November 22, 2005

Five years after its passage, how has the federal No Child Left Behind Act impacted education? Austin Voices for Education and Youth will conduct a public hearing organized by the Public Education Network (PEN) on January 12, 2006, in Austin to discuss the matter. This event hopes to bring to light viewpoints from groups not usually heard from at such hearings: parents, students, and community members. PEN is organizing similar hearings in nine other communities across the nation and will take these viewpoints to the White House and Congress, allowing our local voices to be heard in Washington. If you are unable to attend the hearings, you can share your opinions by filling out an online survey from the PEN website. The No Child Left Behind legislation comes up for reauthorization in 2007.

The Powell Foundation has awarded Houston A+ $10,000 to support “Taking the Next Steps,” a series of professional development events designed to provide teachers with tools to advance best practices in education.  The series of symposiums was created in response to requests from participants who wanted to continue to build on the professional development they received at the Fondren Reforming Schools Summer Institute (FRSSI).  Annually, the series includes four professional development opportunities for educators in the K-16 community. On February, 25, 2006, the Next Steps will present a seminar on "Facilitative Leadership."

Washington Mutual Bank (WAMU) in Houston has announced that it will award a grant of $20,000 to Houston A+ Challenge to fund professional development for Houston ISD Executive Principals in collaboration with the American Leadership Forum (ALF). Since 1999, ALF's Collaborative on Public Education (COPE) has aimed to provide leadership training and build school-community partnerships. The training program funded by WAMU will help build leadership qualities of the Houston ISD Executive Principals, develop a professional learning community, and cultivate a shared philosophy regarding leadership for teaching and learning. The program will last for 12 months, with participants meeting for a half-day every month and taking part in an intensive five-day shared experience.

November 28
National Speaker Series: Tom Barone
December 1
National Speaker Series: Robert Putnam
December 1-2
Center for Parent Leadership Seminar San Antonio, TX
January 12
NCLB Hearing
Austin, TX
January 24-25
TAPE Conference Austin, TX
February 2
Regional Senior Fellows

February 25
Next Steps: CFG Facilitative Leadership

April 6
Regional Senior Fellows
April 8
Taking the Next Steps
For details, click on Calendar at

PEN Award
The Public Education Network awarded Houston A+ Challenge's "School Works" a Carmen A. Sarnicola Award for Excellence in Communications. "School Works," an eight page newsletter, was named best newsletter among PEN's Local Education Funds at its annual conference in Washington D.C. in November.

In 1929-30, there were approximately 247,000 public schools, compared with about 93,000 today.

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
HISD Executive on Loan
Program Coordinators
Macario Garcia
Jim Lancaster, Ph.D.
Patricia Lucey-Burks
Tim Martindell
Alejandro Morúa
Angela Prince
Event Coordinator
Kathi Robinson
Administrative Assistants
Imelda Cardoza
Benny Forson

Terrie Roberts

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National Speaker Series: Tom Barone
The Houston A+ Challenge National Speaker Series presents Tom Barone on November 28 at the Children's Museum of Houston from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The title of his talk is "Re-Imagining the Educational Imaginary: Visions of the Ideal Students." Dr. Barone, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Arizona State University, specializes in qualitative research methods in education, exploring possibilities for narrative-based approaches to contextualize and theorize the dynamics of teacher-student interactions. He is the author of Aesthetics, Politics, and Educational Inquiry (Peter Lang, 2000) and Touching Eternity: Life Narratives and the Enduring Consequences of Teaching (Teachers College Press, 2001). Register online now for this event.

Reminder: Robert Putnam
Robert Putnam, Harvard University professor and author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (Simon & Schuster 2000), will speak December 1 at the Houston Community College (HCC) West campus, 5601 West Loop South, from 1:45 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. This talk will be open to the public. In Bowling Alone, Putnam stresses the importance of social capital in building solid communities, while taking note of an alarming trend in American society since the 1950s: the general decline of civic life and community participation. Putnam will talk about building social capital and the ways that we can curtail this disturbing development. Houston A+ Challenge is sponsoring the event as part of its National Speaker Series, in collaboration with the Greater Houston Partnership Education and Workforce Advisory Committee and HCC. RSVP online now for this event.

Empowerment Students Help Hurricane Victims
In addition to their weekly volunteer assignments at an area food bank, Empowerment College Preparatory High School students organized a Community Extravaganza Carnival on November 19 to benefit hurricane victims. Following the devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, students at Empowerment decided to make an extra effort in their relief activities. Over the course of the last three months, they planned the Community Extravaganza to collect canned goods for their Food Bank and also raise funds for hurricane victims. Admission was free, while activities cost $1.00 and a canned good.

Educator Resources
Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award
The Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award honors one teacher providing superior education to children in an underserved community with a $100,000 prize. If you know an exceptional teacher who is a community leader, committed to excellence, and has students who make significant academic gains, you can nominate that person. Nominations are due by December 31, 2005. Nancy and Rich Kinder of Houston established the award to honor Mr. Kinder's mother, Edna Kinder, a former teacher in Cape Girardeau, MO. The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) is overseeing the contest, the largest unrestricted national award ever for a K-12 teacher.

Princeton Prize in Race Relations
The Princeton Prize in Race Relations awards $1,000 annually to a Houston-area high school student who has made a significant contribution to improving understanding among different racial groups in our community. Princeton is specifically looking for noteworthy volunteer activities. All current high school students in the Houston area can apply for the prize with the help of a supporter. Application forms can be found online and must be postmarked no later than January 31, 2006.

Online Resources for Test Preparation
Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) Readiness and Core Knowledge (TRACK) is a free program introduced by the University of Texas TeleCampus that aims to help students and their teachers prepare for the 11th grade TAKS test. This online tool combines diagnostic tests with learning tutorials in four TAKS subject areas. TRACK compiles learning tutorials from a nation-wide pool of corporate and education partners, reviewed by teams of subject matter experts from Texas high schools and universities.

Texas Online Preparation for College Admissions Tests (TOPCAT) is an online resource to help middle and high school students prepare for college admissions test, providing free ACT and SAT guidance. TOPCAT provides every student with a personal tutor, also helping students improve testing performance by providing comprehensive tutorials, sample tests, and testing tips that cover every ACT and SAT subject area.