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November 2009
News from Houston A+ Challenge

A+ Dinner Unites Attendees Around Improving Public Education
Generous Houstonians made the first-ever "Power of the Network" dinner, benefiting Houston A+ Challenge, a sold-out event on October 13. At the event, founding Board Members Maconda B. O'Connor and Andrea White (pictured below) accepted the first A+ Awards for Excellence in Public Education.

In future years, Houston A+ Challenge will award the Maconda Brown O’Connor Award for Leadership in Public Education to outstanding public school teachers, principals and district leaders, and the Andrea White Award for Service to Public Education will be awarded to individual community members, corporation and foundations who go above and beyond to support the Houston region's public schools.

Special thanks to our event chairs, Lesha and Tom Elsenbrook and Nancy and Bryan Ruez, and to the entire A+ Board of Trustees for making the evening a success!

Spend Seven Minutes with A+ National Speakers
To share our learning with the wider community, Houston A+ Challenge has begun compiling a video library featuring brief interviews with national speakers who have recently spent time with our principal and teacher networks.

Let us know what you think about these new video clips:

  • Lorraine Monroe, author and founding principal of Harlem's Frederick Douglass Academy, on the importance of instructional leadership.
  • Kent Peterson, Professor of Education Leadership & Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, on the practical importance of building positive school culture.
  • Michael Fullan, internationally renowned education researcher and author, on the value of 'collaborative competition' in public schools.

Help Create an Agenda for Change in Houston's Public Schools
On November 11, please join Houston A+ Challenge, Children at Risk, Project Grad and other community organizations for a one-day conference on the "Big Ideas, Big Reforms" that are making an impact in public schools in Houston, in Texas, and across the country.

Speakers will include Dr. Joseph Johnson, Executive Director of the National Center for Urban School Transformation; Susan Dawson, President of Austin's E3 (Education Equals Economics) Alliance; statewide political organizer Johnson Sabo; and others.

From the Headlines: School News

New Research on the Revolving Door of the Principalship
High school principals in Texas stay on the job an average of just 3.38 years, while middle and elementary school principals last only slightly longer -- an average tenure of 4.48 years and 4.96 years, respectively. "We think the job has outgrown the ability of one person to handle it," University of Texas researcher Ed Fuller told Education Week. "Nobody is staying long enough to make connections or shepherd a reform through." Read the article or read the full study.

Study Finds 40 Percent of Teachers 'Disheartened'
Two out of five of America's 4 million K-12 teachers are disheartened and disappointed about their jobs -- but nearly as many (37 percent) are contented, and a good portion (23 percent) are classified as idealists -- according to a new nationwide study by Public Agenda and Learning Point Associates. "Teaching for a Living: How Teachers See the Profession Today," offers a comprehensive and nuanced look at the attitudes and motivations of the nation's teacher corps, and researchers provide notable implications for how to identify, retain, and support the most effective teachers. Read more

Getting It Wrong: Surprising Tips on How to Learn
Scientific American reports on new research that makes the case for hard tests, and suggests an unusual technique that anyone can use to learn. Read more

Transformative School Leaders Focus on Priorities
The best school leaders create a sense of community and collaboration while keeping their focus on teaching and learning, writes Marge Scherer, editor-in-chief for Educational Leadership magazine. Their October issue spotlights the development of school leaders. Read more

rss From the Field

Saying YES to Leadership: Ellen Winstead, First-Year Principal

As one of 19 aspiring principals in last year's Regional Principal Leadership Academy cohort, Ellen Winstead spent her internship year working closely with other YES Prep directors to plan the opening of the newest YES site, located in West Houston. She was engaged in all aspects of new school development including: recruiting students and staff, organizing the physical plant, ordering materials, and being the cheerleader for the school's success.

Click to read the full story

Infuse the Arts, Infuse Engagement: Aldine's Anderson Academy

Will classroom instruction and children’s learning improve through the infusion of the arts into the core curricula?

That's exactly what a team from Anderson Academy in Aldine ISD spent the last two years researching, with the support of a Critical Friends Group As Research Team Grant from the Houston A+ Challenge.

Nestled in the Acres Homes community in northwest Houston, Anderson Academy is a 1st through 3rd grade magnet school for fine arts, Montessori and Direct Instruction. Although Anderson has a proud tradition of exposing students to the arts through ancillary classes in drama, art, dance, and violin, the Anderson faculty wanted to explore how they could take their focus on arts from simple enrichment to full-scale infusion in math, science, social studies, and language arts.

Click to read the full story

On The Bookshelf

In Why School: Reclaiming Education for All of Us, award-winning author Mike Rose draws on forty years of teaching and research, from primary school to adult education and workplace training, to reflect on the big questions related to public schooling in America: What does it mean to be educated? What is intelligence? How should we think about intelligence, education, and opportunity in an open society?

Click here to read more

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


Grants and Opportunities
Houston A+ Challenge is pleased to provide a listing of education-related grants, offered by institutions across the city, state and nation. Please contact the grant provider named in each listing for more information about these opportunities.

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

Lesson Plan Database
This Houston A+ Challenge tool is a searchable collection of lesson plansdeveloped by Houston-area teachers, as part of the A+ Teacher Externship Program.

Search by grade level, subject, related industry or school name to find curriculum plans that bring work-relevant lessons into the classroom.

Click here for more information





November 11
Big Ideas, Big Reform: Creating an Agenda for Change in Houston's Public Schools
with Children At Risk, Houston A+ Challenge and other local partners
8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Houston Community College - South Loop

November 18
Principal Leadership Academy: Info Session for Aspiring Principals
5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Houston A+ Challenge

Statistic of the Month

High school principals in Texas stay on the job an average of just 3.38 years. Middle and elementary school principals last slightly longer, with an average tenure of 4.48 years and 4.96 years, respectively.

Source: "Tenure and Retention of Newly Hired Principals in Texas", a 2009 UT-Austin study of more than 16,500 public school principals from 1995 to 2008

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
Shawn Gross
Gasper Mir, III
Karol Musher
Maconda B. O'Connor
Harry Reasoner
Yava D. Scott
J. David Thompson, III
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