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February 2010
News from Houston A+ Challenge

Aspiring Principals: Apply for the A+ Leadership Academy
Do you believe that all of the region's public school students can achieve postsecondary success when provided with a high-quality education? Houston A+ Challenge is now accepting applications for the third cohort of our Regional Principal Leadership Academy for aspiring principals.

An intensive summer 'leadership boot camp' is followed by a rigorous, yearlong on-the-job internship with a mentor principal. A maximum of 25 candidates will be admitted into the 2010-11 program, which starts in June 2010.

7 Minutes with A+ National Speaker Gloria Ladson-Billings
Anthony MuhammedScholar, philosopher, author, and teacher educator Gloria Ladson-Billings visited Houston A+ last month to help teachers, school leaders, and other stakeholders take a critical look at what they are doing to improve student learning -- and why so many fail to implement proven practices.

Check out this seven-minute video interview with Ladson-Billings, as she responds to the thorny issue of "education debt"

Ladson-Billings is Professor of Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and former President of the American Educational Research Association.

From the Headlines: School News

What Makes a Great Teacher? Teach For America Finds Clues
Citing a decade's worth of internal Teach For America data linking more than 7,300 corps members and alumni to their student outcomes, The Atlantic magazine defines superstar teachers as those who:

  • Set big goals for their students
  • Plan exhaustively by working backward toward a desired outcome
  • Constantly reevaluate what they're doing to improve their effectiveness
  • Maintain focus on student learning
  • Recruit students and families into the process
  • Work relentlessly to fight the trappings of poverty, bureaucracy and budgetary shortfalls

Linking these traits to specific teacher actions forms the basis of Teaching as Leadership, a new book out this month from Teach For America's guru for training and support, Steven Farr, and colleagues. The theories in the book aren't the only prescription for strong teaching, Farr acknowledges, but they do have a proven track record: Between 2007 and 2009, the percentage of TFA teachers who moved their students one and a half or more years ahead jumped from 24 to 44 percent. Read the full article in The Atlantic or preview the book.

Quality Counts 2010: The New Surge Toward Common Standards
Despite the Lone Star State's decision to go it alone as the other 48 contiguous states work toward common standards for student success, Texas earned an A for its standards, testing and school accountability system, according to Education Week's annual Quality Counts national report card on public education.

But the state's grades for school finance (D+), K-12 Achievement, Teaching Profession and Chance for Success (all low C's) leave much room for improvement. Overall, Texas ranked 14th in the nation with a score of 78.1. Maryland, New York and Massachusetts took the top three slots, and Washington D.C. came in dead last.

'The Best Economic Stimulus Package is a High School Diploma'
If half of the estimated 27,000 students who dropped out of the Houston metro area's Class of 2008 had graduated, their increased earnings would pump an estimated $120 million in additional spending and $44 million in additional investment into the regional economy during an average year.

That's according to a new report out from the nonprofit Alliance for Excellent Education, titled "The Economic Benefits from Halving Houston's Dropout Rate: A Boom to Regional Business." The Alliance also calcuated the total impact of halving the number of dropouts in the nation's 45 largest metropolitan areas: $4.1 billion in combined additional earnings in the average year, $2.8 billion in additional spending and $1.1 billion in additional investment each year, boosting annual tax revenue by $536 million.

rss From the Field

Spend Seven Minutes with Anthony Muhammad
Anthony MuhammedAnthony Muhammad, Founder of New Frontier 21, was in Houston recently for a private workshop with aspiring principals in the A+ academy.

A+ sat down with Muhammad for a brief interview on how teachers and school leaders can build real Professional Learning Communities and momentum for student-focused school change. Watch the video now.

Or check out these A+ video interviews with national speakers.

Reginald FisherCatching Up with an A+ Principal
The impact of Houston A+ Challenge's Regional Principal Leadership Academy is reaching far beyond the Houston metropolitan region. In August 2009, A+ Academy graduate Reginald Fisher was named principal of Frankford High School in Philadelphia, PA.

Fisher launched his career as an educator in 1991 as a charter member of Teach For America's Houston corps. "I had an epiphany and realized that I wanted to dedicate my life to public service," he said.

Frankford is a typical urban high school filled with many successes as well as challenges. The school's 100+ teachers serve more than 2,000 students, 83 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

On The Bookshelf

The Mindful TeacherThe practice of reflection—reappraising our experiences so we can learn from them—is widely recognized as a key to improving teaching and learning. But if reflection is truly valued by educators and researchers, then why does reflective practice seem so rare in schools? The Mindful Teacher, co-written by Elizabeth MacDonald, a teacher in the Boston Public Schools, and Dennis Shirley, a professor of education at Boston College, offers a practical vision of how teachers can utilize reflection to improve their practice.

Co-author Shirley's connection to Houston schools reaches back two decades to when he was on the faculty of Rice University. To gain more insight into Shirley's ideas, Houston A+ Challenge's Donna Reid sat down with him to discuss the new book, teacher professionalism, and university/school partnerships.

Shirley began with the idea that mindful teaching takes hold when "teachers struggle to attain congruence, integrity, and efficacy in their practice." It is integrative, reflective and deep. Shirley believes that allowing teachers to engage with that deeper dimension of their identity is an unbelievably rich model for nurturing teachers and keeping them in the profession. 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 plans developed 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




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

February 26
Deadline to Apply for A+ Aspiring Principals Academy

Statistic of the Month

For every 100 girls enrolled in kindergarten, there are 116 boys.
For every 100 girls enrolled in high school, there are 100 boys.
For every 100 women enrolled in college, there are just 77 men.

Source: 'The Educational Crisis Facing Young Men of Color' (College Board, January 2010)

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
Yava D. Scott
J. David Thompson, III
Bobby Tudor
Andrea White

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

Administrative Assistants
Imelda Cardoza
Donna O'Neil
Lisa Stein

Terrie Roberts
Events Coordinator

Tuan Amith

Shannyn Piper
Development Intern