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September 2009
News from Houston A+ Challenge

Introducing 18 Aspiring Principals in the Houston A+ Academy
Regional Principal Leadership Academy: Cohort IIIn Spring 2009, more than 250 individuals applied for the second cohort of Houston A+ Challenge's Regional Principal Leadership Academy.

From this pool of candidates, Houston A+ Challenge selected a cohort that consists of 18 highly motivated, highly qualified individuals -- eight assistant principals, four classroom teachers and six content specialists/school-based coordinators.  They come to A+ from seven different local school districts, and range in age from their mid-20s to their late 30s.

Following an intensive, six-week summer session, these new leaders are now spending the 2009-10 school year as Principal Interns alongside Mentor Principals in secondary schools in four partner districts -- Aldine, Houston, Humble and YES Prep Public Schools.

We are pleased to introduce them to you here.

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Sept. 12: Reach Out to Dropouts - Walk With Us!
Save the date for one of the fall's most exciting and rewarding volunteer opportunities - the 6th Annual Reach Out to Dropouts Walk.

Volunteers join teachers, parents, students and administrators from school districts across the Houston region for a door-to-door walk to encourage our region's young people to come back to school. School districts can re-enroll returning students on the spot.

The walk has brought back thousands of students in five years with the help of over 11,000 volunteers. Houston ISD, the Mayor's Office and Houston A+ Challenge are founding partners for this event, which has since expanded to include 24 school districts and 11 Texas cities.

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Share Your A+ Experience
Has your teaching, learning, or leadership been impacted through working with Houston A+ Challenge?

On October 13, Houston A+ Challenge will host our first-ever benefit dinner, honoring our Founding Board Member, Maconda B. O'Connor, and our Founding Board Chair, First Lady of Houston, Andrea White.

For this special event, we invite teachers, principals, district leaders and community members to reflect on what A+ means to you. Reflections will be shared with event attendees, through a silent slide show during dinner.

The title of our event, 'The Power of the Network', reflects our appreciation for the thousands of educators that have been a part of the A+ network since our founding in 1997. Thanks for joining us!

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School News

Principal Program in NYC Linked to Student Test Gains
A new, independent study by New York University's Institute for Education and Social Policy highlights the progressive change produced by New York City's Aspiring Principals Program.

Similar in mission and format to Houston A+ Challenge’s Regional Principal Leadership Academy, the New York academy recruits and prepares educators to turn around the city's underperforming schools.

The study finds graduates of the New York program are younger, have less experience teaching or as assistant principals, and are more likely to be black, compared to other new principals. Academy graduates are more likely to be placed in schools with lower initial levels of student achievement, but chart comparable or better growth trends than comparison principals.

Says Sandra J. Stein, chief executive of the New York City Leadership Academy, the nonprofit that runs the program: "We can see in our preparation, and carry it through to our results, that [the principals] are changing the trajectory of the schools."

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Is it Time to Throw in the Towel on Education Reform?
On Sept. 9 at Rice University, Chester E. Finn, Jr. (Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University & President of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute) will lead a discussion on why so much reform has produced so little in the way of measureable systemic improvements in educational outputs, and what we ought to do about it.

In particular, Finn will examine how our traditional K-12 structures and governance arrangements are showing their obsolescence and frailty; arguing that "local control" via elected municipal school boards cannot cope with today's realities of metropolitanization, mobility, and interest-group politics. Finn's solutions range from our adopting national standards to replacing traditional districts with an array of virtual systems -- this is just a taste of the kind of reform Finn envisions. The question is are we up for a revolutionary refounding of this sort? Can we afford not to try?

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Editorial: Results show math, science aren't out of reach
Amidst the array of news on failing U.S. student test scores in math and science, one successful new effort "makes you want to hug a teacher", the Dallas Morning News opines. The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), founded by ExxonMobil and former assistant secretary of education Tom Luce, has advocated for higher numbers in Advanced Placement (AP) classrooms in six states. The initiative trains and mentors AP instructors and provides financial rewards to students enrolled in college preparatory courses. By the results, their efforts seem successful. In Alabama, NMSI schools showed an average increase of 51% in AP exam scores, and minority student scores increased almost twice the state average increase in Massachusetts.

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Urban Schools Use Marketing to Woo Residents Back
Urban school systems around the nation, plagued by negative images and fleeing students, are ramping up efforts to pull students back into their districts by partnering with public relations firms, elected officials, and celebrities to inform parents and students of improved performance and programs, the Associated Press reports.

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In Focus with ... Michael Fullan

Michael FullanInternational education researcher and author Michael Fullan visited Houston Aug. 27-28 for a private workshop with aspiring principals from Houston A+ Challenge's Regional Principal Leadership Academy.

Dr. Fullan is Special Advisor to the Premier and Minister of Education in Ontario. His book, Leading in a Culture of Change, was awarded the 2002 Book of the Year Award by the National Staff Development Council and Breakthrough (with Peter Hill and Carmel Crévola) won the 2006 Book of the Year Award from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

During his visit, Dr. Fullan took a few moments to recount some salient points contained in his recent books, The Six Secrets of Change and Turnaround Leadership.

Watch the seven-minute interview on YouTube, as Fullan answers the following questions:

  • What is collaborative competition and how can it transform public education?

  • What kind of leadership, both at the district level and at the school level, does it take for collaborative competition to succeed?

  • What do you see as the role of an organization such as Houston A+ Challenge, which has a mission to bring schools and districts together for collaborative purposes?

  • What are you talking about in your workshop today with aspiring principals from the Houston A+ Challenge leadership academy?

  • Read the full interview with Michael Fullan

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On The Bookshelf

Catching Up or Leading the WayPublisher ASCD writes: Based on his own experience as a student in China and as a parent of children attending school in the United States, author Yong Zhao skewers conventional wisdom while setting straight the recent history and current state of U.S. schools. In Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization, Zhao makes his case by explaining:

  • Why the perceived weaknesses of American education are actually its strengths.
  • How reform proponents, business executives, and politicians have misjudged American education.
  • Why China and other nations in Asia are actually reforming their systems to be more like their American counterparts.
  • What really matters for an education system and what really counts as educational excellence.

You can pre-order this book, which comes out in September 2009, through the ASCD website.

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Follow School News on Twitter
Newly selected Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier maintains his own Twitter account; find him at twitter.com/tgriersd.

Houston ISD School Board President Harvin Moore also Tweets; find him at twitter.com/harvinmoore.

And of course, Houston A+ Challenge is always looking for new followers! Our staff regularly posts news, links to interesting topics and resources, and other musings about public education in Houston at twitter.com/houstonaplus.

Or why not become our fan on Facebook?

Award Recognizes Exemplary Secondary Science Teachers
Ciba Specialty Chemicals Exemplary Middle Level and High School Science Teaching Awards recognize teachers who have demonstrated exemplary science teaching in one or more of the following areas: creativity using science teaching materials; design and use of innovative teaching plans and ideas; and development and implementation of department, school, or school-community programs that improve science instruction and/or stimulate interest in science and the learning of science. Maximum award: $4,000, a one-year membership in the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and up to $1,000 to attend the NSTA National Conference on Science Education, March 18-21, 2010 in Philadelphia. Eligibility: full-time classroom teachers. Deadline: November 30, 2009.

Wachovia Foundation Grants Support Educational Improvement
The Wachovia Foundation is interested in working with non-profit organizations that are implementing and/or developing tailored approaches to improving education in their communities. Programs must support pre-K – 12 public education and address the systemic issues related to teachers and teaching, such as professional development, school support, recruitment or retention. Maximum Award: $500,000. Eligibility: 501(c)(3) organizations with a mission to improve public education in AL, CA, CT, DE, FL, GA, MD, MS, NC, NY, NJ, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, or Washington, D.C. Deadline: Not specified.

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 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.

NEA Learning & Leadership Grants
NEA Foundation Learning & Leadership Grants are given to public school teachers, public education support professionals, and/or faculty and staff in public institutions of higher education for one of two purposes: Grants to individuals fund participation in high-quality professional development experiences, such as summer institutes or action research; Grants to groups fund collegial study, including study groups, action research, lesson study, or mentoring experiences for faculty or staff new to an assignment. Maximum Award: $5,000 for groups, $2,000 for individuals. Eligibility: Public school teachers grades K–12; public school education support professionals; or faculty and staff at public higher education institutions. Deadline: October 15, 2009.

Foreign Language Assistance Program
The federal 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.

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.

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.

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September 12
6th Annual Reach Out to Dropouts Walk
All Day
Districts Across Houston

September 9
Summit on the
H1N1 Flu Virus

with Children at Risk
10 a.m. to Noon
United Way

September 9
Is it Time to Throw in the Towel on Education Reform? A Discussion with Chester E. Finn, Jr.

with Rice University's
REEP Program
6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.
Jones Graduate School of Business

October 13
'The Power of the Network' Dinner, benefiting Houston A+ Challenge
6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
River Oaks Country Club

Statistic of the Month

Knowing President Barack Obama's opinion on education topics gave an 11 percentage-point boost in support for charter schools and a 13 percentage-point increase in those backing merit pay for teachers, according to a new national survey by Education Next and Harvard University.

Source: Education Week

Houston A+ Challenge

2700 Southwest Freeway, Suite B
Houston, TX 77098-4607

Board of Trustees

Maconda B. O'Connor
Founding Board Member

Ann Friedman

J. Victor Samuels

Thomas L. Elsenbrook

Susan A. Bischoff

Bill Crouch
Jonathan Day
Joe B. Foster
Roberto Gonzalez
Karol Musher
Maconda B. O'Connor
Harry Reasoner
Yava D. Scott
Bobby Tudor
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

Betsy Broyles Breier
Program Coordinator

Angela Prince
Curriculum Specialist

Mike Webster
Teacher Leadership Coach

Principal Leadership Coaches
Marshal Dupas
Debbie Emery
Lachanda Landry
Lawrence Kohn
Lucille Maggi
Charlotte Parker
Betty Rennell
Bonnie Roberts

Terrie Roberts

Events Coordinator

Administrative Assistants
Imelda Cardoza
Donna O'Neil
Lisa Stein

Tuan Amith

Summer Interns
Nekeia Bedford
Bernice Burrell
Shannyn Piper
Jasmine Williams