If you are having trouble viewing this e-mail, click here to view it online.

May 2009
News from Houston A+ Challenge

Schools Share 'Reflective Portraits' of Learning Throughout May
Student Art from Helms ESJoin Houston A+ Challenge on Thursday, May 21, for a special evening celebrating the diverse accomplishments and lessons learned at 20 Houston-area schools participating in a multi-year initiative to transform campus culture, increase faculty capacity and impact student learning.

In addition to the culminating celebration at the Museum, all 20 participating schools from Houston, Aldine, Humble and Spring Branch will present school-based events through the end of May, spotlighting their grant focus in and going deeper into lessons learned.

A common theme heard at these schools is summed up by Acquenette LeBlanc, principal at Stovall Academy: "Our school has seen tremendous growth and development as it relates to best practices, research-based instruction, and shared leadership.  It is so refreshing to see collaboration center stage on our campus."

Bookmark and Share

Summer Internships for College Students: Spread the Word
Houston A+ Challenge is looking for outstanding college students who are interested in working this summer on projects that are critical to our mission.

Five paid internships are available to work with A+ staff on Alumni Relations, Partnerships and Innovations, Development and Special Events, Student Engagement and our School Database. Details on each opportunity can be found on our online application system.

Please help us spread the word to qualified college students!

Bookmark and Share

Preparing Kids for a Future We Can't Describe: The Sequel
Join Houston A+ Challenge and the American Leadership Forum on Thursday, June 18, for an evening with Dr. Peter Bishop, Associate Professor of Strategic Foresight and Coordinator of the graduate program in Futures Studies at the University of Houston.

The conversation will build on discussions that began at our March 2008 convocation featuring futurist David Warlick, who fascinated the Houston community with a presentation on Education 2021: Preparing Kids for A Future We Can't Describe.

Dr. Bishop specializes in techniques for long-term forecasting and planning. He will provide pertinent information on technology and its impact on society and work. The evolving trends have serious implications for change in the workplace and home, but also impact how we prepare our students for tomorrow.

The June 18 event is free and takes place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Chevron Building, 1500 Louisiana. Seating is limited, so please RSVP early.

Parking is on your own -- there are surface lots easily accessible across the street. We thank Chevron for underwriting this event.

Bookmark and Share

Oct 13: Join us for 'The Power of the Network' Dinner
The Power of the Network: 2008 Annual Report, Houston A+ ChallengeSave the date for a very special evening benefiting Houston A+ Challenge, as we honor our Founding Board Chair, First Lady of Houston Andrea White, and our Founding Board Member, Maconda B. O'Connor.

The event will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 13, at the River Oaks Country Club. Co-chairs for the event are Lesha and Tom Elsenbrook and Nancy and Bryan Ruez.

Guests will have the opportunity to learn more about Houston A+ Challenge's history and initiatives, and to meet some of the students, teachers and school leaders whose lives have been touched by 'the power of the network.'

To learn more about sponsorship opportunities for the event, contact Melissa Davis at mmdavis@houstonaplus.org or (713) 658-1881.

Our 2008 Annual Report, also titled 'The Power of the Network', also provides a glimpse into Houston A+ Challenge's recent work and long-term impact in our community. Click here download a copy.

Bookmark and Share

School News

Houston ISD Invites Community Input on Next Superintendent
There is still time to let the Houston ISD Board of Education know which leadership qualities you think are most important for the next superintendent of the nation's fourth largest public school district.

May 9 is the last in a series of community input events. A representative of the search firm Heidrick & Struggles will lead an audience discussion, and the board trustee who represents each host school's area will be present. Attendees also can also submit written comments on cards that will be provided at the forums.

Houston ISD's superintendent of schools is one of the most important and influential officials in Houston. Attend one of these forums and provide your thoughts on the profile of the next leader.

For more information on the superintendent search, or to provide comments online, visit: http://www.houstonisd.org/search

Bookmark and Share

Collaboration Generation: Teaching and Learning for a New Age
How should educators teach, when learning is everywhere? Edutopia Magazine recently published an extensive special report on the topic, and the answers may surprise you.

"In our zeal to hold on to the old structures of teaching and learning and to protect students at all costs, we are not just leaving them ill prepared for the future, we are also missing an enormous opportunity for ourselves as learners," writes Will Richardson, author of the blog weblogged. "Anyone with a passion for something can connect to others with that same passion -- and begin to co-create and colearn the same way many of our students already do."

How to start? Fifteen-year veteran teacher Lisa Huff started a "twenty-first-century learning community" with fellow teachers on her campus. High Tech High teaching guru Rob Riordan uses technology to engage and inspire his students and fellow educators to learn by pursuing their interests and passions. And one Indiana district reshaped its curriculum around "digital-age literacies" such as self-direction, cultural competency and technological fluency.

"It's tough for educators to meet this challenge when the No Child Left Behind law feeds a national obsession with the what of knowledge, not the how," write the editors at Edutopia. "But they can. They must. And some already do."

Bookmark and Share

In Focus with ... Reginald Fisher

Angela BorzonThe story below is one of three profiles contained in Houston A+ Challenge's 2008 Annual Report. To download a complete copy of the report, click here.

When Steve Siebenaler took over as principal of Waltrip High School in 2003, he was faced with a daunting, but familiar challenge: a low-performing, urban campus, plagued by racial tensions, apathy and frustration.

"I was told, 'Fix it,' and handed the keys to the school. We've been in reform mode ever since."

The hard lessons Siebenaler was forced to learn on-the-job – how to build a shared vision, cultivate teacher leaders, and transform a toxic culture into one that elevates student learning – he now uses to mentor Reginald Fisher over an intensive, year-long internship through Houston A+ Challenge's Regional Principal Leadership Academy.

As one of 19 aspiring principals selected from more than 230 applicants, Fisher says his "whole perspective has been expanded" through the Academy, which launched in June 2008.

"The principal sets the whole tone for the school," he says. "Whatever values he holds, the school holds. If he values instruction, that’s what’s going to get done."

Sixty-nine percent of principals and 80 percent of superintendents believe that traditional principal training programs are out of touch with current realities of the job, according to a recent Public Agenda survey.

Houston A+ Challenge's academy is modeled on high-quality preparation programs nationwide, featuring a highly selective recruitment and selection process, a hands-on internship and active learning projects, and a cohort of peers who develop a supportive learning community.

After four days on campus with Siebenaler, Fisher spends a day of reflection, analysis, scenario-building, cross-site school visits and continued learning with his peers and Houston A+ Challenge faculty.  The coaching and network support for principal interns will continue through A+ for at least two years, as they become leaders in their own schools.

"This is a new generation of leaders," Fisher says.  "We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.  It's only after gaining this perspective that we can do something different."

THE BIG PICTURE
An estimated 160 principal vacancies need to be filled annually across the Houston region, and more than one-fourth of principal positions turn over each year in some districts.

Teacher turnover increases with principal turnover, and these rates are highest at high-poverty secondary schools.  Such instability has a direct and negative impact on student performance.

At full capacity in 2012, Houston A+ Challenge's Regional Principal Leadership Academy will provide high-quality training and support for upward of 160 new and aspiring principals annually, supporting partner school districts, which include Aldine, Houston, Humble, Spring Branch and YES Prep Public Schools.

Bookmark and Share

On The Bookshelf

Dr. Doulgas Reeves' new book, "Leading Change in Your School: How to Conquer Myths, Build Commitments and Get Results", draws from examples around the world to guide school leaders to create productive models, adjust assesments, screen prospective teachers and administer an effective school, while dispelling myths of change leadership. The following is a description from the publisher:

"Using real examples of elementary and secondary schools that have moved change from rhetoric to reality, a giant in the field of school leadership explains how teachers and administrators everywhere can make sure change efforts lead to better results. Whether your school needs to improve literacy, inspire great teaching, increase attendance, reduce dropout rates, reform grading, or reach any other accountability, let Douglas Reeves equip you with what you need to succeed:

  • Effective planning models for change that include highly focused goals and action plans.
  • Change Readiness Assessments for embarking on your journey.
  • Ways of interviewing and selecting the best teachers and administrators for your leadership team.
  • Strategies to ensure short-term wins sustain long-term change.


"These lessons learned from the author’s work with thousands of schools around the world include:

  • How to focus leadership leverage on factors that will achieve the greatest results.
  • How common myths of change leadership mislead stakeholders and undermine values.
  • How to close the implementation gap between intention and action."

Bookmark and Share

Resources

Free Professional Development for School Teachers
In its final project year, HEADS UP is excited to host its annual Teacher Summer Science Institute as a Mini-Conference! More teachers than before will be selected to participate and receive the popular health science materials. The 2009 event will feature both a Middle School Track and High School Track for each of the six topics (Genetics, Diabetes/Cardiovascular Disease, Nutrition/Physical Activity, The Nervous System, and The Immune System & Infectious Diseases). The Teacher Summer Science Institute provides educators a unique experience with practical teaching materials designed to enhance curricula. Workshops will be facilitated by teachers who have already had success with HEADS UP implementation. The program will also include Lunch-and-Learn talks by experts in health sciences to enhance teachers’ scientific knowledge. Apply now! Flyer and Application available at www.sph.uth.tmc.edu/headsup -- Click on "Teacher Programs". Maximum Award: Stipends, free training, materials, lunch, and Continuing Professional Education credits. Eligibility: Middle school and high school science, health, and career technology educators. Deadline: May 20, 2009.

Dollar General Back-to-School Grants
The Dollar General Back-to-School Grants provide funding to assist schools in meeting some of the financial challenges they face in implementing new programs, or purchasing new equipment, materials or software for their school library or media center. Maximum Award: Up to $5000. Eligibility: Schools. Deadline: May 22, 2009.

State Board of Education Heroes for Children Award
The State Board of Education established the Heroes for Children award program in 1994. The awards are given annually in recognition of outstanding service and dedication to helping provide each Texas student with a meaningful, positive learning experience in school. Maximum Award: Award. Eligibility: Individuals who volunteer time, effort, and support to public schools and students, and who advocate for students and public education in Texas are eligible for these awards.. Deadline: May 29, 2009.

Dollar General Youth Literacy Grants
The Dollar General Youth Literacy Grants provide funding to schools, public libraries and non-profit organizations to help with the implementation or expansion of literacy programs for students who are below grade level or experiencing difficulty reading. Maximum Award: Up to $3000. Eligibility: Schools, public libraries, and non-profts. Deadline: May 22, 2009.

MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough Schools
National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and the MetLife Foundation wants identify, recognize, and showcase middle level and high schools that serve large numbers of students living in poverty and are high achieving or dramatically improving student achievement. Selected schools must have 40% or more students eligible for free and reduced-price meals. Click here for more information. Maximum Award: $5000. Eligibility: Middle level and high schools. Deadline: May 15, 2009.

Gale/Library Media Connection TEAMS Award
The Gale/Library Media Connection TEAMS Award recognizes and encourages the critical collaboration between the teacher and media specialist to promote learning, increase student achievement and develop 21st century skills. Maximum Award: Three winners will receive: $2,500 (U.S.) cash award; Gale products (approximate value $500 U.S.); a one-year subscription to Library Media Connection; and your choice of professional publications from Linworth Books (approximate value $800 U.S.). In addition, the winners will be featured in an article in Library Media Connection in the 2009 school year. Eligibility: All K-12 public and private schools in the united States and Canada. Click here for an application. Deadline: June 15, 2009.

Scholarships for Prospective Secondary School Teachers of Math
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and Texas Instruments Demana-Waits Fund Prospective Secondary Teacher Course Work Scholarships provide financial support to college students preparing for teaching secondary school mathematics. Maximum Award: $10,000. Eligibility: Persons currently completing their sophomore year of college, scheduling for full-time study at a four- or five-year college or university in the next academic year, and pursuing a career goal of becoming a certified teacher of secondary school mathematics; applicants must be student members of NCTM. Deadline: May 9, 2009.

2010 Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy
The Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy is a cool summer camp just for teachers! At the Academy, teachers do lots of fun math and science experiments to share with you in the classroom. The experiments seem like games, but really they help everyone learn about math and science! The Academy was started by pro golfer Phil Mickelson and his wife, Amy. They worked with ExxonMobil to create a special learning environment for teachers. Maximum Award: Expenses. Eligibility: The Program is open to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, who are of legal age of majority in their jurisdiction of residence (and at least 18), who are currently third, fourth or fifth grade teachers or district coordinators at an accredited school, are in good standing at their school and have successfully completed any state teaching certifications. Click here for more information. Deadline: October 31, 2009.

Foreign Language Assistance Program
The Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP)provides grants to local educational agencies (LEAs) for innovative model programs providing for the establishment, improvement, or expansion of foreign language study for elementary and secondary school students. The 5-year grants will be awarded to LEAs to work in partnership with one or more institutions of higher education (IHEs) to establish or expand articulated programs of study in languages critical to United States national security in order to enable successful students to achieve a superior level of proficiency in those languages. In addition, an LEA that receives a grant under this program must use the funds to support programs that show promise of being continued beyond the grant period and demonstrate approaches that can be disseminated to and duplicated in other LEAs. Projects supported under this program may also include a professional development component. Maximum Award: $100,000-$300,000. Eligibility: LEAs, including charter schools that are considered LEAs under State law, in partnership with one or more institutions of higher education. Deadline: October 31, 2009.

Foreign Language Assistance Program
The Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP)provides grants to local educational agencies (LEAs) for innovative model programs providing for the establishment, improvement, or expansion of foreign language study for elementary and secondary school students. The 5-year grants will be awarded to LEAs to work in partnership with one or more institutions of higher education (IHEs) to establish or expand articulated programs of study in languages critical to United States national security in order to enable successful students to achieve a superior level of proficiency in those languages. In addition, an LEA that receives a grant under this program must use the funds to support programs that show promise of being continued beyond the grant period and demonstrate approaches that can be disseminated to and duplicated in other LEAs. Projects supported under this program may also include a professional development component. Maximum Award: $100,000-$300,000. Eligibility: LEAs, including charter schools that are considered LEAs under State law, in partnership with one or more institutions of higher education. Deadline: October 31, 2009.

Foreign Language Assistance Program
The Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) provides grants to State Educational Agencies (SEA) for innovative model programs providing for the establishment, improvement, or expansion of foreign language study for elementary and secondary school students. An SEA that receives a grant under this program must use the funds to support programs that promote systemic approaches to improving foreign language learning in the State. Maximum Award: $50,000-$400,000. Eligibility: State Educational Agencies. Deadline: May 27, 2009.

Calendar

May 21
'Reflective Portraits: An Exhibition of Teaching and Learning'
5 - 7 p.m.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

May 15
Dr. Anthony Muhammed: 'Creating Powerful Learning Environments' Hilton Hotel - NASA
3000 NASA Road 1

June 18
'Preparing Kids for a Future We Can't Describe: The Sequel'5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
1500 Louisiana

Statistic of the Month

If the U.S. had in recent years closed the gap between its educational achievement levels and those of better-performing nations such as Finland and Korea,
GDP in 2008 could have been $1.3 trillion to $2.3 trillion higher. This represents 9 to 16 percent of GDP.

Source: McKinsey & Company, "The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America's Schools"

Houston A+ Challenge

2700 Southwest Freeway, Suite B
Houston, TX 77098-4607
713-658-1881
www.houstonaplus.org

Board of Trustees

Maconda B. O'Connor
Founding Board Member

Ann Friedman
Chairman

J. Victor Samuels
President

Thomas L. Elsenbrook
Secretary

Members
Susan A. Bischoff
Bill Crouch
Jonathan Day
Joe B. Foster
Roberto Gonzalez
Steve L. Miller
Karol Musher
Maconda B. O'Connor
Harry Reasoner
Yava D. Scott
VJ Turner, Jr.
Andrea White
Rosie Zamora

Advisory Board
Leonel Castillo
Michael Dee
H. Devon Graham, Jr.
Jenard M. Gross

Houston A+ Staff

Scott Van Beck
Executive Director

Sheri Miller-Williams
Director, Leadership

Catherine Reed

Director, Finance

Melissa Milios Davis
Director, Communications & Development

Alejandro Morúa
Director, Partnerships & Innovations

P. Tim Martindell
Asst. Director of Leadership in Teaching

Program Coordinators
Betsy Broyles Breier

Mike Webster

Angela Prince
Curriculum Specialist

RPLA Coaches
Marshal Dupas
Debbie Emery
Lawrence Kohn
Shundra Cannon
Rena Ramirez
Bonnie Roberts

Terrie Roberts
Events Coordinator

Administrative Assistants
Imelda Cardoza
Donna O'Neil
Lisa Stein

Tuan Amith
Webmaster