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November 2009
Experimenting with Fresh Ideas

"Thinking deeply about what we are doing leads us to ask better questions, break out of fruitless routines, make unexpected connections and experiment with fresh ideas." -- Ron Brandt

Houston A+ Challenge encourages deep thinking, thoughtful inquiry, unexpected connections, and experimentation with fresh ideas and actions to create positive change in Houston-area public schools.  

Aspiring principals in our Regional Principal Leadership Academy demonstrate this behavior as they design and conduct Action Research Projects to benefit their host campuses. Intern and Mentor Principal determine the project's focus, based on the needs of the school and its students. The A+ Coach assists the Intern with the project's development and implementation.

This and future issues will highlight the work that Principal Academy interns are doing to implement their projects on local campuses. We hope that their work inspires you to cultivate fresh ideas to address issues on your own campus.

From the Field: An A+ Legacy at Carver High (Aldine ISD)

During a November 4 site visit to Carver High School in Aldine ISD, the 18 aspiring principals in Houston A+ Challenge's Regional Principal Leadership Academy witnessed a new Carver tradition being carried on between cohorts of A+ Principal Interns.

Last year as an Intern, Alfred James focused his Action Research Project on improving student attendance at Carver. James -- now Principal of Aldine's Caraway Intermediate School -- created "Panther Presence," a bulletin board spotlighting each class' weekly first-period attendance and rewarding classes that maintain a 100% average.

This year, Carver's new Principal Intern, Roslyn Sweat, has continued and expanded the program by providing incentives to celebrate student and staff attendance. All students and staff who have perfect attendance for six weeks qualify for drawings. Sweat has worked with community partners to secure donated prizes from the Houston Texans, the Houston Aeros, Best Buy, It'Z, and Barnes and Noble. She also worked with Starbucks to donate coffee for the entire staff to celebrate their hard work for the first six weeks of the semester.

Beyond this, Sweat's is focusing her Action Research Project on improving academic outcomes for 9th grade students enrolled in Algebra 1. Carver's math department uses the Algebra Institute Curriculum and provides common assessments to their students. Teachers have identified their "Top Ten" at-risk students, and are designing interventions to ensure their success. A daily progress tracking spreadsheet has been created, and after each assessment teachers disaggregate data and adjust their instructional interventions, including re-teaching and reassessment, accordingly.

Principal Thomas Colwell has stated that the student tracking and assessment system will be a continued teaching and learning tool at Carver after Rosalyn leaves. The legacy of A+ continues!

From the A+ Office: Leadership Resources

Spend Seven Minutes with A+ National Speakers
To share our learning with the wider community, Houston A+ Challenge has begun compiling a video library featuring brief interviews with national speakers who have recently spent time with our principal and teacher networks.

Let us know what you think about these new video clips:

  • Michael Fullan, internationally renowned education researcher and author, on the value of 'collaborative competition' in public schools.
  • Lorraine Monroe, author and founding principal of Harlem's Frederick Douglass Academy, on instructional leadership.
  • Kent Peterson, Professor of Education Leadership & Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin, on building positive school culture.
  • David Conley, University of Oregon professor, on how public schools can prepare more students for college and career.

Aspiring Principals: Apply for the A+ Leadership Academy
Do you believe that all of the region's public school students can acheive postsecondary success when provided with a high-quality education? Are you a teacher leader, administrator, or professional with the passion, drive and skills to lead a high-need school?

Houston A+ Challenge is now accepting applications for the third cohort of our Leadership Academy for aspiring principals who seek to lead the Houston region's most challenged public schools, staffs and students to higher levels of achievement. An intensive summer 'leadership boot camp' is followed by a rigorous, yearlong on-the-job internship with a mentor principal. Graduates who are placed as principals in local public schools receive two years of coaching and follow-up support for their schools and leadership teams.

A maximum of 25 candidates will be admitted into the 2010-11 program, which starts next June.

From the Headlines

Last month's Leadership in Action newsletter opened with the following quote from Ted Sizer. "The best we educational planners can do is to create the conditions for teachers and students to flourish and get out of their way." At the time of publication, A+ had not yet learned of the passing of Ted Sizer. It is fitting to take some time this month to honor the legacy that Theodore R. Sizer -- founder of the Coalition of Essential Schools and longtime Dean of Harvard's Graduate School of Education -- leaves on the American educational landscape.

Education Week recently presented the following essays as a tribute:

Much of the work of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and the National School Reform Faculty can be linked to the work of Ted Sizer and the Coalition of Essential Schools at Brown University. The work of Houston A+ Challenge is built upon this foundation, and continues today through Critical Friends Group training, our Principal Leadership Academies and other initiatives.


December 8
Principal Leadership Academy: Info Session for Aspiring Principals
5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Houston A+ Challenge

January 27
Principal Leadership Academy: Info Session for Aspiring Principals
5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Houston A+ Challenge

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Houston A+ Challenge

2700 Southwest Freeway, Suite B
Houston, TX 77098-4607


Contact Bonnie Roberts,
Leadership Coach

Houston A+ Challenge's support for school leaders is made possible through
grants from:

Houston Endowment

The Brown Foundation

JPMorgan Chase

and other supporters