January 30, 2006

On February 25, the Taking the Next Step series will examine facilitative leadership through Critical Friends Group (CFG). Participants will learn to plan successful team and one-on-one meetings, use facilitative skills to effectively lead meetings, and develop effective action plans. Special attention will be given to successfully evaluating, communicating, and recognizing individual contributions to increased student achievement.

One of the roles of Houston A+ Challenge is to disseminate best practices and lessons learned. Several educators whose work we have funded have presented recently on their results. For more information on a specific presentation, contact the educator.

Last year, specialists created a series of problem-solving journals for the Houston A+ K-5 Math Initiative. The journals provided children a format to identify known and unknown information, choose and name appropriate problem-solving strategies, and solve and explain problems through reasonable justifications. At Anderson Elementary, the journals were used extensively in selected classrooms to evaluate their effectiveness. Because of the large number of Anderson students in the selected classes who passed the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test, Anderson decided to use the journals in all of its classrooms next school year. Similar results at Sutton Elementary prompted that school to decide to use the journals in all of its classrooms.

Houston A+ Challenge, in collaboration with the American Leadership Forum (ALF), has launched a professional learning community program for Houston ISD executive principals. The training program will last 12 months. An orientation earlier this month set expectations for the program, created group operating agreements, and began to build relationships based on trust, feedback and de-privatization of practice. Thereafter, the group will meet each month for half-day development sessions. There will also be a monthly learning lab – a two-hour demonstration of leadership practices in an Executive Principal context. The training culminates in an intensive five-day event designed to build trust and cohesive relationships.

Research shows that professional learning communities (PLC) are one of the most effective methods schools can use to improve student achievement. Learning communities train school leaders to engage in a culture of collaboration and customize classroom instruction to focus on goals and results of student learning. For more information on the ideas behind PLC, you can read an article online by Dr. Richard DuFour that addresses the question, "What Is a 'Professional Learning community'?" Funding for the project is provided by Washington Mutual Bank, JPMorgan Chase Bank and The Simmons Foundation.


February 2
Regional Senior Fellows

February 25
Next Steps: Critical Friends Group Facilitative Leadership

February 27
New Visions in Leadership Academy Cohort Meeting

March 2
Wachovia Action Lab: Community Engagement Strategies

March 22
Wachovia Action Lab: Adolescent Learning

March 27
New Visions in Leadership Academy Cohort Meeting

March 28
American Leadership Forum Convocation
University of Houston Student Center

April 15, 17, 22, 24, and 29
Critical Friends Group Spring Training Seminars

April 6
Regional Senior Fellows

April 8
Taking the Next Steps

April 24
New Visions In Leadership Academy Monthly Cohort Meeting

April 26
Parent Leadership Conference

May 6, 8
Critical Friends Group Spring Training Seminars

May 10
Wachovia Action Lab: Fine Arts

New Assistant Superintendent at Houston ISD
Dr. Kelly Trlica has been named assistant superintendent for secondary school reform at Houston ISD, where she will be in charge of the high school redesign initiative. Dr. Trlica was formerly the Executive Director of Secondary Education at La Porte ISD and principal of Ball High School in Galveston.

Dr. McClellan to Head T-STEM
Dr. Anne McClellan, formerly Principal of Poe Elementary School and Challenge Early College High School, has joined the Texas High School Project, where she will direct the Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (T-STEM) initiative. The Dallas-based Texas High School Project is a $130 million public-private initiative to demonstrate that every Texas student can succeed in high school and graduate ready for college, work and citizenship. The T-STEM initiative is a joint effort by Governor Rick Perry, the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT). Poe Elementary School was a recipient of one of Houston A+ Challenge’s Beacon school grants. Challenge Early College, a Houston A+ Challenge school collaboration Dr. McClellan helped found, is a small high school with personalized instruction that provides an accelerated, college preparatory learning program combining high school and college-level classes tuition-free.

Professional Learning Communities In Action
Houston ISD's Central Region administration, high school principals, the Waltrip High School school improvement facilitator and counselors and Houston A+ Challenge staff participated in a school visit at Stevenson High School, Chicago, Illinois last week. The 22-member group went to see how professional learning communities (PLCs) are used to personalize a large school of 4,700 students. The two-day visit included text-based discussions and information sharing. Participants found that the PLCs made a difference in the high expectations of the school, in the deliberate plans for personalization and were useful in promoting an academic culture at the school.

Call For Proposals: Coalition for Community Schools
The Coalition for Community Schools has announced its 2006 Forum in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 14-16, and is calling for workshop proposals. The Forum, titled "Community Schools: Creating the Conditions for Learning" will examine such conditions as leadership, policy, and systemic and practical change. Share your expertise and experience with a diverse group of leaders in education by proposing a workshop. Proposals are due by February 28. Read more about the Forum and the workshop proposals on the Coalition for Community Schools website.

Opportunities for Summer Learning from PEN
The Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University has released applications for its 2006 Excellence in Summer Learning Award. The program recognizes exceptional summer programs that promote academic achievement and positive development for students from kindergarten to high school. With the award, summer programs can gain national recognition, as well as professional development opportunities or increased publishing opportunities. The award is given following an application and interview process. Applications can now be found online at the Summer Learning website.

Richard Parr is the Director of Educational Technology and Secondary Education at the Rice University School Mathematics Project (RUSMP). The December edition of "enotes" incorrectly identified his affiliation.

Changes at the Houston A+ Challenge
Suzanne Sutherland has joined the staff of A+ as the Director of Programs. Ms. Sutherland previously was Executive on Loan from Houston ISD to Houston A+. Ms. Sutherland helped found and was principal of Pin Oak Middle School.

Statistic of the Month
Number of children in China studying English: 200 million
Number of children in the US studying Chinese: 24,000
(Source: Department of Education)

Houston A+ Challenge
1415 Louisiana, Box 9
Houston, TX 77002
Staff List
Michele Pola, Ed. D.
Executive Director
Louise Deretchin, Ph.D.
Director, Higher Education
Jeff Gentry
Director, Finance
Nan Powers Varoga
Director, Public Affairs
Jon Forde
Suzanne Sutherland
Director of Programs
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
Public Affairs Intern

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