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February 2010
This Month: Developing the Capability of Learning

"To cope with a changing world, an entity must develop the capacity of shifting and changing, of developing new skills; in short, the capability of learning." -- A. DeGues, The Living Company

This month we focus on being able to embrace change through continuous learning. In our endeavor to encourage deep thinking, thoughtful inquiry, unexpected connections, and experimentation with fresh ideas, we highlight the work of a new principal in Humble ISD and a Regional Principal Leadership Academy principal intern at YES Preparatory. Both of these instructional leaders understand that our changing world requires that the adults in the schoolhouse model their capabilities to learn and embrace new thoughts and ideas.

From the Field: Karl Koehler, New Principal

Karl KoehlerWhen Karl Koehler applied to the Houston A+ Regional Principal Leadership Academy (RPLA) in 2009, he knew that, if he were accepted, he would engage in a six-week summer intensive learning experience with his cohort that would expose him to best practices in leadership. He also knew he would complete a year-long residency with a mentor principal and undertake an action research project. What Karl did not know is that he would become the principal of Atascocita Middle School (AMS) in the Humble Independent School District in January 2010.

Prior to becoming the building principal, Karl was an assistant principal at AMS and fortunate enough to be placed on his home campus for his residency experience. During the fall 2009 semester, Karl applied what he had learned in the summer intensive to help improve the school, using Critical Friends Group Protocols and the quality resources he had acquired.  Karl made instant impact, and his efforts at the school were highlighted in a local newspaper.

Aside from applying his RPLA learning at the school site, Karl closely shadowed his mentor principal, Thyrun Hurst. As the semester moved forward, Karl consistently self-assessed and reflected on his residency experience. When Mr. Hurst became the principal at a new school opening in the district, Karl applied for the AMS principal’s position and was selected. He began his journey as a new principal on January 4, 2010.

Karl credits the RPLA experience to his being ready to serve Humble ISD as a confident and decision-driven principal. He has deepened his knowledge of assessment, systems-thinking, and curriculum alignment.  Karl continues to learn with the cohort and meet with his coach weekly to deepen and refine his leadership skills as he grows into the principalship. Humble ISD is a strong supporter of A+ and the RPLA, and its selection of Karl to become one of their essential emerging leaders is a testament to our partnership.

From the Field: Network Approach at YES

Instructional Rounds in Action
imageYES Public Schools are a partner district with Houston A+ Challenge. This year, three Regional Principal Leadership Academy (RPLA) interns have been gaining valuable urban leadership experiences on the YES campuses.

At YES Southeast, Destiny Evans, Dean of Instruction and A+ Intern, has been putting theory into practice using the work of Elizabeth A. City, Richard F. Elmore, Sarah E. Fiarman, and Leer Teitel detailed in Instructional Rounds in Education: a Network Approach to Improving Teaching and Learning.

Ms. Evans, in conjunction with her leadership team, has adjusted the procedures to meet the needs of the campus. Selecting teacher-leaders as facilitators, the groups fall into six categories: high school language arts; high school mathematics; middle school language arts; middle school mathematics; social studies (both levels); and electives.  At first, the facilitators met to practice the protocols themselves, as they built trust and cohesiveness as a group. As the practice began in the classrooms, teachers received feedback on instructional methodology and the administration was able to identify trends in the classrooms, which provide the basis for discussion and improvement. The campus is developing a new level of collegiality as a result of this work.


Destiny describes the process as very productive and has found that each group has determined its own individual focus for the rest of the semester, which will also be used to guide participants’ professional learning. The areas of study include questioning strategies; differentiation; student engagement; and the “best” way to close a lesson.

Empowering the people in our schools is what the Houston A+ Challenge champions. Using research and best practices is what our Regional Principal Leadership Academy puts into action! Instructional Rounds holds the promise of both.

For additional information about the implementation at YES Southeast, please contact Destiny Evans at Destiny.Evans@yesprep.org or 713-910-2510.

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 Prinicpal 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.

Mar. 25: "Improving Teaching and Learning with Skillful Leadership"
Teaching expertise dwarfs all other variables in accounting for student learning. Fortunately, there is a real knowledge base about teaching that is complex, accessible, and indispensible to helping us realize the dreams we have for our children. Unfortunately, large segments of it are missing from the preparation and from the practice of many of our teachers.

Join us on March 25 from 5 - 6:30 p.m. to hear from renowned expert Dr. John Saphier as we explore this knowledge base with specifics, models, and video examples, and also explore what principals do beyond good supervision and evaluation.

This Houston A+ Challenge National Speaker Series event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited; click to register today.

Dr. Saphier is the Founder and President of Research for Better Teaching, Inc., an educational consulting organization in Acton, Massachusetts that is dedicated to the professionalization of teaching and leadership. Since 1979, he and his RBT colleagues have taught in-depth professional development programs centered on the knowledge base of teaching to educators in more than 200 school districts in the United States and other countries. Dr. Saphier is an author and co-author of eight books, including The Skillful Teacher, now in its 6th edition. The book has sold over a quarter million copies and is the bible of teaching in hundreds of districts around the country.

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 video clips:

  • Sonia Nieto, Professor Emerita of Language, Literacy, and Culture, School of Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst on multicultural teaching and leadership.
  • Gloria Ladson-Billings, President of the American Educational Research Association and Professor of Urban Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison, on the "education debt."
  • Anthony Muhammad, Founder of New Frontier 21, on how teachers and school leaders can build real Professional Learning Communities and momentum for student-focused school change.
  • Lorraine Monroe, author and founding principal of Harlem's Frederick Douglass Academy, on instructional leadership.
Houston ISD Seeks School Improvement Officers and Principals

Houston ISD is looking for individuals to fill the following two positions. Follow the instructions indicated to apply for each respective position.

School Improvement Officers
Houston ISD is looking for highly motivated, highly energized, reform-minded individuals to be School Improvement Officers. School Improvement Officers (SIO) will be responsible for a group of schools by school level (elementary, middle, or high school) and will be directly supporting and mentoring the Principals that lead these schools. The SIO will be responsible for maintaining high-quality instructional teams and programs which allow our students to attain the great education we strive to offer. If you have previously been a principal or other related position and want to help lead and coach other principals, we encourage you to apply online for this position. Log on to www.houstonisd.org (click Employment) to complete and submit your online application and cover letter. For questions, e-mail SIO@houstonisd.org.

Principal Positions
Houston ISD is looking for qualified, highly motivated, highly energized, reform-minded individuals with the right skills to be a part of our Principal Pipeline Pool. Selected candidates will be ready to take on the leadership of a school as the position becomes available. At Team Houston ISD, we believe that school leadership is directly related to the success of our children. Having great principals ready to meet the challenges facing HISD schools is critical to attaining the quality education we strive to offer. If you are interested in making a difference in the lives of the children within Houston and impacting our state, the country and the world, we hope you will apply to be a part of our Principal Pipeline Pool. Please log on to www.houstonisd.org (click Employment) to complete and submit your online application and cover letter. For questions, e-mail PPP@houstonisd.org.

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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