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March 2008
News From Houston A+ Challenge

March 4 and 12: Information Sessions for Aspiring Principals
Prospective candidates for Houston A+ Challenge's new Regional Principal Leadership Academy are invited to attend information sessions this month, prior to the March 28 application deadline:

Tues., March 4
4:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.

United Way of Greater Houston
50 Waugh Dr. (map)

Weds., March 12
5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.

University of Houston - Hilton Hotel
4800 Calhoun St. (map)

Weds., March 26
4:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.

United Way of
Greater Houston
50 Waugh Dr. (map)

Generous support for the Academy comes from Houston Endowment, Washington Mutual, Wachovia and other funders.

Apply Now for Summer 2008 Teacher Externship Program
The sixth annual Teacher Externship program is doubling in size, thanks to generous support 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.

For more information about the Externship, click here.

March 3-4: 'Parents as Partners' Engagement Summit
This month, Spring Branch ISD, Houston ISD and Houston A+ Challenge will co-host a two-day summit, "Parents as Partners: Striving for Optimal Engagement In Our Schools." Kathy Leslie, APR, nationally recognized expert in "Engaging the Hard to Reach Parent," will help facilitate small group discussions, share outs and action planning around optimal parent engagement in schools.

The event takes place from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. March 3 and 4 at the Spring Branch ISD Administration Building, 955 Campbell Road.

To participate, RSVP to partner@springbranchisd.com, or for questions about the event, contact Linda Buchman at 713-464-1511 ext. 2287.

March 28 Convocation: Save the Date for 'Education 2012'
Please join Houston A+ Challenge and the American Leadership Forum for the biennial Convocation on Public Education, "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 Community Resource Center.

This public convocation will feature a panel with local superintendents and a keynote address from prominent educator, consultant, futurist and author David Warlick on the importance of integrating technology in the classroom. To register for this event, click here. Space is limited.

School News

Students Own Their Future Online
The Texas Education Agency, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has launched a new website to encourage high school students to empower themselves to make important education and career decisions. The website, www.OwnYourOwnFuture.com, provides valuable tools directed at students to:

  • Want It - The importance of choosing a career and education pathway.
  • Find It - Selecting the right career path based on their interests and skills.
  • Own It - Staying on course in light of obstacles in front of them.

Own Your Own Future will also keep students up-to-date with statewide events and other in-person outreach events.

New Report: More Houston ISD Students Ready for College
Two years ago, Houston ISD leaders made a commitment to promote a college-bound culture for all students. On Feb. 14, a new report presented to the Board of Education indicated that district students are making progress faster than the state average in college-ready subjects, such as math and English language arts.

For more on the report, click here.

"It all begins with the dream, the belief, in a family that children can go to college and can succeed there," said Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra. "Our teachers and school administrators have worked hard with students and parents to help foster that belief, and to help connect students with financial aid."

A Head Start on Community Service
Texas Children's Hospital, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Early Childhood Education Center, and the Buchannan H. Grimes Elementary School are several sites hosting student volunteers from the Empowerment College Preparatory High School. The student volunteers are involved in a variety of services ranging from fundraisers, blood and clothing drives, and care services to U.S. veterans. Placement sites include Big Brothers Big Sisters, Methodist Hospital, READ Commission, and the Ensemble Theatre. As part of the school's initiative to make a positive contribution to the community, students learn the value of making a difference in their community and gain real-world experience through their altruistic efforts.

"Children rise to the level of our expectations," said Empowerment Principal Traci Stewart Jones, "Very often, teenagers are viewed as directionless and irresponsible; by setting the expectation that our children should take an active role in their communities, we ensure that they will begin to learn their roles and responsibilities as citizens early in life."

To read the full report from Houston ISD, click here.

Aldine ISD Schools Receive Nationwide Recognition
Three Aldine ISD schools have been recognized by San Diego State University's National Center for Urban School Transformation (NCUST). Both Carver High School and MacArthur Senior High School are currently among the 20 finalists competing for the National Excellence in Urban Education Award. Ten winners will be chosen in May, after site visits.

To be considered for the award, schools must fulfill the 11 criteria of urban school excellence, such as high achievement for all demographic groups, high attendance rates, high graduation rates, low suspension and expulsion rates, and academic excellence. Also, Stephens Elementary School was named on NCUST's National Honor Roll for meeting the 11 criteria, along with just 33 other schools.

In Focus With … Frazier Wilson

2008 is the second year that Shell Oil Company will provide major sponsorship for Houston A+ Challenge's Teacher Externship program. Frazier Wilson, Social Investment Manager for Shell, provided this insight on the Externship at a recent Teacher-Business Roundtable hosted by Houston A+ Challenge.

Why is Shell interested in supporting the Teacher Externship?
There is too often a 'great divide' between business and education, and this program helps bridge that divide. For example, I started out as an accountant, and then went back into the classroom as a special education teacher (before coming to Shell). There are obvious differences between the two worlds -- so it's important to expose teachers to the expectations of the workplace that their students will soon enter.

What was a lesson you learned from hosting 10 teachers during the 2007 Externship?
Teachers send us their 'best' students, but often what is lacking is a different skill set -- the soft skill set. Communication, both written and verbal, is so important in the workplace. Students are not always prepared. This program gives us the opportunity to have an open dialogue about these issues.

What advice can you give to companies that want to participate in the 2008 Teacher Externship?
Treat the teachers like consultants. Introduce them to everyone in the office, and have real, candid conversations about expectations -- such as, if you are going to visit with the CEO, you have to plan and be concise -- he doesn't have much time. Make sure that there's a deliverable at the end of the week, and give teachers exposure to non-college track jobs as well.

Businesses that would like to host one or more teachers for the 2008 Externship 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.

On The Bookshelf

Scholar, educator, public servant, senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and current president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, Chester E. Finn, Jr. has published a new book chronicling school reform and education policy since the postwar era, titled "Troublemaker: A Personal History of School Reform Since Sputnik", published by Princeton University Press. The following is the publisher's description of "Troublemaker":

"Few people have been more involved in shaping postwar U.S. education reforms -- or dissented from some of them more effectively -- than Chester Finn. Assistant secretary of education under Ronald Reagan, and an aide to politicians as different as Richard Nixon and Daniel Moynihan, Finn has also been a high school teacher, an education professor, a prolific and best-selling writer, a think-tank analyst, a nonprofit foundation president, and both a Democrat and Republican. This remarkably varied career has given him an extraordinary insider's view of every significant school-reform movement of the past four decades, from racial integration to No Child Left Behind. In 'Troublemaker', Finn has written a vivid history of postwar education reform that is also the personal story of one of the foremost players -- and mavericks -- in American education.

"Finn tells how his experiences have shaped his changing views of the three major strands of postwar school reform: standards-driven, choice-driven, and profession-driven. Of the three, Finn now believes that a combination of choice and standards has the greatest potential, but he favors this approach more on pragmatic than ideological grounds, arguing that parents should be given more options at the same time that schools are allowed more flexibility and held to higher performance norms. He also explains why education reforms of all kinds are so difficult to implement, and he draws valuable lessons from their frequent failure.

"Clear-eyed yet optimistic, Finn ultimately gives grounds for hope that the best of today's bold initiatives -- from charter schools to technology to makeovers of school-system governance -- are finally beginning to make a difference."


Excellence Through Ethics Scholarship Contest
Junior Achievement and Deloitte's fourth annual "Excellence Through Ethics" essay contest asks students to apply their knowledge of ethical decision-making and share their views on the importance of ethics in business. To enter, students must compose an original essay of 500 words or less in response to an ethical dilemma posted on Junior Achievement’s website. Maximum Award: $5,000. Eligibility: high school seniors. Deadline: March 28, 2008.

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.

Sprint Ahead for Education Grants
The Sprint Foundation Sprint Ahead for Education grant program awards grants to school districts and individual schools to fund the purchase of resources that facilitate and encourage character education among K-12 students. Maximum Award: $25,000. Eligibility: all U.S. public schools (K-12) and U.S. public school districts. Deadline: April 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.

Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching
The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching are among the nation's highest honors for teachers of mathematics and science and recognize highly qualified teachers for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession. Maximum Award: $10,000. Eligibility: teachers with five years experience teaching math or science. Deadline: May 1, 2008.

Jordan Fundamentals Grant Programs
Each year, a significant number of projects will be funded as "Innovation Grants" with individual teacher approaches that attempt to engage students in school using either experimental or traditional strategies effectively. Also, Nike's "Inspiration Grants", averaging $10,000, will be awarded to teams of teachers to support scaling-up the implementation of approaches, originally developed with Innovation Grants. Requests larger than $10,000 for Innovation Grants will be considered if the proposal scope is appropriately in alignment with the requested amount. Click here for more requirements. Maximum Award: $10,000. Eligibility: Applicants must be public school teachers or paraprofessionals working with students in grades 1 through 12. Jordan Fundamentals will consider grants in all 50 States and the District of Columbia. Deadline: March 30, 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 Butler-Cooley Excellence in Teaching Award
The program seeks to honor education professionals who have changed the outcome of students' lives and the communities in which they live. Not less than three and not more than five teachers will be honored each year at the Turnaround Management Association Annual Convention. For further information, click here for eligibility and criteria, or click here for the entry package. Maximum Award: $5,000. Eligibility: Applicants must be licensed and active elementary or secondary school teachers employed by accredited schools for at least five years. Teachers may nominate themselves or be nominated by others. Deadline: May 1, 2008.

Teaching Ambassador Fellowship
The Teaching Ambassador Fellowship empowers teacher leaders from our nation's public schools to contribute their knowledge and experience to the national dialogue about public education, and provides them an opportunity to learn more about education policy. Maximum Award: Fellowship. Eligibility: Currently a teacher in a United States K-12 public school or public charter school for at least three years and a U.S. Citizen. Click here for more eligibility requirements. Deadline: April 7, 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. 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. Eligibility: Students ages 9-19 and their teacher coaches. 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? Maximum Award: $2,000 to $25,000. Eligibility: All K-12 education professionals, whether or not they are clients of ING. 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.


Regional Academy For Aspiring Principals
(Deadline: Mar. 28)

2008 Teacher Externships
(Deadline: Mar. 28)

New Visions For Seated Principals and APs
(Deadline: Mar. 21)

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March 4
Regional Principal Leadership Academy: Info Session
4:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.
United Way Building
50 Waugh Drive

March 3 - 4
Parents as Partners
9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Spring Branch ISD Administration Building
Board Room
955 Campbell Road

March 12
Preparing to Dream Spring Institute
8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Univ. of Houston Hilton

March 12
Regional Principal Leadership Academy: Info Session
5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Univ. of Houston Hilton

March 13
Understanding the Lives of Boys
6 p.m. - 8 p.m.
South Main Baptist Church
4100 Main Street

March 14
'Cradle to Prison Pipeline' Texas Summit
8 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Univ. of Houston Law Center

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

Statistic of the Month

77 percent of students and over 80 percent of teachers and parents all believe that homework is important. Also, students who spend more time on homework reported to have better grades of A's or B's.

Source: MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: The Homework Experience


Houston A+ Challenge

1415 Louisiana, Suite 3250
Houston, TX 77002

Board of Trustees

Joe B. Foster

Ann Friedman, Ph. D.

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
Donna O'Neil

Tuan Amith