July 31, 2006

The Public Education Network has awarded Houston A+ Challenge a grant of $50,000 for an awareness campaign to expand knowledge and understanding of public school reform issues, particularly around the need to change high schools. The campaign will include information on the use of small schools, small learning communities and academies to improve student outcomes. The awareness campaign will include local business and community engagement, as well as media support and public outreach.
A recent article in Education Week examined teacher externship programs around the nation and their usefulness in connecting educators to the workplace to learn the skills and knowledge their students will need after graduation. Seven programs were profiled in an accompanying article, including the one created by Houston A+ Challenge and the Greater Houston Partnership.

The United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast has given $5,000 to Houston A+ Challenge to generate public awareness about the high school dropout and college-readiness issue. Houston A+ will host three community forums with Houston ISD around the city as a followup to the "Reach Out to Dropouts Walk" on August 26. The purpose is to deepen the quality of the annual “Reach Out To Dropouts” (ROTD) campaign that focuses on recovering students who have not returned to school. Following this year’s ROTD campaign, the three community forums will be held in the Northern, Eastern and Southern portions of the city, which possess large concentrations of students who drop out. Parents, students, social service experts, drop-out prevention specialists, business, city and state representatives will meet to discuss and review ongoing efforts. They will address the needs of children at-risk of dropping out and develop next steps to ensure recovered students remain in school.


August 11
Houston A+ Challenge Fine Arts Initiative Meeting
August 26
"Reach Out To Dropouts Walk" in
Houston ISD and Aldine ISD

August 28
Houston A+ Challenge New Visions in Leadership Academy Cohort Meeting
September 18, 23, 25, October 7, 9, 14
Critical Friends Group New Coach Seminar
September 25
New Visions in Leadership Academy Cohort Meeting
September 26
"Creating a Movement" with Clay Roberts
October 6-7
New Visions in Leadership Academy Cohort Meeting
October 21
National Board Teacher Certification Information Meeting

School News
Aldine ISD Will Participate in Dropout Recovery Walk
Aldine ISD will hold its first "Reach Out To Dropouts Day Walk" on Saturday, August 26. The Aldine ISD campaign will reach out to former students from the district’s five high schools. Volunteers will go door-to-door to persuade students to come back to school. To volunteer, call Ben Wilson at 281-985-6202. The participating high schools are Aldine Senior High School, Carver High School, Eisenhower High School, MacArthur Senior High School and Nimitz Senior High School.

Houston A+ Consultant Publishes Article About CFG
Houston A+ Challenge consultant Donna Reid’s article, “Changing the Work: A Report from the Houston Center of Activity,” has been published in the National School Reform Faculty journal Connections. The article looks at the ways that the Critical Friends Groups funded by Houston A+ Challenge have made an important impact on improving public education in Houston by enabling teachers to re-examine their work and make it better. Programs fueled by CFG, such as the Teacher As Researcher grant, the CFG Reunion and the Reforming Schools Summer Institute, have helped local teachers share best practices and build professional relationships.

K-5 Mathematics Initiative Highlighted
The inaugural issue of the Public Education Network Issue Briefs focuses on mathematics and science instruction with examples of strategies and impact of programs around the country. The brief features the K-5 Mathematics Initiative in Houston ISD, which is a partnership of the ExxonMobil Foundation, The Houston A+ Challenge and the district.

Public Schools Perform Near Private Ones in Study
The New York Times reported on a recent study by the Educational Testing Service for the U.S. Department of Education, which states that students in public schools are doing as good as their counterparts in private schools. While the report does confirm that private school students typically score higher, when it compared students in terms of racial, economic and social backgrounds, “the private school advantage disappeared in all areas except eighth-grade reading." The article also describes the highly politicized environment of such findings.

Professional Development Opportunity 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 session 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, PTO's 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 register, email rsvp@houstonaplus.org.

CenterPoint Energy Offers Online Science Resources
CenterPoint Energy’s Community Outreach Division is offering free resources for K-12 classrooms in the Greater Houston Area. “Electric Universe” offers information on electrical safety, science concepts relating to electricity, and consumer issues. The site is segmented into different areas for diverse age groups. “Energy Underground” includes more than 200 web pages for teachers and students of all ages. Readers can access up-to-date information about natural gas, safety and consumer information.

Job Opening
All Kinds of Minds has an opening for a project manager for its Schools Attuned Initiative in Houston. To apply, send a cover letter and resume to lwechner@allkindsofminds.org.

Parent Resource Fair
Parents for Public Schools will hold a "Special Parents Resource Fair" on September 9 at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. The event is designed to inform parents about how to access special education services.

Literacy Grant
Verizon Foundation is now accepting proposals from eligible elementary and secondary schools for Literacy Grants. Maximum award: $5,000 to $10,000. Deadline to apply is November 30.

Changes at Houston A+ Challenge
Brandi Allen has joined the Houston A+ Challenge staff as a program coordinator. Ms. Allen taught reading for the past seven years, the last five of which were at Johnston Middle School in Houston ISD. Ms. Allen has also participated in Houston A+ professional development, including Critical Friends Group and the Fondren Reforming Schools Summer Institute.

Patricia Lucey-Burks and Marc Garcia, both program coordinators, have recently left the Houston A+ staff. Ms. Lucey-Burks will be the math manager for the Houston ISD East Region’s high schools. Mr. Garcia is starting up a private business venture.

Statistic of the Month
Did you know? People who finish high school report being healthier.

Fifty-six percent of people with a high school diploma say they are in good health compared to 39 percent without a diploma.

Source: National Center for Health 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
Jon Forde
Program Coordinators
Brandi Allen
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
Jasmine Williams
High School Intern

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