August 31, 2006

The City of Houston has been awarded an outstanding achievement award for “City Livability” by the U.S. Conference of Mayors as a result of the "expectation:Graduation" campaign, which is dedicated to improving high school graduation rates. The campaign includes the annual Reach Out To Dropouts Walk. The Conference of Mayors City Livability Program honors mayors and their city governments for developing programs that enhance the quality of life in urban areas. Houston ISD Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra and Mayor Bill White accepted the award. Houston A+ Challenge was recognized for its role in the annual walk.
Houston ISD has been named a “New Center of Acitivity” by the National School Reform Faculty (NSRF). Called The Urban Forum for Leadership and Learning, the Houston ISD center will provide leadership training along with Critical Friends Group (CFG) training. Critical Friends provides an avenue for teachers and administrators to create “professional learning communities.” Educators collaborate to deepen their knowledge of academic subject matter, examine teaching practices and consider issues of whole-school change. Houston A+ Challenge began training CFG coaches in Houston in 1999. The new center is an example of how A+ Challenge is building capacity in the Houston area.
The United Parcel Service Foundation has awarded Houston A+ Challenge $1,000 to support a literacy and literacy-infused mathematics and arts program organized by Dr. Cheryl Craig of the University of Houston for middle school students in Aldine ISD. The literacy framework at Aldine ISD is driven by research into best practices and scientifically proven methods of literacy instruction that include literacy embedded strategies, secondary literacy coaches, secondary literacy support from the district, strategies for English language learners, and data-driven decision making, as well as community engagement. Dr. Craig previously served as a planning and evaluation consultant for several Houston A+ Beacon schools.
The Simmons Foundation has given $15,000 to Houston A+ Challenge to support the Teacher Externship program. The program connects teachers from schools throughout the Houston metro area to the business community in a one-week externship learning experience. This opportunity gives teachers insight into the business world, provides them with new tools for classroom lessons and reenergizes them for the school year ahead. Businesses get the chance to attract and build a highly skilled labor force.

Nine educators from Denton ISD took part in this summer’s Critical Friends Group (CFG) training from Houston A+ Challenge at the University of Houston Hilton. Denton ISD representatives were visiting Roberts Elementary in Houston ISD earlier in the year as part of a completely different program – the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme – when they discovered that Roberts’ success was a result of their CFGs. Denton decided to find out more and sent educators to Houston to explore this innovative mode of professional development.


September 5, 19, 26
High School Improvement Facilitator Training
September 5, 12, 19, 26
High School Literacy Coach Training
September 7
Fine Arts Partners Collaborative
September 9, 23
Critical Friends Group Summer Followup Seminar
September 13
Regional High School Network

September 18, 23, 25, October 7, 9, 14

Critical Friends Group New Coach Seminar
September 20
Regional Senior Fellows

September 25
New Visions in Leadership Academy Cohort Meeting
September 26
"Creating a Movement" with Clay Roberts
October 3, 17
High School Improvement Facilitator Training
October 3, 10, 24, 31
High School Literacy Coach Training
October 6-8
New Visions in Leadership Academy Retreat
October 11
Regional High School Network
October 16-20
Give Kids Good Schools Week
October 16-November 17
Regional High School Network Cross-Site Visits

October 21
National Board Certification for Teachers Information Meeting
June 4-8, 2007
Teacher Externship Week

School News
Gayle Curtis Named Principal at Wilson Elementary
Gayle Curtis has been named principal at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Houston ISD. Ms. Curtis formerly worked with the Helms Community Learning Center, also part of Houston ISD, where she was coordinator for Helms’ Beacon school grant from Houston A+. Wilson Elementary School is a Houston A+ Challenge Lamplighter School. The Lamplighter grant has provided Wilson teachers with staff development opportunities, including Critical Friends Group training.
Moses Diaz Named Principal at Scarborough High School
Moses Diaz has been named principal at Scarborough High School in Houston ISD. Mr. Diaz is a 1999 graduate of the Houston A+ Challenge New Visions in Leadership Academy. He was dean of instruction at Scarborough and assistant principal at Chavez High School. Scarborough HS participates in the joint Houston ISD/Houston A+ Challenge high school redesign initiative.

Connecting Math to Other Subjects Grant
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) is offering “Connecting Mathematics to Other Subject Areas” grants for educators to create high school classroom materials or lessons that connect math to other fields. Grants are available for up to $3,000. Applicants must be a current NCTM member and teaching math in grades 9-12 for half of the school day. The deadline is November 3, 2006. This grant is supported by the Theoni Pappas Fund. For more information, go to the NCTM website.
Reminder: Professional Development with Clay Roberts
On September 26 at 6:30 p.m. the Texas Association of Partners in Education Houston - Healthy Communities Healthy Youth and Houston A+ Challenge will sponsor a free training for the community on the 40 Developmental Assets. Nationally-known speaker Clay Roberts from the Search Institute will lead the session, which is particularly for parents, PTOs and community leaders. Mr. Clay is an expert in strengthening developmental assets in educational institutions. He will integrate a variety of elements from “tipping points” to the importance of deepening relationships for helping kids. To reserve your seat, fill out the flyer or call 713 658 1881.
Houston Dynamo Supports “Score at School” Program
“Score at School” is a free in-class incentive program from the Houston Dynamos designed to help motivate students to achieve educational success. With the program, teachers set three goals for their students. Examples include good behavior, exemplary attendance, completing a project, achieving a grade on a test or meeting a reading goal. Upon meeting all three goals, students are rewarded for their hard work with one free ticket to a Houston Dynamos game. Participating teachers are also given complimentary tickets. To learn more about this program contact Judy Dubose at 713-276-7512 or email:
Best Buy Supports Educators with the Te@ch Program
School that use interactive technologies to help students learn and make their education more enjoyable may qualify for a Best Buy te@ch program "scholarship." The program rewards schools that use interactive technology for learning by awarding Best Buy gift cards or expense accounts in the sums of $2,500, $15,000, and one national award of $250,000. Eligible schools must be nonprofit K-12 public, private, parochial, or charter schools located within 50 miles of a Best Buy store. The deadline for submissions is September 30, 2006.

PPS-Houston’s Special Parents Resource Fair
The Parents for Public Schools of Houston ( PPS) is offering an opportunity for parents of students with disabilities to learn about working with schools at their “Special Parents Resource Fair” on September 9, 2006, at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. Booth space is still available for care providers, businesses, educational, and non-profit organizations that offer services, equipment, or information to parents of children with disabilities. For more information, read about the fair online at PPS’ new website.

Changes at Houston A+ Challenge
Suzanne Rodriguez has joined the Houston A+ staff as the high school intern for the coming school year. Suzanne is beginning her senior year at the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice.

Statistic of the Month
Did you know? The number of high school graduates completing advanced science coursework increased to 63% in 2000 from 35% in 1982. Students completing advanced mathematics coursework increased to 45% in 2000 from 26% in 1982.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Houston A+ Challenge
1415 Louisiana, Box 9
Houston, TX 77002
Staff List
Michele Pola, Ed. D.
Executive Director
Suzanne Sutherland
Director, Programs
Catherine Reed
Director, Finance
Nan Powers Varoga
Director, Public Affairs
Louise Deretchin, Ph.D.
Director, Higher Education
Program Coordinators
Brandi Allen
Tim Martindell
Angela Prince
Public Engagement Coordinator
Alejandro Morúa
Event Coordinator
Terrie Roberts
Administrative Assistants
Imelda Cardoza
Benedicta Forson
Joan Zuniga
Michael Powell, Ph.D.
Public Affairs Intern
Suzanne Rodriguez
High School Intern

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