March 31, 2006

The next installment of The Houston A+ Challenge series "Taking The Next Steps" will focus on using portfolios to document excellence and equity in teaching. During this interactive symposium, participants will bring their portfolios to share. The Portfolio Group will coach participants and will share their professional experiences to break down isolation between and among educators and schools. The session will be held from 8:30 a.m. to noon April 8 at the University of Houston Hilton Hotel. Deadline to register is April 6.
The Houston A+ Challenge Board of Trustees has elected Michael Dee as its newest member. Mr. Dee serves as a managing director of Morgan Stanley in the Houston office with primary responsibility in the Investment Banking Division. Mr. Dee spent over 24 years with Morgan Stanley, including a most recent 12 years overseas in various Investment Banking positions in London, Hong Kong and Singapore.
More than 280 people attended the sold out American Leadership Forum Convocation on Public Education on March 28. Handouts distributed at the convocation are available on the A+ Challenge website. These include selected readings, papers by the speakers and reference materials from the panelists. If you were unable to attend the conference and wish to receive followup information, you can register to do so.
Houston A+ is enlisting businesses for the 2006 Teacher Externship program June 5-9. During an externship, a company hosts a high school teacher for one week and shows the teacher how his or her content connects with the company's work. Teachers then incorporate what they learn into their lessons. To date, more than 100 teachers have requested an externship this summer; half have been placed. The most requested industries are technology, health care, energy, banking and law. To host a teacher, contact Alejandro Morua, program coordinator at A+ Challenge.
Plan now to attend Houston A+ Challenge's Summer Institute, which will be held July 27-29 at University of Houston Hilton Hotel. This annual institute, in its 10th year, draws 300 educators, community members, business people, parents and students to learn and share best practices for teaching and learning.
Houston A+ Challenge conducts Peer Reviews each spring of its grantees to assess progress toward improved teaching and learning. Thirty-five schools are being visited by teams of educators made up of peers from A+ schools and community members, who review accomplishments and help the school set goals for the coming year. The half-day reviews include classroom visits, review of evidence from grants and allows the school team to share their lessons learned.

CenterPoint Sponsors High School Team
Centerpoint Energy has donated $10,000 to Houston A+ Challenge to send a team of eight Houston area education leaders to the 14th annual Model Schools Conference in Orlando. The conference, put on by the International Center for Leadership in Education, will showcase innovative high school redesign concepts from around the country. The Houston team will share the redesign concepts with their colleagues on their return.


April 6
Regional Senior Fellows
April 8
"Taking the Next Steps": Portfolios-Documenting The Work
April 17, 22, 24, and 29
Critical Friends Group Spring Training (Part 1)
April 17-21
TAKS Testing
April 24
New Visions In Leadership Academy Monthly Cohort Meeting
April 24-25
Friends of Texas Public Schools Public Forums on School Finance
April 26

Parent Leadership Conference
May 1, 6, 8
Critical Friends Group Spring Training (Part 2)
May 10
Wachovia Action Lab: Fine Arts
June 5-9
Teacher Externship Week
June 12-July 21
Houston A+ Challenge/Baylor College of Medicine Summer Science Internship
June 26

New Visions in Leadership Academy Celebration Dinner Class of 2005
June 27-29
New Visions in Leadership Academy Institute Class of 2006
July 27-29
Reforming Schools Summer Institute
August 26

Reach Out to Dropouts Walk
August 28
New Visions in Leadership Academy Cohort Meeting
September 25
New Visions in Leadership Academy Cohort Meeting

New Members
Texas Coalition for Quality Arts Education is now accepting new individual or organizational members. TCQAE is the non-profit statewide service organization of the Texas Commission on the Arts. The coalition created and distributes "Educating The Whole Child Through The Arts," a kit to train teachers and parents of the importance of the arts.

Poll Shows Houstonians Support Small Learning Communities
A survey of Houston residents shows they believe in the work that has been underway for more than four years to reinvent the city’s public high schools and are especially supportive of efforts to create smaller high schools and learning communities, which are key components of the initiative.
Some of the other key findings include:
  • Nearly all residents say making a commitment to improved reading instruction is a very important priority for the district.
  • More than 9 in 10 residents of Houston agree with the statement that “every public high school should be as good as the community’s very best.”
  • More than 4 in 5 Houstonians say the larger community outside of the school district should play an important role in improving the quality of education offered by urban high schools.
Carnegie Corporation of New York supports the Houston high school reinvention efforts through a $12 million, five-year commitment as part of its Schools for a New Society initiative. The Corporation commissioned both a local and national comparison poll, which were conducted independently by Widmeyer Research and Polling of Washington, D.C.

Recommended Reading
A new study from Civic Enterprises finds that student disengagement in learning is a key factor on the high school dropout rate. Funded by the Gates Foundation, the study found that 47 percent of dropouts left school because classes weren't interesting and 81 percent of dropouts called for more "real-world" learning opportunities.

A new paper from the Coalition of Community Schools confirms that community-based learning has profound impact on the problems of student boredom and disengagement in school. "Community-Based Learning: Engaging Students for Success and Citizenship" by Johns Hopkins researcher Robert Blum, found that 40 percent to 60 percent of students from all academic backgrounds are disengaged from learning.

Scholarships for High School Juniors

Applications are due May 15 for the QuestBridge College Prep Scholarship Program for high school juniors. High-achieving, low-income students often lack many of the resources and information available to their affluent peers during the college application process. These include SAT prep courses, college visits and college summer programs. This scholarship provides opportunities to help students prepare to apply to leading schools.
Advanced Placement Incentive Program
The U.S. Department of Education is seeking proposals for its Advanced Placement Incentive Program, which funds efforts to make advanced placement courses and tests accessible to low income students. Deadline to apply is April 18.

Statistic of the Month
Did you know?

College graduates are three times more likely to vote than Americans without a high school degree.

Source: The Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College

Houston A+ Challenge
1415 Louisiana, Box 9
Houston, TX 77002
Staff List
Michele Pola, Ed. D.
Executive Director
Suzanne Sutherland
Director, Programs
Jeff Gentry
Director, Finance
Nan Powers Varoga
Director, Public Affairs
Louise Deretchin, Ph.D.
Director, Higher Education
Jon Forde
Program Coordinators
Macario Garcia
Jim Lancaster, Ph.D.
Patricia Lucey-Burks
Tim Martindell
Alejandro Morúa
Angela Prince
Event Coordinator
Terrie Roberts
Administrative Assistants
Imelda Cardoza
Benny Forson
Joan Zuniga
Michael Powell, Ph.D.
Public Affairs Intern

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