October 31, 2005

Six more elementary schools in Houston ISD have joined the K-5 Mathematics Initiative, bringing to 17 the number of schools with mathematics specialists. The initiative is a partnership of ExxonMobil, Houston A+ Challenge and Houston ISD. The new schools are Askew, Bonham, McNamara, Neff, Walnut Bend and White. The initiative uses a coaching model to foster teacher understanding of mathematics so that student achievement improves. Preliminary results show that the achievement gap between white students and students of color is narrowing in the project schools.

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. In Bowling Alone, Putnam stressed 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.

With greater emphasis on data in school planning, educators often require guidance to decide which types of data are most salient. The next installment of the Houston A+ Challenge "Taking the Next Steps" series will focus on gathering and using data from a variety of sources to improve student results, planning instruction and teacher practices. This seminar follows up on topics introduced this past summer at the Fondren Reforming Schools Summer Institute and is part of the plan to offer continuous professional development throughout the year. Houston A+ Challenge created the four-part Next Steps series to advance best practices in education. RSVP by November 8 via email: rsvp@houstonaplus.org or fax: (713) 739-0166. The registration form can be found online.

November 10
Regional Senior Fellows
November 12
Next Steps: "Making the Most of Data"
November 28
National Speaker Series: Tom Barone
December 1
National Speaker Series: Robert Putnam
February 2
Regional Senior Fellows

February 2
Next Steps: CFG Facilitative Leadership

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

"the connection" Tape Available
Dr. Michele Pola, executive director of Houston A+ Challenge, was one of four panelists on the HoustonPBS show the connection on October 14 as part of a discussion on effective education in the Houston area. Interested educators can now request a tape of the show from HoustonPBS for about $20. Karen North of Westside High School is showing the tape to her Multimedia students as a way to facilitate discussion about learning, part of her year-long project to help students develop problem-solving skills.

9% of Americans ages 25-34 with less than a high school diploma were unemployed in 2004, compared with 6% of high school graduates, 5% of those with some college education, and 3% with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
(Source: http://nces.ed.gov)

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

Maryann Villarreal

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National Speaker Series
Tom Barone, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Arizona State University, will visit Houston as part of the Houston A+ Challenge National Speaker Series November 28. The title of his talk is "Re-Imagining the Educational Imaginary: Visions of the Ideal Students." Professor Barone 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). Check the Houston A+ website for time and location.

PQE Publishes Looking Back, Moving Forward
The Partnership for Quality Education (PQE) has published an account of its work entitled Looking Back, Moving Forward: The Story of A Five-Year Collaboration to Improve Teacher Quality. The book, co-edited by Louise Deretchin of Houston A+ Challenge, describes PQE’s progress and success, as well as its plans for continued implementation of PQE goals beyond the five-year collaboration. PQE's main goals include redesigning teacher preparation, professional development, collaborative leadership, and emphasizing technology in teacher preparation programs.

PQE consists of four university-school partnerships, along with the Houston Community College (HCC) system and Houston A+ Challenge. The partnerships include: Texas Southern University with Aldine ISD and North Forest ISD; University of Houston with Spring Branch ISD and Humble ISD; University of Houston – Downtown with Alief ISD; and University of St. Thomas with Houston ISD. HCC worked on arts and science development programs, as well as an alternative teacher certification program. Houston A+ Challenge provided professional development for teachers and professors through Critical Friends Group (CFG).

Free Workshop for Students on the Pakistani Earthquake
Asia Society Texas and the University of St. Thomas present "Pakistan Update: People, Culture, Geography," a free workshop for teachers and students on Saturday, November 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the University of St. Thomas Cullen Auditorium. The massive earthquake in Pakistan on October 8 caused widespread devastation and immediately provoked international relief efforts. The Asia Society invites students and teachers to a special educational presentation that will explore the dynamics of this natural disaster and its effects on South Asia. The Asia Society and Houston A+ are partnering with Houston ISD to open the International High School in August 2006.

Educator Resources
TAPE Conference
The Texas Association of Partners in Education (TAPE) will hold its annual conference on January 24-25, 2006 at the Hyatt Hotel in Austin. This year's conference is entitled "Connect 2K12" and will offer sessions on best practices, timely research and how-to information for partnership development. The early registration deadline for the conference is December 5, 2005. For more than 25 years, TAPE has been dedicated to facilitating partnerships between Texas public schools and the parents, businesses, community organizations in their community.

Center for Parent Leadership Seminar
The Center for Parent Leadership at the Prichard Committee will sponsor a seminar in San Antonio on December 1-2 entitled "Parent Leaders: An Untapped Resource in Education." The seminar aims to teach parents how to make a difference in their children's schools as parent volunteers. The goal of the Center is to promote wider parental participation in all levels of education.

Staples Challenge Competition

Staples and Animal Planet's Jeff Corwin have launched a printer cartridge recycling competition that can help schools raise money. Schools will receive $3 for each eligible cartridge they collect and the team that collects the most cartridges will win a $25,000 prize. Teachers can register their team online and obtain details about competition guidelines. Staples will keep the website updated with teams in the lead.