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by Lynn Parsons “Who’s responsible for student learning? The answer: I am.” The meaning of this quote from Ann Conzemius and Jan O’Neill in their book Building Shared Responsibility for Student Learning was deepened for more than 300 participants in the ninth annual Fondren Reforming Schools Summer Institute (FRSSI) this summer. The Institute brings together teachers, administrators, university faculty, parents, students, and community members to share their successful strategies and to dialogue with each other about the dynamic and complex environment of public education—pre-K through high school graduation. It is designed to provide opportunities for participants to interact and learn with others about making sustainable change in our schools and learning communities. Schools regularly seek out ways to improve teaching and learning, and this year's Institute gave participants an in-depth look at one of the most effective and powerful approaches – building effective learning communities. While most schools have some form of learning community meetings, many have not achieved the level of collaboration and depth of dialogue that lead to real improvement in teaching and learning. Each conference participant was given a copy of the book by Conzemius and O’Neill, which was used to further reinforce the idea of shared leadership through learning communities. The book presented a three-part framework that was used throughout the conference to guide participants’ learning and reflections about their own professional learning communities:



Focus: Do we all share the same mission, vision, values, and goals? Does our common focus drive all of our work? Reflection: Where are we now? How well are we doing compared to what we want to accomplish? What do our data tell us? What are we learning? Collaboration: Are we merely cooperating or are we experiencing the synergy that results from interdependence, shared responsibility, and true collaboration? Learning does not occur in single, brief, didactic sessions without follow-up or connection to the real world in which the learners work. This institute was designed to model what we know about learning and professional development through: Whole-group learning During these sessions participants viewed video classroom samples, evaluated the quality of teaching and learning they observed, and tried to reach consensus, using tools and information learned during the institute. Institute seminars Ten three-hour seminars were designed to provided participants with tools and structures that could deepen the impact of their learning communities on teaching and learning in their schools or organizations. The seminars addressed specific questions and topics, and were longer than in previous years, providing time for deeper and more active learning. Guided Practice Learning communities (called home-base groups in the past) have been a hallmark of most of the summer institutes. Participants are randomly assigned

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P ROFESSIONAL L EARNING C OMMUNITIES A BOUND Nearly a dozen professional learning communities operate in the Houston region under the aegis of The Houston A+ Challenge. These professional learning communities (PLCs) promote collective learning for both teachers and administrators by providing a structure for sharing best practices and lessons learned as educators work to ensure students are learning what they are teaching. “We believe that PLCs are one of the most effective methods for professional development and accomplishing changes that impact student learning,” said Michele Pola, Ed.D., Houston A+ Challenge executive director. Central to the communities are Critical Friends Groups, or CFG, which encourage thoughtful reflection and discussion of practice. Donna Reid, a consultant for CFG support for the Houston A+ Challenge, realized the power of reflection by serving as a CFG Coach and chair of the school-wide portfolio committee at Johnston Middle School.

. . . continued on page 7

Established in January 1997 with funding from the Annenberg Foundation and local matching contributions, The Houston A+ Challenge is an independent, public-private partnership that develops and funds school programs, professional development and leadership institutes to promote higher academic achievement by all students.

From the

Executive Director


ew York University Professor Pedro Noguera returned to Houston recently for a second series of sessions arranged by Houston A+ Challenge around his research into what makes a good school. According to Dr. Noguera, author of City Schools and the American Dream: Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education, what ultimately distinguishes a good school from any other isn’t its curriculum or its size, but its “culture.” There are three key ingredients to that culture: Leadership, not only by the principal but by teachers, too. Successful schools have common strategies across the campus to support student learning. And these strategies need to penetrate the classroom through teacher ownership. Good data that is monitored consistently, so that changes at the school have a purpose that meets whatever issues the school is actually facing that inhibit student learning. Extra support from the community, because students today face a whole range of issues that cannot be dealt with solely by schools. Teachers cannot be expected to be social workers or policemen. Engaging parents, community and businesses can positively impact student learning. Dr. Noguera added that the most powerful professional development that could be offered to teachers was multiple opportunities to get together to analyze student work. From this, teachers could learn to adapt their teaching strategies to serve students at various skill levels in the same classroom. Houston metropolitan area students are fortunate to have many local advocates who are working to put Dr. Noguera’s research into practice. At Houston A+ Challenge, we are privileged to work with you in this effort. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with you.




by Keith Fickel

My colleague and I were fortunate to have attended this year’s Houston A+ Challenge Fondren Reforming Schools Summer Institute. Admittedly, we were looking for some kind of professional development to attend which would help us earn “comp” time for a campus-level staff development during the coming school year. After attending the Institute, I must say that we were both rather short-sighted. We were both even a little doubtful about what the experience would bring; we thought that if it didn’t cost us anything to attend, it might not be that well organized nor have that much of value to impart. As we arrived on the first day, we received our materials, and when I saw the complimentary copy of the ASCD book, Building Shared Responsibility for Student Learning, by Anne Conzemius and Jan O’Neill, I began to think that this would, after all, be a valuable experience. As an ASCD member, I was pleased to see association materials among my Institute materials.


In the opening session of the Institute, Lynn Parsons asked the attendees two important questions. First, “What does quality learning and teaching look like?” The follow up question was, “Do we know it when we see it?” This was the conceptual framework around which the Institute was designed. As stated in Building Shared Responsibility for Student Learning, there are three critical elements in the design of sharing the responsibility for our students. These are: 1. Focus – creating a shared clarity of purpose, thought, and direction; 2. Reflection – learning from past actions and experiences; and 3. Collaboration – bringing people together to share knowledge and ideas, with the intention of honing the shared clarity of purpose. This, then, leads us back to the initial point of departure – the Focus, starting the cycle once more.

FRSSI . . . continued on page 5

Grant Upgrades Journalism Program by Terri Williams


will never forget that day. I was teaching my second period journalism class when the school secretary called my name from the public address system: “Miss Williams, we need you at the side entrance.” I told my class to sit tight; I managed to find a teacher to look after my class and descended the flight of stairs to the side entrance. A man greeted me with a rolling dolly filled with huge boxes carrying HP computers. When I returned to my classroom with the deliveryman and computers in tow, the day took on the feeling that only Christmas brings. We opened those boxes as an entire class with such excitement and set the computers up in a matter of minutes. At long last, Jack Yates High School of Communications journalism program had arrived. We had finally gotten the delivery we had been hoping would take us to the next level: technology. Thanks to a American Society of Newspaper Editors/Houston A+ Challenge /Houston Chronicle grant of $10,000, my journalism classes and newspaper program is finally getting the lift it has long needed. We have four Hewlett-Packard computers equipped with XP and a color HP laser printer. We have an HP scanner and two HP digital cameras with 5-pixel capacity. We have Dreamweaver, QuarkXpress and Adobe Photoshop to name a few of the programs needed to produce a firstrate school newspaper and a future website. The new technology has lifted morale in ways I could have never done on my own. My students have been able to learn newspaper layout, produce the newspaper within the classroom and edit and refine their stories and photos on the computers. “It’s allowed the editors to work on separate computers and work on our pages,” said Brittany Robinson, a sophomore and education editor. “It’s just nice to have working computers.” It didn’t start out this way. When I arrived as a new teacher at Jack Yates High School two years ago, I stepped into a new profession and great challenges. I’m a former newspaper reporter, but my job as a teacher presented greater complexities. The biggest problem at Yates was a lack of working computers and up to date technology. To make matters worse, most students do not have computers at home, so they really depended on the school to have them.

In my first year, I did the bulk of the newspaper on my home computer. Most of the computers in my classroom were old and not working. There was no scanner, and I had to share the digital camera with the library, as well as the rest of the school. I had no idea how I’d teach newspaper, Terri Williams, journalism instructor and advisor to the Crimson Journal, works with her much less produce a students at Jack Yates High School. newspaper. To qualify for the program, journalism Thanks to my newspaper background, educators would first have to take part in a I had friends who still worked in the months-long summer fellowship and then profession. I sought counsel from Susan compete for the partnership. Last summer, I Bischoff, associate editor at the Houston completed the fellowship at the University of Chronicle, who told me about the wonderful Texas at Austin where I met some wonderful program where The Houston Chronicle and professors, including Dr. Steve Reese and Dr. The Houston A+ Challenge partnered with George Sylvie, who both head the high school schools. The partnership also called for journalism program at UT. Chronicle staffers to come into the classroom and work with my students. Williams . . . continued on page 7



or years, the journalism program at Yates has struggled to gain the prominence or

interest from students. Instead, students were attracted to the more high profile photography and television programs here in the School of Communications. Thanks to the partnership with the Houston Chronicle, journalism at Yates has gained new visibility. I’m proud to say that I currently have two students working at the paper: Ronnie Turner James Campbell, ombudsenman at the Houston chronicle, with Yates students on a visit to the newsroom. and Michael McGrath. Turner, who graduated valedictorian from Yates last spring, works in the Chronicle’s online sports division, and McGrath, a senior who also graduated valedictorian, writes a weekly column for the paper’s Yo! section. McGrath, who also worked at the Chronicle’s high school workshop, said having a column was a dream come true. “The column that I am writing now is one of the best opportunities that I have ever been given,” McGrath said. “It’s amazing to think that my work is being published in a major paper, and read by thousands of people.” My students’ successes would not be possible without the support of Jeff Cohen, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief. He has truly gone beyond the call of duty in his capacity as editor and I must say it’s humbling.

Chronicle . . . continued on page 6 3



pproximately 45 teachers went to work this past summer in Houston area offices for a week during the Teacher Externship Program offered by the Houston A+ Challenge and the Greater Houston Partnership. Another 87 worked in North Houston, sponsored by Taking Education to Work in Montgomery County. Described by some as shadowing or immersion programs, externships are designed to connect classroom teachers with business professionals in their field of study to make students’ learning experiences more relevant to the workplace. “Our students have to be prepared for corporate America,” said Shirleyaine Gray, a Business Computer Information Systems instructor from Madison High School, who had her externship with Enbridge. “Degrees in accounting and engineering are needed if students want to work for the oil, gas and energy businesses.” Teachers involved in externships observe and practice current technology. They learn about career options for their students and they build a network of working professionals who provide real world input into their curriculum. “The externship program is a wonderful opportunity for teachers and people in the business world to learn from each other,” said Harry Reasoner, chairman of the Board of Trustees, Houston A+ Challenge and senior partner at Vinson&Elkins LLP. “Teachers can gain insights on what they need to equip their students to deal with; business people can learn of the challenges that must be met in preparing modern students for business.” Most teachers graduate from college and go straight into the classroom. The externship program allows them to go into the business world, and the experience is useful for enhancing classroom instruction. “I teach physics. El Paso gave us a rundown of the entire company - reservoir and production engineers, logging, seismic analysis,” said William Budell from Alief Taylor High School in Alief Independent


Lyndsay Levingston, a teacher at Bellaire High School, looks over the supplies in the Alley Theatre costume shop. Ms. Levingston visited the Alley as part of her teacher externship with Enbridge Energy Company, Inc.

School District. “There is a lot of applied physics there. I have a lot of examples to give my students.” As many as 70% of U.S. companies cannot recruit enough skilled workers to meet their needs. In addition, only 40% of employers believe that high school graduates have the work skills that are needed, according to a survey conducted by the Public Agenda Foundation. For example, the teachers who observed how the human resource department recruits employees agreed that they need to tell their students what employers are looking for, what to expect in a job interview and that they should be more assertive and confident. “I went to Human Resources at Enbridge and saw that it takes a lot of communication skills to do what they do,” said Tiara Stenson, an English Language Arts teacher from Westbury High School in Houston ISD. “When I get back to school, I will create a writing skills lesson plan in which students will develop a human resources employee packet for a company.” The experience also was an eye-opener for some of the teacher externs at Enbridge, who toured the Alley Theatre. The Theatre employs people with different careers and backgrounds, from engineers and set designers to actors. Joan Maresh, an art instructor from Northbrook High School,

described her externship with The Houstonian as thought provoking. “I am now working on my report, lesson plan and typing my journal entries,” Maresh said. “Ann Nolan was an incredible mentor and what she shared with me will be of great benefit to my students. I am truly grateful for this opportunity.” The Teacher Externship Program was started in 2003 by the Greater Houston Partnership and Houston A+ Challenge as part of Houston Schools for a New Society (HSNS), an initiative with Houston ISD to create a system of high schools to assure students a seamless transition into higher education and the workforce. This year, Houston A+ expanded the program to include not only all 23 of Houston ISD’s comprehensive high schools but teachers in 14 high schools that are funded by Houston A+ in four school districts in Aldine, Alief, Humble and Spring Branch. Houston A+ is accepting applications for externship positions for the summer of 2006. To apply, download the form at Corporations fund the externship program. A complete list of companies and teachers can be found at

Learning How to Learn . . . cont. from page 1

FRSSI . . . cont. from page 2 This shared responsibility is best done in learning communities. There was discussion in our break-out group (learning community) that the language has changed from just calling the concept a “learning community” to a “professional learning community.” We never really determined whether or not this was the case. We were also offered an alternative definition of “leadership.” “Leadership is a concept that is not tied to individuals, official positions, or sets of behavior. Leadership is the school’s overall capacity for broad-based, skillful participation in the creation and fulfillment of a vision focused on student learning” (Conzemius and O’Neill, p. 5). Because I am currently preparing for the Principalship, I find that definition particularly powerful – leadership IS NOT about ME. My colleague, Joe Freilich, and I were also joined by people from the Fort Bend ISD central office, which gave us a richer experience and alternate viewpoints during the Institute. Dr. Holly Dale, Associate Superintendent for Achievement and Development; Dr. Maria Pitre; Curriculum Directors Ann Sandoval and Talesa Kidd; Dr. Jan Moore, Secondary Mathematics Coordinator, as well as several others discussed the proceedings of the Institute each day over lunch. We found that the Institute’s broad, yet related topics of collaboration and learning communities would serve our campuses well. We even discussed trying to find some way as a district to collaborate with The Houston A+ Challenge and arrange for a series of “train the trainer” events so that our district could begin to put into place some of the infrastructure necessary to employ the suggested practices in our district. The idea would be for some of our own district staff (who were in attendance at the Institute) to be trained as a district “cadre” who could then train others within the district. Whether or not this happens, I would bet money that there will be a significant increase in the level of attendance from people in FBISD at the 2006 Institute. I would have liked to have been able to commit to joining a Critical Friends Group

this fall to keep the dialogue going and also to keep my learning and enthusiasm fresh, but having just started work in the FBISD/UH Principalship Cohort, there is just no time. However, the idea of reflective practice is taking hold with me. Even though I’ve never been this busy in my life, I find that when I take the time to write down my thoughts and think back on what I’ve learned, new and deeper meaning takes hold for me. I’ve heard the word “reflection” for a number of years now, but until I attended the Institute, I guess I didn’t understand what it meant because I hadn’t created a personal context from which I could create my own meaning and understanding of the concept. But although I could not be a part of a CFG, I find it remarkable that my Principalship program is designed in a format that models the very things espoused by the Institute – collaboration and learning communities. That is significant testimony to the direction in which leadership programs, and perhaps the field of education in general, is headed (or has already arrived at). Better still, one of my instructors, Dr. Joy Phillips, is a part of the A+ Challenge team. How perfect is that? We’ve lived with all manner of “buzzwords” in the field of education, and no doubt there are many who would believe that “collaboration,” “reflection,” and “learning communities” are buzzwords. More than just a passing fancy, these concepts seem to be more than mere “buzzwords”; in Stephen Covey’s words, they represent something more like a “paradigm shift.” These concepts create an entirely new way to view the landscape of education. I hope that the schedule for my classes in the cohort during the summer of 2006 will permit me to attend the next Institute. Far and away, this was the single, most valuable professional development experience I have attended in 15 years of teaching. It is making me question my own practices, and has (either fortunately or unfortunately) made me a little hyper-aware of what works and doesn’t work on my campus. Mr. Fickel is the band director at Lake Olympia Middle School in Fort Bend ISD.

to elementary and secondary groups led by facilitators who are trained Critical Friends Group coaches. This structure allowed opportunities for participants to join in collaborative inquiry and reflection about their own work and the work they were learning about during the Institute. It also provided a structure in which participants could learn and practice skills and processes that will help them deepen the work of the professional learning communities in their home settings. Series of learning opportunities This summer Institute was presented as the first of a series of learning opportunities to be provided by the Houston A+ Challenge throughout the coming school year, including: A follow-up day-long session to allow participants and teams to refocus their commitment for practicing what they learned. “Taking the Next Steps”, a series of half-day Saturday seminars that will allow participants to deepen their learning in some of the same areas addressed in the seminars during the summer Institute. A commitment from leaders of the other A+ initiatives with which participants may be involved that all of their activities will model these practices. Opportunities for participants to contribute to the institute blog, which can be found at Did the Institute participants learn anything? Following are quotes from the evaluation forms submitted at the end of the Institute: “I need to change my thinking to be more open and flexible—“mature” enough to get past the ego and to the core of my public teaching— the “soul” if you will.” “I have learned that you can demonstrate learning achievement that goes beyond standardized test data. As a learning community, everyone involved at my campus must share responsibility for everything that occurs on the campus. Time must be allotted for collaboration and reflection, or the ultimate goals or “focus” will be lost or fall far short of what is possible.” “I’m not alone. We’re all in this together.” As Conzemiuis and O’Neill said: “Within the framework, focus represents knowledge and experience; reflection represents skillful use of data tools and methods. Collaboration represents the compassionate and wise heart of school improvement. Without collaboration, our knowledge goes unleveraged, our data unused.” Ms. Parsons is a retired educator working as a consultant to Houston A+ Challenge.




field-based program for student teachers created by the Partnership for Quality Education is saving Alief ISD thousands of dollars. The Partnership for Quality Education was started five years ago with the goal of revising teacher preparation programs. Educational institutions had expressed their concern about whether teacher preparation programs were showing new teachers how to address student’s individual needs in the classroom. Five urban institutions of higher education (Texas Southern University, Houston Community College System, University of Houston, University of Houston-Downtown and University of St. Thomas) paired with six school districts (Aldine, Alief, Houston, Humble, North Forest and Spring Branch Independent School Districts) and The Houston A+ Challenge collaborated to share perspectives, expertise and resources. The team examined, rewrote and launched revised courses at the universities, as well as core curriculum courses in the Colleges of Arts and Sciences. Among the institutions that have surfaced through the challenges of PQE is the tandem of University of HoustonDowntown and Alief ISD. More than 30 Alief teachers completed the PQE mentor training and this constituted one of the most successful elements of the field-experience components of the teacher preparation program. The most beneficial result that the UHD-Alief Team has yielded is the general collaborative effort behind teacher preparation, which signifies advance campus readiness and willingness to mentor pre-service teachers. According to Alief statistics, the district spends approximately $5,000 to recruit each new teacher to the district for additional training, professional development expenses and stipends for the mentors of these new recruited teachers. The newly certified teachers they have produced are well-versed in district policies and require less in the way of additional training and professional development. With UHD Urban Education students on Alief campuses for three semesters, this gives the district the opportunity to hire these new

Chronicle . . . continued from page 3 When I first mentioned the idea of a partnership, Cohen was supportive. Turner had already completed working in the paper’s high school workshop and had wowed many of the editors there. On a lark, I mentioned that Turner needed income to help support his family. I wasn’t trying to solicit a job for Turner; I was merely telling Cohen what a success the young man is considering his economic background. Cohen decided that he would find a job for Turner, as well as provide cab service to the paper so he could get to work.


teachers before they are sought by other schools, which also saves Alief money. The team focused its redesign efforts on technology, active learning, teaching techniques and pre-service mentoring. They have adopted an active learning strategy called inquiry-based learning. Student teachers are required to develop an inquirybased project that illustrates effective planning for the integration of language arts, reading, social studies, science, math, technology, fine arts, health and physical fitness. Technology played a big part in the teacher preparation program. Urban Education students are required to create an electronic portfolio, where the student’s initial experiences through student teaching are documented and then converted into a webpage. Through the generosity of UHD matching funds and other institutions, the program was able to provide 35 laptop computers for the Urban Education Block students in Alief. Dubbed as the laptop-loan program, it has been successful in aiding teachers to think and come up with new teaching styles. Digital storytelling was introduced to English language learners, to visually articulate their meaning because they are not yet able to do so verbally or textually. This solicited a positive feedback from Alief mentor teachers who gained more confidence in using technological tools in the classroom. To highlight improvement and teaching, UHD and Alief ISD introduced the Family Literacy Nights program. Parents attend a session with university faculty that focuses on literacy for their children and suggests ways to promote positive attitudes toward reading. This is done by treating kids to read-aloud sessions, skits and puppet shows conducted by the UHD Children’s Literacy Society. Deemed as the most symbolic of the successful partnership between UHD and Alief ISD, the Family Literacy Nights allows participating service teachers to gain valuable interaction with parents. Major improvements are being discussed on how the collaboration can be strengthened and ways for expanding it through new grant initiatives on technology.

Turner’s job at the paper made him an instant celebrity at Yates. Students clamored to work on the school paper, The Crimson Journal. Throughout the year, we had many exciting visits from editors and reporters including: Susan Bischoff, associate editor; Veronica Flores, city editor; James Campbell, reader’s representative and columnist; Shannon Buggs, business columnist and David Ellison, assistant city editor, to name a few. In January, Ms.Bischoff and Mr. Campbell organized a tour and session with several Chronicle editors. The students also were able to sit in on a news budget meeting. Chestlee Hunt, a junior and an editorial writer for the Yates student paper, said she enjoyed listening to the

decisions editors make in planning next day’s paper. At that time, the editors were grappling with what photos to use on the front page for President Bush’s inauguration. Several editors asked the students what they would do. “I didn’t realize how difficult it is,” Hunt said. “That was the best part of the tour because the editors were the most real. I didn’t know they have the same problems deciding what’s important like we do.” It’s a new year at Yates, and the students are already excited about seeing Michael McGrath’s Yo! columns prominently displayed on my bulletin boards. This wasn’t the case two years ago. I am eternally grateful for the Houston Chronicle; they’ve given my program new life.

Houston A+ Challenge to Co-Sponsor No Child Left Behind Hearing

Five years after its passage, how has the federal No Child Left Behind Act impacted education? Austin Voices for Education and Youth ( and Houston A+ Challenge will conduct a public hearing organized by the Public Education Network (PEN) on January 12, 2006, in Austin from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Carver Auditorium in Austin to discuss the topic. 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. Houston A+ will be chartering a bus to take participants to Austin. To register to attend, call 713-658-1881 or log on to 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.

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND SURVEY Public Education Network (PEN) is soliciting views from community members on the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) through a series of state hearings, focus groups, and an online survey being administered through PEN’s e-advocacy website, This is your opportunity to express in your own words your opinions about NCLB. Your opinions will help to identify the extent to which NCLB is providing adequate resources, improving teaching and learning, delivering targeted services to students and teachers, and enhancing the

public’s confidence in its schools and in the nation’s system of public education. The survey consists of 28 questions, plus a series of demographic questions, and should take approximately 10 minutes to complete. Survey responses will be included in a final report that PEN will submit to national and state policymakers early in 2006. PEN is requesting some basic information for analysis purposes, but all survey responses will be anonymous. To take the survey, log on to

In the News ■ Applications for the new International High School are now available at Set to open in August of 2006, The International High School is a joint venture of The Asia Society, Houston A+ Challenge, Houston ISD and Houston Community College System. The four groups are creating this new model school both to prepare students for college and develop their international knowledge and understanding of world cultures. For more information, contact Principal Melissa Jacobs at ■ Houston A+ Challenge is featured in Houston: A Chronicle of the Bayou City, a new book by Stanley Siegel and John Moretta. Houston A+ is profiled in the chapter “Chronicles of Leadership, which highlights the individual histories of Houston area business and organizations.

Williams . . . continued from page3 In turn, I spoke with Jeff Cohen, executive editor of the Houston Chronicle, about his interest in forming a partnership. He was enthusiastic. I then worked with Houston A+ Challenge to write the grant application. Having the grant has been nothing short of a miracle. I know some of the successes we’ve had this year are due in part to the technology, and the Chronicle staffers who shared real life journalism experiences with the students. We have produced more newspapers overall this year; I had one student place at the state University Interscholastic League journalism competition, and I had seven students place at the district UIL journalism contest. But more importantly, I believe my students are taking more ownership of their paper because they have computers and equipment they needed for that empowerment. “It’s made it easier to get your work done,” said Erica Puckett, a sophomore and reporter on the newspaper staff. “It’s helped out the newspaper a lot.” Ms.Williams is in her third year as a teacher at Jack Yates High School, Magnet School of Communications.

PLC. . . continued from page 1 “Simply encouraging the habit of regular professional reflecting kept the faculty focused on the mission of developing a safe, caring, respectful learning environment where both faculty and students could challenge themselves to be lifelong learners,” Reid said. The next CFG new coach training will begin April 15. To register, call Houston A+ Challenge at 713-658-1881. Houston A+ has trained more than 700 CFG coaches. Other PLCs in the Houston area include high school improvement facilitators, high school literacy coaches, elementary mathematics specialists, university deans and Regional High School Network members. In addition, this year’s Fondren Reforming Schools Summer Institute (see article on page one), was devoted to creating and developing PLCs.





formerly The Houston Annenberg Challenge

1415 Louisiana, Box 9 Houston, Texas 77002-7332


713-658-1881 fax 713-739-0166

C a l e n d a r


o f

E v e n t s




12 No Child Left Behind Hearing, Austin


Community Engagement Action Lab


New Visions in Leadership Academy

24-25 25

Texas Association of Partners in Education Conference, Austin

Harry Reasoner, Chairman Vinson & Elkins, LLP Joe B. Foster, President Founder Newfield Exploration Company Ann Friedman, Ph.D., Secretary Adjunct Professor, The University of Houston

Regional High School Network Conference


2 3-4



New Visions in Leadership Academy Retreat


“Taking the Next Steps: CFG Facilitative Leadership”


New Visions in Leadership Academy


New Visions in Leadership Academy

15, 17, 22 24, 29

Critical Friends Group New Coaches Spring Training


Regional Senior Fellows


“Taking the Next Steps: Portfolios – Documenting Work (Part 2)”



Regional Senior Fellows

1, 6, 8

New Visions in Leadership Academy

Critical Friends Group New Coaches Spring Training (cont.)

Jack S. Blanton President Eddy Refining Company Leonel Castillo Education Liaison, Mayor’s Office Jonathan Day Managing Partner Andrews & Kurth, Mayor, Day, Caldwell & Keeton, LLP Roberto Gonzalez Vice President, Employment and Training Centers, Inc. H. Devon Graham, Jr. R.E. Smith Interests Jenard Gross President, Gross Investments Steve Miller Chairman & President SLM Discovery Venture Inc. Karol Musher, M.A., CCC-SLP Speech, Language and Learning Disorders Texas Children’s Hospital Maconda Brown O’Connor, Ph.D. Chairman, Brown Foundation

SchoolWorks is published by: Houston A+ Challenge 1415 Louisiana, Box 9 Houston, Tx 77002 713.658.1881 / 713.739.0166 (fax) Executive Director: Michele Pola, Ed.D. Director of Public Affairs: Nan Powers Varoga

J. Victor Samuels Chairman, Victory Packaging Yava Scott Community Volunteer Andrea White Civic Volunteer

Writer: Erika Andersen

Randa Duncan Williams President, Enterprise Products Company

Rosie Zamora President, Houston Wilderness, Inc.


A P U B L I C A T I O N O F T H E H O U S T O N C H A L L E N G E development and accomplishing changes . . . . . . continued on page 7 comm...

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