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October 2009
News from Houston A+ Challenge

Learn the Language of Collaboration with A+
Find out how to create a professional learning community at your school that turns theories into practice and standards into actual student learning.

Houston A+ Challenge is once again offering Critical Friends Group training for teachers, school leaders and all educators who are interested in making their professional learning communities more effective and student-focused.

Apply today for this 40-hour training, offered October 15, 16, 17, 23 and 24 at the Houston A+ Challenge offices.

Join A+ Oct. 1 and 8 for National Speaker Series
On October 1, sociologist and urban schools scholar Charles Payne will join A+ for a provocative discussion on his new book, So Much Reform, So Little Change. Payne is a Distinguished Professor in the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration, and served previously as a professor of African American Studies at Duke University and Northwestern University.

On October 8, innovative educator and inspirational speaker Larry Bell will visit A+ to provide insights on Leading with High Expectations. Bell has been a keynote speaker at many national conferences, including ASCD and the National Association of Multicultural Education.

Both events run from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Houston A+ Challenge, and are free and open to the public. Seating is limited.

A+ Webinar Promotes Online Collaboration: Find out how A+ Teacher Externs utilized web technologies to conduct an online "Looking at Work" session. Read more.

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

From the Headlines: School News

Engineering Can Spark Student Interest, STEM Skills
A study from the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council reveals that introducing engineering education in K-12 can improve a student's science and math skills, while fostering an interest in those subjects. Such engineering concepts would include creative problem solving, engineering design, extended math, technology and science skills to sustain a 21st century learning environment. Engineering, according to report, is absent in conventional STEM circuillia, even though there is growing, yet small initiative to include engineering in the classroom.

"The problem solving, systems thinking, and teamwork aspects of engineering can benefit all students, whether or not they ever pursue an engineering career," said author of the report and chancellor of the University of California, Davis Linda Katehi. "A K-12 education that does not include at least some exposure to engineering is a lost opportunity for students and for the nation."

The report also proposes some changes in order to integrate the engineering discipline into K-12 education. To read the full report, click here.

Namesakes chosen for Elementary School Nos. 51 and 52
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD has announced Dr. Debbie Emery and Betty Cody Rennell as the namesakes for two of the district's new elementary schools, to be opened for the 2010-11 school year. Emery and Rennell served with CFISD for 30 and 28 years, respectively. They now work with Houston A+ Challenge as coaches for the Regional Principal Leadership Academy.

Effective Teachers Found to Improve Peers' Performance
A new study for the first time indicates a possible "spillover effect" in teacher-peer learning. Researchers found statistically significant improvements in student achievement across a grade when teachers are surrounded by more effective colleagues. The study has implications for staffing and teacher-level versus school level-rewards.

For one year, PBS followed two principals of turnaround schools in order to showcase the daily challenges principals face in improving student achievement through leadership. Aired on September 15, the documentary, available soon by DVD, comes accompanied by related videos and print materials to connect viewers to additional resources.

Aldine, Texas, District Wins Broad Prize
2009 is the fourth year that Aldine had been a finalist for the coveted prize, which annually recognizes the nation's top large, urban districts for academic excellence and success in "closing the gap" in student performance. Only the nation's largest, high-poverty districts are eligible.

Aldine ISD has a long history of partnerships with Houston A+ Challenge. Hundreds of Aldine educators -- from teachers, to campus leaders, to top district officials -- have worked on with A+ on initiatives such as Preparing to Dream, the New Visions in Leadership Academy, the Regional Principal Leadership Academy, Critical Friends Groups and the Teacher Externship Program.

Read more

Teach For America Sharpens Focus on Teacher Support
Long famous for recruiting top college graduates to work in the hardest-to-staff classrooms, Teach For America continues to expand the role of its teacher support program. The nonprofit's focus on data-driven goals, increased teacher collaboration, and innovative on-demand online tools as a means of peer support are once again attracting national attention.

rss From the Field: Math in the Digital Classroom

Pam Parrish (top) and Candy Gilmer (bottom) assist students working on Reasoning Mind

In the summer of 2008, when Youngblood Intermediate School Principal Pam Bruner asked veteran teachers Pam Parrish and Candy Gilmer if they would like to pilot a new math program for the school year, they were interested but cautious.

It's a typical response from teachers when they hear about Reasoning Mind, a technology-driven math program for elementary students where students work through online curriculum as the teacher provides additional real-time support, resources, and instruction. Youngblood receives funding to implement the program through a partnership between Houston A+ Challenge and the ExxonMobil Foundation.

After a year of implementation at the Alief ISD campus, Parrish and Gilmer's skepticism has been replaced by enthusiasm as they've seen their students succeed. "In the fall of 2008, we were given the kids that needed the most help. They hadn't passed the TAKS test -- in some cases, ever. We moved the passing rate for them from 0 to almost 70 percent," says Gilmer. "They succeeded unlike they ever had." With such success and the start of a new school year, both of them see the opportunity to grow.

Click here to read more

On The Bookshelf

In Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities, William Bowen, Matthew Chingos, and Michael McPherson conducted an in-depth study to examine the contributors to the less than 60% graduation rate of four-year students at public universities and the serious obstacles that entering students face in completing college.

Click here to read more




Visit http://www.houstonaplus.org/resources/bookshelf for more recommended books.


Leavey Awards for Excellence in Private Enterprise Education
The Leavey Awards for Excellence in Private Enterprise Education honor outstanding educators who excite a commitment in their students to the free enterprise system and unleash the entrepreneurial skills of their students at the elementary, junior high school, high school, and college level. Maximum Award: $15,000

Click here for more information

American School Board Journal: Magna Awards
The American School Board Journal's 16th annual Magna Awards honor outstanding programs developed or supported by school boards that showcase school district leadership, creativity, and commitment to student achievement. Maximum Award: $4,000

Click here for more information

AAPT: Barbara Lotze Scholarships for Future Teachers
The American Association of Physics Teachers Executive Board offers scholarships for future high school physics teachers. Maximum Award: $2,000, granted to an individual for up to four years.

Click here for more information

IRA: Regie Routman Teacher Recognition Grant
The International Reading Association Regie Routman Teacher Recognition Grant honors an outstanding elementary teacher of reading and language arts dedicated to improving teaching and learning through reflective writing about his or her teaching and learning process. Maximum Award: $2,500

Click here for more information

Horace Mann-Abraham Lincoln Fellowship Program
Interested in learning more about Abraham Lincoln this summer? Consider applying for a Horace Mann-Abraham Lincoln Fellowship. In this program, educators study the life and legacy of America's 16th president. The fellowship features a five-day institute at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. Round-trip transportation to the institute is covered by the program, as are lodging and most meals.Fellows will participate in the program’s institute during the following dates:June 20-26, 2010 (25 Fellows)? July 11-18, 2010 (25 Fellows). Maximum Award: N/A

Click here for more information

Lowe's Toolbox for Education Grant Program
Increase parent involvement? Build stronger community spirit? Create a new school tradition? The ideas are endless. Whatever goals and dreams you have for your school, we can help you fulfill them! Maximum Award: Up to $5000

Click here for more information

Surdna Arts Teachers Fellowship Program
The Surdna Foundation announces the tenth year of a national initiative to support the artistic revitalization of outstanding arts teachers in public arts high schools. Surdna recognizes that arts teachers often lack the time and resources to reconnect with other arts professionals and with the artistic processes they teach. Through the Surdna Arts Teachers Fellowship Program, Fellows will design individualized courses of study that will provide both immersion in their own creative work and the opportunity to interact with other professional artists in their fields. Maximum Award: $5500 + $1500

Click here for more information

Toyota TAPESTRY Grants for Science Teachers
The program offers grants of up to $10,000 to K-12 teachers for innovative science projects that enhance science education in their school and/or district over a one-year period. The 2009 – 2010 competition marks the 20th anniversary of the Toyota TAPESTRY program. Maximum Award: Up to $10,000

Click here for more information

CVS Caremark Community Grants
To ensure that we make a positive impact, the 2009 Community Grants Program will focus on a few key areas. One area is on public schools for children with disabilities that promote a greater level of inclusion in student activities and extracurricular programs. Maximum Award: $5000.

Click here for more information

Teach Awards Change To Teach@15
The Teach@15 Award program helps schools serving any grades 7-12 meet their technology needs. Teens (age 13-18) who are registered members on at15.com ("Members") can nominate their schools (depending on eligibility) to win a Teach@15 Award. Starting September 15, 2009, teen members can vote once a day for 15 days for one nomination. Every 15 days, Best Buy will award 3 schools with Best Buy Gift Cards based on member votes. The school with the most votes will win $1,500, second most votes wins $1,000 and third most votes wins $500. Maximum Award: $500-$1500.

Click here for more information

Visit http://www.houstonaplus.org/resources/grants for additional grant opportunities.




October 1
Charles Payne: 'So Little Reform, So Little Change'
5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Houston A+ Challenge

October 8
Larry Bell : 'Leading with High Expectations'
5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Houston A+ Challenge

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

October 15, 16, 17, 23 and 24
Critical Friends Group New Coach Training
8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Houston A+ Challenge

Statistic of the Month

Nearly 50 million students will be attending public elementary and secondary schools in the 2009-10 school year, while an additional 6 million are enrolled in private schools. Of the 50 million public school students, 35 million are attending pre-K to 8th grade and 15 million are attending grades 9-12.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics

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