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June 2009
News from Houston A+ Challenge

Schools Share 'Reflective Portraits'
On May 21, Houston A+ Challenge held a special event 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. The event was held at the Museum of Fine Arts.

All participating schools from Houston, Aldine, Humble and Spring Branch presented their school-based events. The outcomes of these projects are as unique as the schools themselves. Details can be found here at this link. But for Houston A+ Challenge, the successes of schools in this grant program point to several larger ideas in changing the educational landscape. To see a glimpse of some of the schools' work, click the following:

All of the participating schools were recipeints of the The Focused Impact Award which was made possible through the Brown Foundation and the Annenberg Foundation. The Focused Impact Award supports whole school reform endeavors in the areas of math, literacy, or fine arts. In addition, recipients also address the A+ imperatives of personalization (size), community involvement (isolation and/or engagement) and professional development (quality teacher learning).

Click here for more information about "Reflective Portraits".

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Congrats to Class of 2009!
A Houston A+ Challenge-sponsored school, Empowerment College Preparatory High School, had their first graduating class since the school's inception in the fall of 2003. The graduation was held at the Kingdom Builders Center on May 30, 2009 with friends and relatives. The 30 graduating students plan on on attending University of Houston, Texas A&M University, Prairie View A&M University, St. Edward’s University, Texas Southern University, Houston Baptist University, Lamar University, Texas Tech University, and Hope College in Michigan.

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.

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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.

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School News

Fast Times with Advanced Placement Courses
While number of students taking AP classes has increased by 45% from 2004 to 2008, according a recent study by Thomas B. Fordham Institute, over half of Adavanced Placment (AP) teachers believe that the effectiveness of AP courses are being diminished due to loose restrictions. In 2008, 1.6 million students are taking AP courses, up from 1.1 in 2004. Some of the motivations for taking a AP courses, based on teacher responses, was due to "more students who want their college applications to look better" than wanting "to be challenged at higher academic level." Aside from students, the study noted that administrators are expanding AP courses "to imporve their school's ranking and reputation in the community." For more information about the study and video presentation, click here.

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New Report: Improved Graduation Rates
A new report by Education Week and Education Research Center cites improved graduation rates in the nation. According to the report, the state of New Jersey leads the nation in graduation rates at 82 percent, with Iowa and Wisconsin trailing by 80 percent. District of Columbia and Nevada have the lowest graduation rates with under 50 percent. Texas has shown improvement by 6 percent over the course of 10 years with 65 percent graduation rate from high school. The national average is 69 percent. For an full overview of the study and methodology to calculate the graduation rate, click here.

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Lost Opportunties in Texas
Opportunity to Learn is a campaign by the Schott Foundation that aims to ensure that all students have equal opporutnity to learn and achieve high in their eductaion. The campaign's recent study on individual state's student performance was released to show fair and equal opportunities for students regardless of socio-economic backgrounds, which includes the state of Texas, based on four factors - high-quality early childhood education; highly qualified teachers and instructors in grades K-12; college preparatory curricula that will prepare all youth for college, work, and community; and equitable instructional resources.

According to the report, "Texas is one of a group of states with comparatively low graduation rates, a comparatively high percentage of students from disadvantaged groups and comparatively low funding for instruction. High performing schools in states of this type tend to have greater percentages of highly qualified teachers, while low performing schools have lesser percentages of highly qualified teachers." Details can be found here at this link.

For more information about Opportunity to Learn, click here.

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Houston ISD See Progress in TAKS Results
Recent results of TAKS Score show that 96 percent Houston ISD (HISD) schools have improved in one or more subjects on the TAKS test. With math, reading, and social studies, roughly 73-75 percent of HISD schools imporoved, and 66 percent improvement with science and writing. Also significant number of students were performing at the "Commended" level.

"HISD stayed strongly focused on teaching and learning. Thanks to the hard work on the part of every member of the HISD family, our students stayed on track and performed extremely well on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. The spring 2009 TAKS results show improvement in virtually every grade, subject, and category. These outstanding statistics indicate academic growth that everyone in HISD should be proud of," HISD Superintendent of Schools Abelardo Saavedra commented. "They show that HISD can achieve the mission of increasing student achievement even in the face of illnesses and natural disasters. All employees play a key role in helping our teachers and students perform at these levels, and I want to congratulate everyone for their commitment and dedication, and for another successful school year."

For a more detailed review of the results, click here.

In Focus with ... []


On The Bookshelf

Four experts on education leadership propose a new professional learning model called instructional rounds networks. Instructional Rounds in Education: A Network Approach to Improving Teaching and Learning targets educators who want to improve instructional delivery and its support, based on a medical-rounds model in the medical field.

Authors Elizabeth A. City is a Director of Instructional Strategy at the Executive Leadership Program for Educators at Harvard University and faculty member at Boston's School Leadership Institute; Richard F. Elmore is a Gregory R. Anrig Professor of Educational Leadership at Harvard University; Sarah E. Fiarman is an interim principal at Martin Luther King, Jr. School in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Lee Teitel is a faculty senior associate of the Executive Leadership Program for Educators at Harvard University.

The following is from Harvard Education Press:

"Walk into any school in America and you will see adults who care deeply about their students and are doing the best they can every day to help students learn. But you will also see a high degree of variability among classrooms—much higher than in most other industrialized countries. Today we are asking schools to do something they have never done before—educate all students to high levels—yet we don’t know how to do that in every classroom for every child.

This book is intended to help education leaders and practitioners develop a shared understanding of what high-quality instruction looks like and what schools and districts need to do to support it. Inspired by the medical-rounds model used by physicians, the authors have pioneered a new form of professional learning known as instructional rounds networks. Through this process, educators develop a shared practice of observing, discussing, and analyzing learning and teaching.
"

"Listen up! Instructional Rounds redefines the teaching profession. There is no other book on school improvement like it. This is a powerful, specific, accessible treatment of what it means to get in the classroom in order to make a difference in the daily lives of teachers and their students." —Michael Fullan, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.

"At last, we have a book that moves school and district leaders closer to the classroom. The authors challenge the myth of leadership as an isolated, hierarchical exercise focused on grand plans and visions and bring us back where we belong—amid the complex reality of students' and teachers' daily lives. Full of practical, specific, and compelling evidence, Instructional Rounds in Education will have a profound influence on educational leaders who are willing to invest the time to observe, listen, and learn." —Douglas B. Reeves, founder, The Leadership and Learning Center.

Also on the Bookshelf:

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Resources

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.

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.

NEEF: Classroom Earth Professional Development Grants
The National Environmental Education Foundation's Classroom Earth Professional Development grants help high school teachers new to the field of environmental education who want to increase the environmental literacy of their students. Maximum award: $1,500 to take two graduate-level courses offered online by the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point's Environmental Education and Training Partnership. Eligibility: full-time U.S. teachers grades 9-12, in a public or private school, with at least two years teaching experience. Deadline: June 12, 2009.

ePals, Inc.: Free In2Books Curriculum
In2Books, the curriculum-based e-mentoring program from ePals, Inc., will be offered for free to some Title I schools. Students participating in In2Books select and read age-appropriate, high-quality books from a list compiled by a team of children's literature experts. The students are matched with carefully screened adult pen pals who read the same books as the students. After reading each book, students and their pen pals exchange thoughts about the important issues in the book via online letters. Teachers reinforce these activities in the classroom with related lessons and discussion. Maximum award: the online program, books and professional development (valued at more than $500). Eligibility: all 3rd-5th grade classrooms in Title I schools from any one district. Deadline: N/A

NAESP/MetLife Foundation: Sharing the Dream Grants
National Association of Elementary School Principals/MetLife Foundation Sharing the Dream Grants let principals test ideas about involving and engaging their communities to build greater ownership for the work of their school by sharing leadership and decision-making, by keeping all stakeholders informed about all school news -- good and bad -- and by creating a school climate that fosters open communication, safety and security, and respect for every individual. Maximum award: $3,000. Eligibility: elementary school principals from around the country. Deadline: July 8, 2009.

C-SPAN: Video Archive Grants
C-SPAN Archives Grants give teachers videotapes from the extensive collection in the C-SPAN Archives for creative proposals that use the network's programming in the classroom or in research projects. Eligibility: middle and high school teachers and college/university professors. Maximum award: use of archive tapes. Deadline: N/A.

SPREAD THE WORD:

August 3 - 7
CFG Summer Training

 

Calendar

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

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Source: []

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
Bonnie Roberts

Terrie Roberts
Events Coordinator

Administrative Assistants
Imelda Cardoza
Donna O'Neil
Lisa Stein

Tuan Amith
Webmaster