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June 2008
News from Houston A+ Challenge

Making Our High Schools Work: 16 Campuses Chart Progress
For the past five years, school leaders of 16 Houston-area high schools have been working in collaboration with each other and with Houston A+ Challenge to improve the school culture, learning conditions, professional competencies and student achievement on their campuses. Biannual conferences, cross-site school evaluation walk-throughs and network meetings have helped these leaders stay focused, share best practices and encourage one another through the challenges of the schoolwide improvement process.

On June 2, principals from these 16 high schools (representing Aldine, Alief, Humble and Spring Branch ISDs) released a white paper charting their progress on these fronts, and outlining their policy goals and financial needs for the future. Continued support for small learning communities, instruction-focused professional learning communities, expert content coaches, and an emphasis on principals as instructional leaders are among the list of requests. To view the full report, including student test score improvements, click here.

Work with Houston A+: Outstanding Instructional Leaders Wanted
Houston A+ Challenge is looking for former principals, curriculum specialists and instructional leaders to help build and grow the Regional Principal Leadership Academy. Both full-time and part-time positions are open; individuals must have both the passion and the talent to work with an outstanding crop of aspiring principals this summer and beyond. Click on these job titles for more information:

  • Consulting Coach - Provide part-time coaching support to Fellows in the Regional Principal Leadership Academy.
  • Faculty Coach - Provide full-time coaching support and instructional delivery for the Academy.
  • Curriculum Specialist - Provide curricular leadership and assist in program support for the Academy.
  • Lead Instructional Coach - Provide instructional leadership and curriculum delivery for the Academy.

Houston A+ Challenge is Moving
On June 6, Houston A+ Challenge will move from our longtime offices in downtown Houston, into offices off the 59 South feeder road near Rice Village, just behind the Greater Houston Area Red Cross. Our new address is: 2700-B Southwest Freeway, Houston, TX 77098. Our phone, fax, email and web addresses will remain the same.

Houston A+ Challenge looks forward to offering expanded professional development opportunities, thanks to the extensive training space in the Red Cross buildings. We would like to thank the management of Wedge Properties for their generosity over the past seven years. We hope to see you in our new offices soon!

School News

Houston ISD Takes Literacy Initiative Districtwide
In April, the Houston ISD Board of Education approved $3 million to help fund part of plan for a comprehensive, preK-12 literacy program for Houston ISD students. "Literacy Leads the Way" builds on the successful high school literacy initiative started in 2003 by Houston ISD and Houston A+ Challenge, through the Houston Schools for a New Society initiative. Literacy coaches are at the heart of the plan to add new, campus-based literacy coaches to all middle schools, and up to 24 new literacy coordinators to work out of regional offices. These educators will offer coaching and professional development to all district teachers, who will be expected to spend 20-25 percent of their class time incorporating literacy to support their instruction. Literacy coaches in Houston ISD high schools have been funded since 2003 through grants from The Brown Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and The Annenberg Foundation. For more on "Literacy Leads the Way", click here. This eNotes issue's "On The Bookshelf" also promotes a new book on literacy coaching.

Problem Solving With 'Math Boards'
Throughout Houston ISD, elementary school students are utilizing a new tool to solve math problems. The "problem-solving boards" help students organize the pictures, words and symbols in math problems, in order to evaluate and solve them. Math specialists from William Sutton Elementary modified the boards from a tool used at University of Texas’ Dana Center, and spread their use through the Houston A+ Challenge/ExxonMobil K–5 Mathematics Specialist Initiative. With this new tool, students are able to organize their thinking processes to solve mathematic problems. For a sample of the problem-solving board, click here.

17 Houston-Area Schools Named On Newsweek Challenge Index
Based on a formula that calculates the ratio of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge courses and tests taken, Newsweek and the Washington Post have released their 2008 list of public schools that challenge their students. This year, 17 Houston-area schools made the list of nearly 1,400 pubic schools nationwide where the total number of college-level exams taken by ALL students in May 2007, divided by the number of graduating seniors, is greater than 1.0. To read the full story and view the supplementary interactive map, click here.

Aldine ISD Teacher Selected for NASA Program
Each summer, 44 teachers nationwide convene on NASA's Liftoff Summer Institute for workshops and presentations over the course of a week. This year, Lori Martinez, from Aldine's Hall Center for Education has been selected to participate. This summer marks the 19th straight year since the Institute's inception. Click here to read about NASA's Liftoff Summer Institute.

New School, New Principal For Humble ISD
In August 2009, Humble ISD will open a new high school south of Beltway 8 near the Summerwood area. In May, the Humble ISD School Board named Humble resident Trey Kraemer as the new high school's principal. For the past four years, Mr. Kraemer has served as principal of Sterling High School in Goose Creek ISD. Mr. Kraemer will start in Humble July. For more information, click here.

In Focus With … Tempestt Chaney

For the past year, staff intern Tempestt Chaney has been an integral member of the Houston A+ Challenge team. This month she graduates from the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (LECJ), and she will be attending Texas A & M in the fall. Recently, she received a $15,000 scholarship from the from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

You are graduating from the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice. What did you like most about going to school in a career-themed academy?

What I enjoyed most has been learning the skills and techniques that I can use in the real world. LECJ was a stepping stone for me, because the teachers are very hands-on and enthusiastic about law enforcement and case law. Coming into LECJ as a freshman, I did not know all of my rights as a law-abiding citizen, but leaving this year I know so much more. I liked the diversity of people at LECJ and the small atmosphere that LECJ provided. It made it easier for me to learn with very few distractions. The administration really listened to what the students had to say, and that to me is the greatest thing of all, because they really cared.

You spent the past year working with Houston A+ Challenge. What was the most valuable thing you learned from your experience?

The most valuable thing I have learned from working at Houston A+ Challenge is TEAMWORK. Before I started working here, I thought that I had to do everything on my own, but I have learned that it is okay to ask others for help. The environment I work in is very friendly, and I am proud to say that everyone truly cares about one another. The Houston A+ staff are wonderful and very passionate about better learning and teaching in public schools.

You are going to be leaving Houston to go to college. What advice do you have for younger students who aspire to succeed in higher education?

Always stay focused on what you are trying to accomplish and don’t let anybody tell you that you cannot achieve something. I have always strived to be the best "ME" that I can be. Academically I have held myself to a high standard of wanting to learn more -- not just enough to pass classes, but lessons that I can use throughout my lifetime. The younger generation is the future, so take advantage of that and always strive for greatness.

Any parting words of wisdom to share with our readers?

There are many who give up after failing. I, on the other hand, become stronger. Everyone has greatness, and it's up to them to make the best out of life. Always have short-term and long-term goals to achieve. Obstacles can be a road block in your goals, but that doesn't mean you have to stop trying to be the best "YOU" that you can be.

On The Bookshelf

Award-winning education writers Dr. Michael C. McKenna and Dr. Sharon Walpole have authored a new book titled, "The Literacy Coaching Challenge: Models and Methods for Grades K-8." Published by Guilford Press, "The Literacy Coaching Challenge" provides helpful solutions to support an effective coaching program based on research and successful practices. The following is the publisher's description:

"When the goal is supporting excellent teaching, there is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach. This book helps literacy coaches and administrators navigate the many choices involved in developing and fine-tuning a coaching program that offers the best fit for a particular school. The authors draw on current research as well as their extensive experience in K–8 settings. They provide clear guidance (with helpful reproducibles) on:

  • Major coaching models and how to choose among them
  • Applying principles of adult learning and motivation
  • The role of reading assessment in coaching
  • Balancing classroom-level, grade-level, and whole-school tasks
  • Special considerations in middle school coaching"

Five-Day Math and Science Camp for Teachers
The Mickelson ExxonMobil 2009 Teachers Academy offers a five-day program, with camps in Houston, Louisiana and New Jersey, designed to provide third- through fifth-grade teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary to motivate students to pursue careers in science and math. Maximum Award: All expenses paid five-day program in July 2009. Eligibility: Third- through fifth-grade teachers from all over the United States. Deadline: October 31, 2008.

Award for Emerging Education Leaders
The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development is seeking nominations for its Outstanding Young Educator Award, which recognizes a teacher under the age of 40 who demonstrates excellence in his or her profession, a positive impact on students, creativity in the classroom, and leadership in his or her school or district. Maximum Award: $10,000. Eligibility: K-12 teachers under age 40; no self-nominations accepted. Deadline: August 1, 2008.

Green Light Awards for Student Artists with Disabilities
Volkswagen of America and VSA Arts are interested in both representational and abstract work from young artists ages 16-25 who are living with a disability. Artwork may illustrate actual aspects of creative motivations such as the physical world or personal discoveries. Abstract work that relates to feelings or emotions is also encouraged. Work might also reflect your experience of living with a disability and its role in shaping or transforming your work. Click here for more information. Maximum Award: $2,000 - $20,000. Eligibility: Open to young artists 16-25 living in the United States who have a physical, cognitive or mental disability. Deadline: July 11.

Musical Instruments from Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation
The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation donates new and refurbished musical instruments to underserved schools, community music programs and individual students nationwide, in an effort to give youngsters the many benefits of music education, help them to be better students and inspire creativity and expression through playing music. For more information, click here. Maximum Award: $500 - $20,000. Eligibility: Schools must have an established instrumental music program (i.e. concert band, marching band, jazz band and/or orchestra) that is at least three years old. Deadline: August 1.

Awards for Innovative Teaching on Private Enterprise
The application for the Valley Forge Leavey Awards must conceive and implement and innovative course, program or project which develops, among students, a deeper understanding and appreciation of the American private enterprise system. The nominee’s program, course or project must be operating or initiated during the previous academic year. Questions may be directed to the Awards Department: 1-800-896-5488 or 610-933-8825. Maximum Award: $7,500. Eligibility: U.S. citizens or permanent residents employed full-time as educators at an accredited American school (grades K-12), college or university. Deadline: October 8.

Minigrant Program for Public School Libraries
The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation is dedicated to funding creative programs for public schools and public libraries. Projects funded in the past include pen pal projects, multi-cultural portraits, bookmaking, intergenerational journals and more. Click here for more details. Maximum Award: $500. Eligibility: Public schools and public libraries in the United States and its protectorates. Deadline: September 15.

Magna Awards for School Board Best Practices/Programs
The Magna Awards is a national recognition program co-sponsored by American School Board Journal, the National School Boards Association, and Sodexo School Services that honors school board best practices and innovative programs that advance student learning. For the past 15 years, the Magna Awards panel of independent judges has reviewed programs that showcase school district leadership, creativity and commitment to student achievement. For details, click here. Maximum Award: $3,500. Eligibility: Online applications accepted only. Judges will look for programs that are:

  • The result of appropriate school board leadership.
  • Developed or actively supported by the school board.
  • Successful in view of the program's primary objectives.
  • Important in promoting the district's mission and advancing student learning.
  • Capable of being replicated by other school boards with similar conditions and resources.
  • The result of collaboration between the school board and others.

Deadline: October 15.

Help NASA Develop Education Materials for Dawn Mission
The Education and Public Outreach (EP/O) team for NASA's Dawn Mission is looking for high school classrooms interested in participating as field-test sites for new Ion Propulsion curriculum materials. The purpose is to ensure that the Dawn E/PO curriculum materials are of high-quality and utility and reflect the needs of classroom science educators before they are disseminated to public and educator audiences. This module is intended for high school 11th or 12th grade students enrolled in physics classes. Additionally, this module might be of interest to students as they conduct research in advanced technologies. Maximum Award: N/A. Eligibility: Participating teachers will be expected to implement the materials as fully as possible and participate and support all data collection activities during the study. Click here to download an application and information packet . Deadline: N/A.

Toshiba Grants Program for 7-12 Science & Math Education
Toshiba America Foundation contributes to the quality of science and mathematics education by investing in projects designed by classroom teachers to improve instruction for students in grades K-12. Click here to download the flyer for the Toshiba Grants Program for 7-12 Science and Math Education. Maximum Award: $5,000+ Eligibility: If you are a public school, then you must provide evidence that you are a public school as recognized by an appropriate local or state government agency. For example, a copy of the state tax exempt certificate could be used to satisfy the eligibility requirement. Deadline: Grants under $5,000 are made on a rolling basis and applications are accepted throughout the year. Next deadline is August 1, 2008.


Critical Friends Group Summer Seminar
(July 14-18)


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June 9-13
2008 Teacher Externship Week

June 16-20
Critical Friends Group Summer Seminar
7:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Univ. of Houston - Hilton

July 14-18
Critical Friends Group Summer Seminar
7:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.

July 30-31
Houston A+ Challenge Reforming Schools Summer Institute
University of Houston Hilton

Statistic of the Month

In a recent report by Public Agenda, while three-quarters of new teachers surveyed received diversity training, only 39 percent reported that it assisted them. The same report also noted that while a majority of the new teachers received teacher training for special needs students, only 47 percent indicated that it helped them "a lot".

Source: Lessons Learned: New Teachers Talk About Their Jobs, Challenges and Long-Range Plans


Houston A+ Challenge

1415 Louisiana, Suite 3250
Houston, TX 77002

Board of Trustees

Joe B. Foster

Ann Friedman

Michael Dee

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

Houston A+ Staff

Scott Van Beck
Executive Director

Sheri Miller-Williams
Director, Leadership

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
Lisa Stein

Tuan Amith