
Executive Director

Suzanne Sutherland
Associate Director/
Director of Programs

Catherine Reed
Director, Finance

Melissa Milios
Director, Public Affairs

Program Coordinators
Tim Martindell
Alejandro Morúa
Angela Prince
Mike Webster

Terrie Roberts
Event Coordinator

Betsy Broyles Breier
Special Projects Coordinator

Administrative Assistants
Imelda Cardoza
Benedicta Forson

Tuan Amith