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January 2010
Powerful Learners and Leaders

"To live our lives fully, to work wholeheartedly, to refuse directly what we can’t swallow, to accept the mystery in all matters of meaning—this is the ultimate adventure." -- Peter Block, Philosopher

It is that time of year when most of us pause from our busy lives to reflect on the past year and plan for the next. As we begin the second decade of the 21st century, let's commit ourselves anew to being powerful learners and leaders in our personal and professional lives. The quote above challenges us to live the ultimate adventure -- to be lifelong learners who applaud the pursuit of learning. This issue of Leadership in Action highlights the work of educators who live the adventure of teaching, learning and leading by example.

From the Field: Reginald Fisher, Principal (Philadelphia, PA)

Reginald FisherThe impact of Houston A+ Challenge's Regional Principal Leadership Academy is reaching far beyond the Houston metropolitan region. In August 2009, Reginald Fisher, an outstanding member of Cohort I, was named principal of Frankford High School in Philadelphia, PA.

Fisher launched his career as an educator in 1991 as a charter member of Teach For America's Houston corps. "I had an epiphany and realized that I wanted to dedicate my life to public service," he said.

TFA sent Fisher first to Los Angeles as a teacher intern, and upon returning to Texas he served Houston ISD for 17 years as a teacher, department chair, assistant principal, curriculum writer and workshop presenter. As a member of RPLA Cohort I, Reginald refined all of his skills and shared freely with other cohort members. He always presented himself as a risk taker, which is how his search to be a transformational instructional leader led him to Frankford.

Frankford High School has a history dating back to 1910, with its beginnings in a farmhouse. The early students called themselves the "Pioneers", a name still used today. Frankford is a typical urban high school filled with many successes as well as challenges. The school's 100+ teachers serve more than 2,000 students, 83 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. In November, Frankford's culinary arts department was featured on the CBS Sunday Morning Show.

A colleague offered Fisher the following advice as he embarked on his career in education: "This is the mountain you were born to climb." Fisher is still climbing that mountain, and the students and communities he has served, both in Philadelphia and in Houston, are most fortunate to have him as their instructional leader.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A December e-newsletter article about A+ Principal Leadership Academy members now serving as principals neglected to mention Fisher's appointment as a principal of Frankford High School. Houston A+ Challenge regrets the error.

From the A+ Office: Leadership Resources

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? Houston A+ Challenge is now accepting applications for the third cohort of our Regional Princpial Leadership Academy for aspiring principals.

An intensive summer 'leadership boot camp' is followed by a rigorous, yearlong on-the-job internship with a mentor principal. A maximum of 25 candidates will be admitted into the 2010-11 program, which starts next June.

Anthony MuhammedJan. 28: "Making Better Use of Proven Research"
Prepare to be challenged as scholar, philosopher, author, and teacher educator Gloria Ladson-Billings helps teachers, school leaders, and other stakeholders take a critical look at what they are doing to improve student learning -- and why so many fail to implement proven practices.

This Houston A+ Challenge National Speaker Series event (January 28 from 5 to 6:30 p.m.) is free and open to the public, but seating is limited; click to register today.

Ladson-Billings is Professor of Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and former President of the American Educational Research Association.

Anthony MuhammedSpend Seven Minutes with Anthony Muhammed
Anthony Muhammed, Founder of New Frontier 21, was in Houston recently for a private workshop with aspiring principals in the A+ academy.

A+ sat down with Muhammed for a brief interview on how teachers and school leaders can build real Professional Learning Communities and momentum for student-focused school change. Watch the video now.

Or check out these A+ video interviews with national speakers:

  • 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.
From the Headlines

Why School? Illuminating the Reasons
By Bonnie Roberts, A+ Leadership Coach
Mike Rose, educator and author, has written much provocative literature which has the been the catalyst for many educators to examine their belief systems and practices. (This writer well remembers how reading Lives on the Boundary: The Struggles and Achievements of America's Underprepared as part of her educational leadership preparation caused her to rethink her mission and vision in this work.)

The latest addition to the Mike Rose canon is Why School? Reclaiming Education for All of Us. In a recent article in The Huffington Post, Rose relates the origins of Why School?, explaining that we hear much about education these days—test scores, reform battles—but little about the heart of why education really matters. He wrote Why School? to get us to think about why we send kids to school, and why we often return to school ourselves. Along the way, he hopes readers reflect on what made a difference in their education.

Rose gives the reader an up-close view of education and provides examples from elementary through college. He allows the reader to sit close by other human beings as they struggle with a problem, get that flash of insight, and push toward articulation. He captures the experience of discovery, of learning to do something you couldn't do before, and may even prompt some to begin to think of themselves in a new way. This vital detail of teaching and learning is sadly missing from current educational policy or the political speech we hear about our schools.

It is Rose's hope that Why School? will contribute a more humane and imaginative discussion of schooling in America.

New Studies Explore the Secrets of Principals' Success
"Everybody says principals make a difference, but there's really been no systematic effort to try to estimate the extent to which they make a difference, how they make a difference, and how they're distributed across schools," says Jane Hannaway, head of the Urban Institute's National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER), which is publishing a new collection of working papers on the subject. Read summaries of the studies in Ed Week.

Harvard Offers New Ph.D. in Education Leadership
The Harvard Graduate School of Education's first new degree in 74 years -- a joint venture with the university's Business School and Kennedy School of Government -- aims to produce talented, skilled leaders to transform the nation's public schools. A grant from the Wallace Foundation helps provide free tuition for the three-year degree, which culminates with a yearlong "field placement" in a school district or reform agency. NY Times Columnist Bob Herbert heralds the program as a step toward transforming the nation's public schools -- "a job the U.S. absolutely has to get done, and it won't get done right without the proper leadership." Read more.



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

January 28
"Making Better Use of Proven Research" with Gloria-Ladson Billings
5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Houston A+ Challenge

February 18
Principal Leadership Academy: Info Session for Aspiring Principals
5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Houston A+ Challenge

February 26
Deadline to Apply for A+ Aspiring Principals Academy

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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