May 1, 2007

Register Now for Reforming Schools Summer Institute XI
Houston A+ Challenge's eleventh annual Reforming Schools Summer Institute will be held on July 24-25 at the University of Houston Hilton. The theme of this year’s institute is “Mobilizing the Forces of Change” and will feature keynote speaker Michael Fullan. In his recent book, "Turnaround Leadership," Dr. Fullan describes what we must do in order to move our schools from adequate to excellent-- and to sustain that change over time. This free conference is open to school teams and limited to the first 300 requests received. For more information, or to register, visit our website.

Grant Wiggins Discusses
wiggins "Teaching by Design"
More than 100 local educators attended Houston A+ Challenge's National Speaker Series presentations by Grant Wiggins in April, which focused on identifying the types of questions that educators must ask to inspire deeper student learning. "What a great day!" said Cynthia Conwell, a School Improvement Facilitator from Waltrip High School. "I learned a great deal that will help us focus our work and professional development for next year. Grant Wiggins was just what we needed, given where we are and where we need to go." You can download Dr. Wiggins' Houston presentation materials from the Authentic Education website. Grant Wiggins and Authentic Education are offering summer workshops if you are interested in continuing to learn about this material. Dr. Wiggins' new book, "Schooling By Design," to be released in August, focuses on the need for school principals to be academic leaders who keep schools focused on meaningful student learning.

TAKS Update
Texas high schoolers may say goodbye to the high-stakes TAKS tests, if state lawmakers can agree on a plan to replace the tests with comprehensive end-of-course exams. On April 19, the Texas Senate unanimously approved
a proposal to replace the TAKS test for students in grades 9 through 11 with end-of-course exams in four key subjects. The legislation also contains provisions for schools to administer the PSAT, SAT and ACT tests to students in addition to end-of-course exams at state expense. The proposal would be phased in over several years, starting with students who are in ninth grade in 2009-10. Younger students will still be required to take the TAKS. The Houston ISD Board of Education passed a resolution on April 12 calling for the Texas Legislature to end the high-stakes TAKS test in high school and replace it with end-of-course exams that better demonstrate what children have learned in the classroom all year long. The Senate's bill now goes to the House, where the public education committee has already approved a similar measure.

Help Bring Better Focus to Public Education in Texas
Please take a few minutes to participate in the National Essential Skills Survey, which is meant to identify the skills and knowledge Americans believe are most important for students to learn in English-language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. The survey is designed to enable school districts and schools to engage their staffs and communities in a serious discussion about what should be taught in their schools. A special Texas Report will be produced if a sufficient number of Texans participate, so be sure to select Texas and Texas Business and Education Coalition, to ensure that your responses will be included in the Texas report.

Aldine ISD to Open New International Baccalaureate Campus
Aldine ISD has received official notification from the International Baccalaureate Organization, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, that Eisenhower Senior High School is authorized to offer the prestigious International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program beginning in August of 2007. Eisenhower is the second school in the district to be designated as an IB school. In February, Aldine Elementary was authorized to offer the IB Primary Years Program. There are currently 13 IB schools in the Houston metro region.

Furr High School to Become Film Magnet
On April 12, the Houston ISD School Board approved a plan that would make Ebbert Furr High School the first fine arts magnet focused on film in Houston. Starting this fall, Furr High School will transform the existing international studies program into a fine arts magnet encompassing film, performing arts, and visual arts, to be known as META (Mindful Exploration of Technology and the Arts)."With a $30,000 professional film studio, we have the capacity to involve students in professional film production on an even larger scale," said Dr. Simmons, the principal at Furr. "Such an opportunity does not yet exist in any other magnet program in Houston ISD and is likely to attract students to Furr from throughout the district." Since 1991, Furr has been an international studies magnet, and the school has been home to a successful Fine Arts Academy since 2000. Furr High School is a Houston A+ Challenge Lamplighter School and a member of Houston Schools for a New Society.

Nimitz Receives Technology Award
Nimitz Ninth Grade School in Aldine ISD was awarded the Inspired Education Award from the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents and PLATO Learning. Nimitz Ninth was one of only two schools in the nation to receive the award, which "seeks to enhance student achievement and technology literacy in high-needs schools." Through the award the school received a complete technology program, including 20 laptop computers.

Houston ISD School Board Wins National Award
Houston ISD was one of 18 school districts across the nation to win the prestigious 2007 American School Board Journal's Magna Award for the Board of Education's innovative and effective Community Builders Program. The award was announced on April 16 during the National School Boards Association's conference in San Francisco. The Community Builders Program was created in 2004 to reach out to individuals and groups in the community that are interested in or affected by public education. The goal is to build strong lines of communication, bring forward multiple perspectives, and seek public feedback on the district's policies and programs.

Model Schools Conference
The International Center for Leadership in Education will host the 15th Annual Model Schools Conference June 30 - July 2 in Washington, D.C. Dr. Willard Daggett will deliver a keynote address and share new research and data on what promising schools must do to become proven models of success. Through the generous financial support of CenterPoint Energy, Houston A+ Challenge has funded 10 principals to attend this conference. Schools and districts are encouraged to send a team to the conference. For registration information, visit the event website.

Engineering Camp for Girls at University of Houston
The University of Houston is hosting its fifth year of summer camp for girls who may be interested in pursuing engineering careers or studies. Known as GRADE (Girls Reaching and Demonstrating Excellence), the summer camp is accepting applications from current 7th through 11th grade girls who are either curious about or want more experience with engineering. Four one-week day camps will be offered.

Philanthropy Summer Camp
The Greater Houston Community Foundation presents Camp Philanthropy, a one-week camp available at no cost to donor families with children and/or grandchildren ages 10-14. The camp will give young people an overview of the principles of philanthropy and an understanding of the importance of investing in one's community. The camp will be held June 18-22. To RSVP, contact Veronica Devoreaux at 713-333-2243 or by e-mail.

Grants to Implement the Toyota Family Literacy Program
The National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) is seeking five school districts to implement the Toyota Family Literacy Program. Direct funding for school districts will allow for support, training, education materials and assistance from NCFL to implement the program for students in kindergarten through third grade.
Maximum award: $600,000.
Eligibility: Communities with a large or fast-growing Hispanic and immigrant population.
Deadline: May 9, 2007.

Grants to Enhance Learning About the Upper Ozone Layer
The Consumer Aerosol Products Council's Science Class Challenge is a classroom contest that encourages students and teachers to learn about the Earth's protective upper ozone layer, CFCs and the environment by using the provided activities or their own creative methods.
Maximum award: $5,000.
Eligibility: Teachers of grades 4-9.
Deadline: May 14, 2007.

Recognizing Outstanding Youth Activism
The Earth Island Institute Brower Youth Award recognizes young people for their outstanding activism and achievements in the fields of environmental and social justice advocacy.
Maximum award: $3,000.
Eligibility: Youth ages 13-22.
Deadline: May 15, 2007.

Parent Group of the Year Contest
PTO Today Magazine's Parent Group of the Year Contest is an excellent opportunity to showcase the hard work of parents and families, while giving your school the chance to win cash and prizes.
Maximum award: $8,000.
Eligibility: All parent groups (PTO, PTA, HSA, PTC, etc.) public and private schools; rural, suburban and urban schools.
Deadline: May 31, 2007.

Target Arts in Education Grants
Target Arts in Education Grants make art exhibitions, classes and performances more affordable and accessible for families by funding programs that bring arts to schools or school children to the arts.
Maximum award: $3,000.
Eligibility: 501(c)3 organizations.
Deadline: May 31, 2007.

Grants to Fund Participation in High-Quality Professional Development
National Education Association (NEA) Foundation Learning & Leadership Grants support public school teachers, public education support professionals, and/or faculty and staff in public institutions of higher education for one of two purposes: to fund individuals' participation in high-quality professional development experiences, such as summer institutes or action research; or to fund collegial study, including study groups, action research, lesson study, or mentoring experiences for faculty or staff new to an assignment.
Maximum award: $5,000.
Eligibility: Public school teachers grades K–12; public school education support professionals; or faculty and staff at public higher education institutions.
Deadline: June 1, 2007.

NEA Foundation Student Achievement Grants
The NEA Foundation Student Achievement Grants provide funds to improve the academic achievement of students in U.S. public schools and public higher education institutions in any subject area(s). The proposed work should engage students in critical thinking and problem-solving that deepens their knowledge of standards-based subject matter. The work should also improve students' habits of inquiry, self-directed learning and critical reflection.
Maximum award: $5,000.
Eligibility: K-12 public school teachers, education support professionals, and higher education faculty and staff at public colleges and universities.
Deadline: June 1, 2007.

History Channel "Save Our History" Grant Program
The History Channel's "Save Our History" Grant Program inspires youth to become preservationists in their communities. Museums, historic sites, historical societies, preservation organizations, libraries and archives are invited to partner with a local school or youth group and apply for funding to help preserve the history of their communities.
Maximum award: $10,000.
Eligibility: 501(c)3 history organizations.
Deadline: June 1, 2007.

Grants to Encourage Science Education
Motorola Innovation Generation Grants provide funds for initiatives that creatively generate a love of science early in life and show the new generation of inventors that careers involving science and math are important, challenging and possible. Priority will be given to programs that incorporate Motorola employees as volunteers.
Maximum award: $250,000.
Eligibility: 501(c)3 organizations.
Deadline: June 15, 2007.

School Library Relief Fund
Dollar General has created the Beyond Words Grant Program to benefit public school libraries in communities affected by disasters. The fund will provide grants for books, media and/or equipment items that support learning in a school library environment.
Maximum award: $15,000.
Eligibility: Public school libraries that have incurred substantial damage or hardship due to fire, a natural disaster (tornado, earthquake, hurricane, flood, avalanche, mudslide), or an act recognized by the federal government as terrorism. First priority for the initial grants will be given to school libraries impacted by hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma -- either through direct loss or through an increase in enrollment due to displaced students.
Deadline: Open.


May 8
Houston A+ Challenge / ExxonMobil Middle School Math Initiative Kickoff - Houston ISD

June 4-8
Teacher Externship

July 24-25
Reforming Schools Summer Institute (RSSI)
University of Houston Hilton

September 8
Reach Out to Dropouts Walk, Houston ISD

Statistic of the Month
The nation's big-city school districts continue to improve in reading and mathematics on state-mandated tests, with evidence of racial achievement gaps narrowing and low-performing students making gains. Students in 67 major city school systems in 37 states posted substantially higher test scores in 2006 than in 2002 in fourth-and eighth-grade mathematics and reading on state assessments.

Source: "Beating the Odds: A City-by-City Analysis of Student Performance and Achievement Gaps on State Assessments" by the Council of the Great City Schools

Changes at Houston A+ Challenge
Brandi Allen, program coordinator, has returned to Houston A+ Challenge on a part-time basis after the birth of her son, Michael Allen Breckenridge. She is resuming her work on the K-5 Fine Arts Initiative and Focused Impact Grants. For questions on these initiatives contact Brandi via e-mail or by calling the Houston A+ Challenge office.

Houston A+ Challenge
1415 Louisiana, Box 9
Houston, TX 77002

Board of Trustees
Joe B. Foster
Ann Friedman, Ph. D.

Leonel Castillo
Susan A. Bischoff
Jonathan Day
Michael Dee
Roberto Gonzalez
H. Devon Graham, Jr.
Jenard M. Gross
Steve L. Miller
Karol Musher, M.A., CCC-SLP
Maconda Brown O’Connor, Ph.D.
J. Victor Samuels
Harry Reasoner
Yava D. Scott
Andrea White
Rosie Zamora

Staff List
Michele Pola, Ed.D.
Executive Director
Suzanne Sutherland
Associate Director/
Director of Programs
Catherine Reed
Director, Finance
Melissa Milios
Director, Public Affairs

Program Coordinators
Brandi Allen
Tim Martindell
Angela Prince

Mike Webster

Alejandro Morúa

Terrie Roberts
Event Coordinator
Administrative Assistants
Imelda Cardoza
Benedicta Forson
Joan Zuniga
Tish Stringer, Ph.D.
Public Affairs / Webmaster
Suzanne Rodriguez
High School Intern

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Houston A+ Challenge is
a member of:

Friends of Texas Public Schools

Public Education Network

The Texas Association of
Partners in Education

Texas Coalition for Quality Arts Education

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