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March 2010
News from Houston A+ Challenge

An Evening With Dr. John Saphier
The next event in our national visiting faculty series is a March 25 visit from Dr. John Saphier, Founder and President of Research for Better Teaching, Inc.  The event, titled "Teaching and Learning with Skillful Leadership," will bring Houston A+ friends and colleagues together to explore what we know, and need to know, about teaching expertise.  The event will be held on Thursday, March 25, 2010, from 5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.  For further information or to register, click here.

Preparing Kids for the Future: Global Trends, Local Action
Also coming soon is the upcoming 6th biennial Convocation on Public Education, to be held on Friday, March 26, from 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at Houston Community College’s Central Campus.* Co-sponsored by Houston A+ Challenge and the American Leadership Forum, "Preparing Kids for the Future:  Global Trends, Local Action" promises to be a thought-provoking and rewarding experience.  Keynote speaker Bill Daggett, CEO & Founder of the International Center for Leadership in Education, will share his perspectives in the morning session, and panelists throughout the day will include:

  • Representative Rob Eissler, Chair of the Texas House of Representatives' Public Education Committee
  • Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier
  • University of Houston Chancellor Renu Khator
  • Jeff Moseley, President and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership. 

Throughout the day, participants will grapple with such core questions as:  What must the school of the future look like in order to achieve rigor, relevance, and relationships for all students?  And what is my role in creating it?   

For more details or to register for the March 26 Convocation, click here.  Registration is $40 per person.

  *Please note the new location.

Teacher Externship Program 2010
Houston A+ Challenge's highly popular Teacher Externship Program will return this summer by popular demand!  This year's externships will occur the week of June 7th.  During the one-week externship experience, selected teachers will spread out to local businesses throughout the community to immerse themselves in jobs and hands-on learning related to their field of instruction.  For additional details or to obtain the online application form, click here.

Aspiring Principals: Cohort 3
Finally, we're gratified by the continued strong interest in Houston A+ Challenge’s Principal Leadership Academy.  The deadline for applications to our third cohort was last week, and we are delighted that so many outstanding and deeply committed educators from the greater Houston area are interested in joining our excellent program.  We look forward to sharing future news with you about our newest cohort of aspiring school leaders.

From the Headlines: School News

What Do Teachers, Principals, and Students Think?
In the fall of 2009, MetLife asked 1,003 K-12 public school teachers, 500 K-12 public school principals and 1,018 public school students in grades 3-12 to share their views on their respective roles and responsibilities, current practice, and priorities for the future. The effort marked a continuation of MetLife’s Annual Survey of the American Teacher, which it has been conducting since 1984. The first report on the survey findings, Effective Teaching and Leadership, compares teachers’, principals’, and students’ perspectives on responsibility and accountability and explores the nature and extent of collaboration in schools today.

Among the key survey findings:

  • On average, teachers spend 2.7 hours per week collaborating in a structured way with other teachers and school leaders.
  • The most frequent type of collaborative activities are teachers meeting in teams to learn what is needed to help their students achieve at higher levels; school leaders sharing responsibility with teachers to achieve school goals; and beginning teachers working with more experienced teachers.
  • The least frequent type of collaborative activity is teachers observing each other in the classroom and providing feedback. (Less than one-third of teachers or principals report that this type of activity frequently occurs at their school.)
  • Most notably, two-thirds of teachers and three-quarters of principals think that greater collaboration among teachers and school leaders would have a major impact on improving student achievement

These and other results from the MetLife survey can be found here.

Gates Foundation Perspectives on Empowering Effective Teachers?
gates-whitepaper-strategy.jpgAccording to the first of a new series of briefs from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, four strategies are all vital to improving the recruitment, placement, evaluation, retention, and support of highly effective teachers:

  • adoption of multidimensional measures of teacher effectiveness;
  • creation of better teacher evaluation tools and processes;
  • making the tenure decision a more meaningful milestone; and
  • the design of career pathways and differentiating compensation. 

The brief – Empowering Effective Teachers: Readiness for Reform – also offers examples of how various school districts and charter school organizations plan to implement these strategies in the years ahead. 

Other Recent Items of Interest

  • Houston ISD In the News
    Houston Independent School District has been the focus of considerable national attention lately as a result of the school board’s bold decision to link student achievement data to teacher evaluations as well as the superintendent’s announcement of a pilot program that will allow struggling schools to adopt an extended-year calendar beginning this fall

    Regardless of whether or not one agrees that longer school days are the right approach, or whether the evaluation system currently being used to measure teachers' effectiveness is ideal, the conversations about doing what's needed to ensure that all students have access to the high-quality education they deserve are vital and healthy.

    To share your views, click here.

  • More Thoughts on Time and Teaching
    The Center for American Progress too has weighed in on the intertwined issues of transforming schools and expanding learning time.  Their recent white paper reminds us that there are no silver bullets in education reform, and that it is best to consider how different change initiatives work in tandem.  "For more learning time to deliver meaningful results," the authors of the white paper observe, "other key elements and conditions like strong principal leadership, effective teachers, and a culture of excellence must be in place in schools.  The success of more time depends on how well it is added and spent."

  • Breakthrough Ideas for Knowledge Workers in 2010
    According to The Harvard Business Review, what motivates "knowledge workers" most is not recognition, incentives, interpersonal support, or clear goals. Rather, it is a sense of progress. These and other "breakthrough" ideas for 2010 grew out of a multiyear study that followed knowledge workers in an array of settings, gathering data on their activities, emotions, and motivation levels.  "On days when workers have the sense they're making headway in their jobs, or when they receive support that helps them overcome obstacles," the authors wrote, "their emotions are most positive and their drive to succeed is at its peak."  Conversely, their moods and motivation are lowest on days characterized by obstacles.  Based on the findings, the authors advise those in charge to: "Scrupulously avoid impeding progress by changing goals autocratically, being indecisive, or holding up resources. Negative events generally have a greater effect on people's emotions, perceptions, and motivation than positive ones."  Though the article was not written about those working in education per se, the parallels are intriguing to consider.
    Read more at this link.

  • Thought for the Day
    Reflecting on the relationship between educational attainment and income, Sara Mead recently shared this thought on the Eduwonk blog:  "The details of education policy debates should never distract us from the fundamental truth that your economic and life opportunities vary tremendously based on your level of education and the skills and knowledge you acquire.  At some point there’s no getting around the fact that improving educational attainment–particularly for historically underserved young people–is both an economic and a social justice issue."
rss From the Field

Dr. Sonia Nieto, Professor Emerita of Language, Literacy & Culture at the University of Massachusetts- Amherst’s School of Education and renowned scholar on multicultural education, visited Houston A+ Challenge recently to meet with our aspiring principals. Dr. Nieto shared her thoughts on how schools of education are doing today to prepare all school leaders and teachers to meet the needs of diverse students; what makes a great school leader; and her latest work. To view her interview, visit A+'s video gallery here at this link.

Dr. Nieto’s book Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education, is widely used in teacher preparation and inservice courses. Her other books include The Light in Their Eyes: Creating Multicultural Learning Communities (1999, 2010), Language, Culture, and Teaching (2002, 2010), What Keeps Teachers Going? (2003) and three edited volumes, Puerto Rican Students in U.S. Schools (2000), Why We Teach (2005), and Dear Paulo: Letters From Those Who Dare Teach (2008).

Wanting more food for thought? Check out these other A+ video interviews with national speakers.

On The Bookshelf

Having been thoroughly inspired by Karin Chenoweth’s previous book, It’s Being Done: Academic Success in Unexpected Schools – which chronicled the remarkable achievements occurring in challenged schools, Houston A+ staff eagerly awaited the sequel.  How It's Being Done: Urgent Lessons from Unexpected Schools offers detailed information and insights into precisely how such schools have exceeded expectations and achieved unprecedented levels of success, dramatically increasing student achievement and diminishing (and often eliminating) achievement gaps.  In his Foreword to Chenoweth’s latest book, Pedro Noguera – Houston A+ visiting faculty member – observes: "Chenoweth shows us what it takes to beat the odds against adversity."

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.

The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education annually recognizes outstanding individuals who have dedicated themselves to improving education in this country and whose accomplishments are making a difference today. Honorees are chosen by a distinguished panel of judges made up of thoughtful and influential members of the education community. Maximum Award: Each winner receives a gift of $25,000 and a bronze sculpture. The Prize was established in 1988 to honor Mr. McGraw's lifelong commitment to education, and to mark the Corporation's 100th anniversary. Deadline: March 19, 2010. URL: Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education.

Kohl's Kids Who Care Scholarships recognize and reward young volunteers who transform their communities for the better. Maximum Award: $10,000 scholarship toward postsecondary education. Eligibility: Youth 6 to 18 years old, not graduated from high school. Deadline: March 15, 2010. URL: Kohl's Kids Who Care Scholarship.

Questbridge, a nonprofit dedicated to giving high-achieving low-income students resources during the college application process, is accepting applications for its College Prep Program for high school juniors. Maximum Award: Full scholarship to a summer program, college admissions counseling, and attendance at college preparatory conferences. Eligibility: Qualified low-income high school juniors. Deadline: March 29, 2010. URL: Questbridge College Prep Program.

The NEA Foundation's next round of Innovation Grant and Learning & Leadership Grant: applications for these grants are accepted on an ongoing, year-round basis, so it's never too late to apply. Grants fund activities for 12 months from the award date. The NEA Foundation's grants are available for all subjects, including the arts, literacy, science, and technology. Maximum Award: $5000. Eligibility: All U.S. practicing K-12 public school teachers, education support professionals, and higher education faculty and staff at public colleges and universities are eligible to apply. Deadline: Next deadline is June 1. URL: Innovation Grant and Learning & Leadership Grant.

The Actuarial Foundation Advancing Student Achievement Mentoring Program awards grants to schools and groups to develop a viable mentoring program involving actuaries in the teaching of mathematics to children in private and public schools. Collaboration among school systems, local actuarial clubs, corporations and other stakeholders in education is encouraged in order to enhance the chances of success, particularly on a long-term basis. Maximum Award: $30,000. Eligibility: All schools and groups willing to undertake a math mentoring program that involves local actuaries as volunteers Deadline: Ongoing. URL: Actuarial Foundation Advancing Student Achievement Mentoring Program.

The American Historical Association Beveridge Family Teaching Prize recognizes excellence and innovation in elementary, middle school, and secondary history teaching, including career contributions and specific initiatives. Maximum Award: $1,500. Eligibility: K-12 teachers in groups. Deadline: March 15, 2010. URL: The American Historical Association Beveridge Family Teaching Prize.

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




March 25
Improving Teaching and Learning with Skillful Leadership with Dr. John Saphier

March 26
Preparing Kids For The Future

April 12
Deadline to apply for the 2010 Summer Externship

Statistic of the Month

48 states — all but Alaska and Texas — have indicated their intent to participate in an effort coordinated by the National Governors Association to develop common standards in math and reading.

Source:National Governors Association (NY Times article)

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