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The Houston A+ Challenge 2006 Annual Report


The mission of The Houston A+ Challenge is to promote an academically rich and purposeful education for more of our children and to demonstrate how such an education could become possible for all of our children.

creating pathways to student success

Chairman’s Letter Free public schools have played a fundamental role in our making possible meaningful democracy, social mobility, and economic growth that has been the envy of the world. In recent decades, we have both cut funding to our public schools in real dollars and increased the demands on schools to deal with a broad range of problems. This has led to a severe decline in the relative compensation of teachers and particular declines in qualifications in substantive areas, such as science and math. Our schools have suffered. Since the creation of The Houston A+ Challenge (formerly The Houston Annenberg Challenge) in 1997, The Annenberg Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York have given hundreds of millions of dollars on a nationwide basis in an effort to create catalysts to improve and preserve the public schools. In the Houston area, The Brown Foundation and Houston Endowment have given tens of millions of dollars to this effort. Other foundations and corporations have given generously. This report outlines the programs that Houston A+ has helped create and fund. These programs have demonstrated that preserving and improving our schools is within our power. For example, restructuring school and class sizes to permit personalized education, providing expert coaching in literacy and math, providing leadership training and continuing education in best practices has paid great dividends, with dramatic improvement in many areas. Clearly, however, though private funds can finance powerful demonstration projects or individual schools, increased public support is essential for a public school system that will preserve our competitiveness and our democracy in the 21st Century. We are a market-driven society and, though we have the benefit of many idealistic teachers, unless we pay competitively, we will continue to suffer the turnover and shortages in qualified teachers that have burdened our schools. Happily, unlike much of the world, we can afford to educate our children for the future, if we choose to do so. Very truly yours,

Harry M. Reasoner Chairman of the Board, 2003-2006


Critical Friends Groups (1999) New Visions in Leadership Academy (1999) Regional Senior Fellows (2000) K-5 Math Specialists (2000) Deans Leadership Group (2001) K-5 Fine Arts Network (2002) High School Principals Network (2002) (Houston Schools for a New Society) School Improvement Facilitators (2002) Literacy Coaches (2002) Teacher Externships (2003) Focused Impact Award Network (formerly Beacon & Lamplighter schools) (2003) Regional High School Network (2003) Regional Literacy Network (2005) Executive Principals (2005) Small Schools Network (2005)





The Houston A+ Challenge Role

The Houston A+ Challenge takes on one or more roles when it partners with schools and school districts. They are: STEWARD OF FUNDS • Funding or matching quality program proposals • Aligning resources to student achievement goals • Providing oversight

CHANGE AGENT • Sharing knowledge and experience in reform • Providing best-practice models and research • Networking schools with community and business partners • Providing a window to national reform efforts • Removing obstacles and supporting policy changes ACCOUNTABILITY AGENT • Providing ongoing peer reviews • Aligning initiatives within schools and districts • Focusing staff and administrators on the work

Undergirding each of these roles is our philosophy of school reform – that quality public schools for all students will result when every campus has: • Quality teachers working in collaboration • Regular, research-based professional development • Community support and involvement • Personalized school settings and curriculum

High School Redesign Initiative Houston Schools for a New Society Small learning communities are essential to personalizing the high school experience so students will graduate with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in our technological world. Houston A+ Challenge is committed to creating the pathways that will transform Houston high schools into 21st century learning communities through its Houston Schools for a New Society (HSNS) initiative. This partnership with 23 Houston ISD high schools supports educators as they create schools within schools that encompass student-focused learning and student support networks. This initiative seeks to graduate students who are proficient problem-solvers, efficient technology-users, effective communicators, cooperative team members, culturally aware in a global world, responsible citizens, self-directed workers and thinkers and knowledgeable of worldwide issues. While schools have flexibility in their redesign, their unifying characteristic is a commitment to improving student achievement through theme-based instruction where students self-select areas of interest. School improvement facilitators (SIF) drive change and reform with support from Houston A+ Challenge. Underpinning the pathway to student success is a 9th and10th grade literacy initiative led by campus literacy coaches. Working with freshman English teachers, these coaches share the responsibility for improving student literacy and help embed Houston ISD’s five literacy strategies into all content areas. Each HSNS school also has developed student advocacy programs that promote family and community inclusion and social preparedness, and student internships and community service requirements that offer real-world experiences. All of these efforts promote student achievement. Going a step farther toward personalization, 16 of the 23 HSNS high schools have created 300- to 400-member small learning communities where students are linked by mutual interests and the same core subject matter teachers. All schools schedule advocacy classes so adult mentors can give students individualized attention and assistance in planning for graduation and college. Four campuses were selected in 2005-2006 to serve as school reform models for professional development and school culture change. Houston A+ is particularly proud of its role in creating innovative school programs like Challenge Early College High School. This Houston ISD charter school opened in August 2003 on the southwest campus of Houston Community College, with funding and design support from Houston A+ Challenge. A small school that is home to fewer than 500 students, Challenge Early College High School was the first of its kind in Texas to provide an accelerated, college preparatory curriculum that enables students to earn a high school diploma and an associate’s degree – tuition-free – in three to five years. When the first graduates accepted their high school diplomas in May 2006, it was a momentous occasion. All 13 graduates had college and/or military acceptances and received faculty/ staff support in securing scholarships that totalled more than $400,000. The newest of these innovative schools – co-founded by Houston A+ Challenge, the Coalition of Essential Schools and Houston ISD – opened in August 2005. At Empowerment College Preparatory High School, students can combine high school and college level courses tuition-free. During 2005-2006, the path was laid to open another innovative school – Houston Academy for International Studies. Houston A+ Challenge coached the principal in planning for the August 2006 opening, staff was hired, and students were enrolled. Asia Society International and Houston Community College System also are major school partners. The initiative is funded by Houston A+ Challenge through grants from The Annenberg Foundation, The Brown Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

2005-2006 Highlights Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) reading scores improved at 22 of the 23 HSNS high schools, with gains of up to 18 percent of students meeting the state’s proficiency target. TAKS math scores improved at nine of these schools. Reading and math scores improved for 9th graders, too, on the Stanford 10 test, a national benchmark. Houston ISD’s 24 literacy coaches – whose salaries are co-funded by Houston ISD and through Houston A+ Challenge grants – spent 50 percent of their time co-teaching, modeling and coaching individual teachers. Thirty percent of their time was spent in the weekly training network and in campus-level planning with teachers and school teams. These coaches are divided by Houston ISD’s five geographic regions. Houston ISD literacy coaches are now fielding the increased requests for literacy coaching and resources, rather than Houston A+ Challenge – an indication of the initiative’s growing self-sufficiency. For example, 23 Houston ISD coaches facilitated school teams and conducted breakout sessions at the district’s two-day Literacy Institute, and 63 percent of them made presentations at literacy network meetings. Houston ISD reorganized its upper administration to create a greater emphasis on classroom instruction, creating the position of Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment to include middle schools. Houston ISD accepted ownership of the student advocacy program, by creating another new position – Assistant Superintendent for Student Support. This individual now directs the collaboration between the district’s character education and counseling/guidance departments. More than 100 young people from Houston ISD and 40 from Aldine ISD agreed to return to school when hundreds of school employees and community volunteers visited them at their homes during the 2006 Reach Out to Dropouts Walk. This was the third annual event for Houston ISD and the first for Aldine ISD. Since Houston ISD and Houston A+ Challenge began the campaign, 250 former dropouts have graduated from high school. Houston Mayor Bill White, and his wife, Andrea, chaired the Houston ISD walk, and sent a letter encouraging every 8th grader to get a high school diploma. Literacy coaches have influenced Houston ISD’s literacy manager to bring together stakeholders, including middle schools and mentoring partners, to plan for the literacy needs of all high school students. One hundred percent of 11th graders at Challenge Early High School passed the state-mandated TAKS test. On average, students’ Stanford 10 scores have seen an increase of 10-15 percent. Three hundred 9th graders at Reagan High School took a pilot study skills course to improve critical thinking skills. HSNS schools strengthened relationships with middle schools in their feeder patterns and added support programs to help incoming freshman transition to high school. All Houston ISD 9th graders were surveyed about their work with literacy strategies and coaches.

Houston Schools for a New Society (Houston ISD) Austin Bellaire Chavez Challenge Early College Davis Empowerment College Preparatory Academy

Furr Houston Academy for International Studies Jones Kashmere Lamar Lee

Madison Milby Reagan* Sam Houston Scarborough Sharpstown Sterling

Waltrip* Washington Westbury Westside* Worthing Wheatley* Yates *Model design schools

High School Redesign Initiative R egional High School Network The Regional High School Network, like the HSNS initiative in Houston ISD, involves a commitment to increase student achievement through smaller learning communities, reduced isolation and increased teacher learning. Thirteen schools from the Alief, Humble and Spring Branch districts were the original members of this redesign initiative when it started in 2003, thanks to additional funding from the Annenberg and Brown foundations. Aldine ISD joined the network in 2004, and along with Humble, increased the number of campuses participating in 2005-2006. Sixteen schools in these four school districts continue today to create pathways to personalize each student’s learning experience. Smaller learning communities are taking shape and trained teachers are infusing innovative strategies into the classroom. Some strategies include the development of school portfolios to demonstrate progress in meeting specific objectives, changes in master schedules to offer common planning periods for subject-matter teachers and interventions for at-risk students, collaboration with feeder middle schools to prepare students for high school and new uses for technology. Strong adult advocacy programs continue to encourage students and to meet each of their unique needs. These programs were tested early in 2005-2006 with the influx of Hurricane Katrina students. Network schools responded with counseling for their newest students and the expansion of adult mentor and student buddy programs. Stratford High School specifically called on former New Orleans principals to identify the schools from which students came and to help them retrieve and interpret students’ school records.

2005-2006 Highlights Teachers and administrators from Regional High School Network schools and districts collaborated in monthly meetings, annual cross-site visits and campus reviews to share ideas and practice collaborative tools. Members also participated in two leadership conferences that contained a myriad of learning opportunities. A Regional High School Network blog was created to give members another outlet for ongoing and immediate dialogue. Aldine High School teachers received Ruby Payne training to better understand generational poverty and Girls and Boys Town training to learn proven ways for setting structured and consistent expectations for student discipline. Elsik 9th Grade supported TAKS math preparation during student advisory periods by distributing math problems and encouraging students to document their thought processes. Students solved the problems together as warm-ups in their math classes. Kingwood 9th Grade implemented success strategies for at-risk 9th graders including a technology-supported algebra lab and a double block of reading and English taught by the same teacher. Northbrook High School adopted a modified block schedule that adds more time for student instruction and student tutoring during the school day.

Regional High School Network Schools Aldine ISD Aldine High School Aldine 9th Grade

Alief ISD Elsik 9th Grade Elsik High School Hastings 9th Grade Hastings High School Taylor High School

Humble ISD Atascocita High School Humble 9th Grade Humble High School Kingwood 9th Grade Kingwood High School

Spring Branch ISD Memorial High School Northbrook High School Spring Woods High School Stratford High School

Focused Impact Award Twenty schools received funding in 2005-2006 through Houston A+ Challenge’s Focused Impact Awards, which are direct grants aimed at increasing student achievement through the integration of literacy, mathematics, and/or fine arts into the curriculum. Fourteen schools were in the second year of funding for this award, while six schools were in their first year. Awards range from $40,000 to $60,000 per year per school. Selected schools are original Beacon and Lamplighter schools that Houston A+ Challenge supported from 1997-2002. These schools are creating pathways to student success through whole school reform that focuses on at least one content area – math, literacy or fine arts. Houston A+ Challenge reviews schools based on how effectively they reduce student isolation, personalize student instruction and deliver quality professional development. Since the first year of funding in 2004, TAKS math and reading scores have risen at 14 Focused Impact Award campuses. In addition to meeting this primary goal of student achievement, schools are increasing teacher collaboration across departments and grade levels. Also, partnerships are blossoming with parents and the larger community actively contributing to school reform.

2005-2006 Highlights

Focused Impact Award Schools Aldine ISD Anderson Elementary Bethune Elementary Hoffman Middle School Reed Elementary Stovall Elementary Houston ISD* Browning Elementary Debakey High School Helms Community Learning Center Johnston Middle School Lanier Middle School McReynolds Middle School Pershing Middle School Port Houston Elementary Roberts Elementary Scott Elementary Sharpstown Elementary Twain Elementary Whidby Elementary

Schools are using data not only to assess student learning, but also to identify the most effective teaching practices. Humble ISD* Quest High School Parent participation is growing as evidenced by larger PTAs and more parents volunteering and monitoring students who participate in community service work. Spring Branch ISD Scott Elementary has established a 10-week Latino Family Literacy Project to increase Spring Branch Elementary literacy at home. *Second year of funding Twain Elementary has started using student portfolios to document learning from grade to grade. Schools are integrating literacy strategies into diverse content areas. Lanier Middle School integrated literacy into math and displayed this through word walls, featuring oral and written rationales for problem solving. Reed Elementary integrated fine arts into math, science and social studies when students created pyramids during a study of Egypt. Pershing Middle School has redesigned its math program in partnership with the Rice University School Mathematics Project. Innovative and inspiring opportunities for teacher and student learning have been provided through strong enterprise partnerships with Baylor College of Medicine; Shell Oil; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Society for the Performing Arts; Ensemble Theatre; North Harris Montgomery Community College and Washington Mutual. Johnston Middle School took students on college visits to promote a college-bound mindset. Spring Branch Elementary trained 100% of its teachers in Strategies That Work (STW) to strengthen students’ comprehension skills. Parents attended training as well so that strategies could be reinforced at home.

TAKS Gains for Focused Impact Award Schools (Schools Meeting Panel Recommendation 2003-2006) Focused Impact Award schools increased the total number of students passing both reading and math TAKS sections at panel recommendation between 2003 and 2006. MATH




Elementary Schools





Middle Schools





High Schools








Elementary Schools




Middle Schools



High Schools



K- 5 M a t h e m a t i c s I n i t i a t i v e E

conomically disadvantaged students are making giant strides through the K-5 Mathematics Initiative as they move beyond rote computation to a clearer understanding of numeric concepts, their connections and how to apply them to problem solving. Started in 2000 with generous funding from the ExxonMobil Foundation, the K-5 Mathematics Initiative trains campus math specialists to coach teachers in nationally recognized instructional methods. These highly trained math specialists also coteach with classroom teachers. In addition, they coordinate family programs to equip parents to support their students by teaching them the mathematical concepts their children are learning. Houston ISD math specialists are part of a national network of specialists supported by the ExxonMobil Foundation. Problem-solving journals continue to serve as a core instructional tool in this initiative. These journals require students to identify known and unknown information as well as appropriate problem-solving strategies. Then students must not only solve the problem to the extent that they are able – but also write a narrative to explain their solution. In 2005-2006, math specialists developed these journals in English and Spanish for grades K-2. They also updated journals for grades 3-5. Even with 13 new math specialists among the 18 initiative campuses, pre-and post-tests continue to show significant gains in student achievement. During the year, math specialists worked closely with teachers to help them assess their students and to provide appropriate interventions to close learning gaps. The specialists also provided input in setting up classroom workstations to make math more accessible to students. They gave assistance to each grade level in planning Every Day Counts® minimath lessons, which are used daily at all initiative schools. This program provides students with a daily exposure to critical math concepts such as place value, mental math, measurement, time, money, geometry, estimation, graphics, statistics, patterns and algebraic thinking, graphing and statistics.

2005-2006 Highlights Twenty-five percent of initiative schools received a “Recognized” rating from the state and 69 percent of schools earned an “Acceptable” rating. White Elementary, a new initiative school, received an “Exemplary” rating. Math specialists logged 1,570 hours – more than double the time spent in the previous year – coaching teachers on how to plan effective lessons. More than 5,800 parents – a 17 percent increase over 2004-2005 – participated in family math programs. Ten math specialists attended the 2006 Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy where they learned ways to enhance their instruction in math and science and to increase students’ interest in these subjects. Demand exceeded accommodations at the Houston ISD Spring Mathematics Summit, which was attended by 156 teachers. Math specialists assumed more of the responsibility for teaching from Houston A+ Challenge, facilitating eight of the 10 sessions.

2006 TAKS Ratings for Schools in the K-5 Mathematics Network Anderson




















Johnston MS






Long MS


Walnut Bend












K- 5 F i n e A r t s I n i t i a t i v e E ngaging in fine arts activities is a pathway to knowledge for many children. Thus, Houston A+ Challenge began its K-5 Fine Arts Initiative in 2003 to provide teacher training and program funding to integrate fine arts into mathematics, science and language arts. Research confirms that by connecting these core subjects to music, art, drama and dance, students learn important skills such as differentiation, sequencing, cause and effect and framing and testing hypotheses – all of which lead to the development of higher order and critical thinking skills. Students also learn the value of self-discipline, planning and teamwork, which are essential not only for academic advancement in the arts but for success in the workplace. Students who flourish in the arts are often more motivated to attend school. The result is a continued increase in TAKS reading and math scores and reduced isolation among students involved in this initiative at four Houston-area elementary schools. The K-5 Fine Arts Initiative is led by campus-based fine arts teams who coordinate teacher training, as well as student and professional performances and exhibits. They are also responsible for ongoing evaluation and program refinements. Pine Shadows Elementary in Spring Branch ISD expanded this leadership to form a Fine Arts Partnership Team with representatives from each grade level contributing to professional development. A strong partnership between Houston A+ Challenge and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) continues to provide outstanding teacher training. Using art from the museum’s permanent and special collections, MFAH educators demonstrate how instructional activities that reinforce math, science, social studies and other subjects can help achieve TAKS objectives by integrating art into the curriculum. All initiative schools have participated in level one Learning Through Art (LTA) training and are continuing with level two and three trainings. Other partnerships include Aldine Academy with Kingwood Community College Art Department; Neff Elementary with Writers in the Schools & Houston Grand Opera; Pine Shadows Elementary with Young Audiences and Pine Forest with Houston Grand Opera. These partnerships also provide additional teacher training opportunities.

2005-2006 Highlights Initiative schools hosted “think tanks” and volunteered to serve as model schools for the Texas Cultural Trust Council’s Intervention 815, an initiative to create more fine arts opportunities among Texas elementary schools. More infusion of fine arts in the curriculum, more student rotations for greater exposure to all art disciplines and expanded teacher training. A music/drum class at Aldine Academy was used to present algebraic reasoning, while student-created artwork led to metaphorical and literal descriptions about the artifacts used in their works. Neff Elementary teachers outside the core subjects were coached in how to integrate art into their lessons. Pine Forest Elementary used drama and dance movements to teach science concepts. Pine Shadows Elementary personalized the arts by designating a section of its media center for arts-specific literature at various reading levels. Houston A+ Challenge developed and offered the Wachovia Fine Arts Action Lab to schools to enable educators to examine and discuss current research and best practices for integrating fine arts into the core curriculum and to establish concrete steps to improve their teaching.

TAKS Scores Math 2003-2006 K-5 Fine Arts Schools Aldine Academy, Aldine ISD Neff Elementary, Houston ISD Pine Forest Elementary, Humble ISD Pine Shadows Elementary, Spring Branch ISD

Aldine Academy* Neff Pine Forest Pine Shadows



73% 78% 78% 64%

88% 79% 93% 86%

*School opened in 2003-2004 school year

Leadership Initiatives U nderlying school reform are strong, visionary leaders devoted to creating pathways to success in their learning communities. Houston A+ Challenge maintains a lead role in equipping administrators and teachers with the tools they need to build leadership skills and strategies for implementing change. Collaboration among educators at all levels is encouraged so they can share best practices and effectively plan for student achievement.

New Visions in Leadership Academy One of Houston A+ Challenge’s most successful leadership initiatives is the New Visions in Leadership Academy, which mentors campus leaders in creating a culture of commitment to whole school reform. This two-year program encompasses monthly small-group meetings between principals and trained coaches, school visits to evaluate and share methodology and retreats that provide extended opportunities for learning and reflection. Principals also receive support by interacting with nationally recognized authors and speakers, who in 2005-2006 included: Dr. Tom Barone, Arizona State University, on the power of integrating fine arts in all areas of the curriculum, and Dr. Pedro Noguera, New York University, on how to specifically deal with challenges that block student achievement, which resulted in principals developing their own personal action plans. The New Visions in Leadership Academy is modeled after the Harvard Graduate School of Education Principals’ Center. It is guided by the following principles of the National Association of Secondary School Principals – resolving complex problems, improving communication and development of self and others – which dovetail with Houston A+ Challenge imperatives of collaboration, personalization and quality learning and teaching. Since its founding in 1999, New Visions in Leadership Academy has doubled its entering cohort class size and has graduated 196 school leaders. Of these, 28 percent have received promotions and 55 percent have changed positions – thus spreading their knowledge and skills throughout their respective school districts. Feedback about the Academy is overwhelmingly positive. Principals report the use of specific protocols to drive student achievement. Over and over again, they credit the Academy with keeping them refreshed and engaged in meaningful dialogue and activities related to their reform work. This network is so powerful that Academy alumni, known as Fellows, have continued to meet regularly to explore new ideas, share their successes and challenges and to support current class members. For the first time in 2005-2006, Fellows could apply for $3,000 to $5,000 grants from Houston A+ Challenge to continue their own professional development and further the cause of school reform on their individual campuses. Seven Houston ISD administrators were awarded $19,095 to attend national training focused on advanced leadership knowledge and skills, as well as academics and instruction.


2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005

35% 22% 48% 36% 28% 10%*

*Two-year program still underway Note: Date of class indicates the year in which Fellows started the two-year program.

Critical Friends Group At the campus level, Houston A+ Challenge trains Critical Friends Group (CFG) coaches – peer mentors who deliver purposeful and ongoing professional development aimed at increasing student learning. Teachers and administrators join with their coach – there is at least one per campus – to deepen their knowledge of academic subject matter, to learn how to establish high expectations for students and to analyze their work in order to improve their own teaching. Additionally, CFG coaches help foster campus collaboration as they encourage their faculties to consider reform issues like school culture and specific strategies that will effect meaningful change. Nearly 750 educators have completed CFG coach training since it began in 1999. In 2005-2006, Houston A+ Challenge trained 132 coaches from Alief, Aldine, Houston, Humble, North Forest and Spring Branch school districts, as well as local and national Teach for America corps members. Information exchanges and support increased following the establishment of a blog and newsletter by Houston A+ Challenge. Critical Friends is at the heart of programs offered by National School Reform Faculty and Houston A+ Challenge holds the distinction of being the first NSRF center in the Gulf Coast area. Research among CFG participants indicates a move from teacher-centered to student-centered classrooms. Studies locally show that teachers have higher expectations for student learning and are more thoughtful about connecting curriculum, assessment and instruction. Additionally, faculty meetings are shifting from a delivery of administrative information to a focus on quality teaching and learning with discussions that center on student achievement. Houston A+ Challenge also is seeing this profound shift in focus move from campus CFGs to district employees.

Fondren Reforming Schools Summer Institute (FRSSI) On July 25-26, Houston A+ Challenge hosted its 10th annual Fondren Reforming Schools Summer Institute (FRSSI) for approximately 350 participants who represented 53 campuses from eight Houston-area school districts. Other participants represented 16 organizations ranging from the arts and government to higher education. The conference theme, ”Focus on Quality Teaching and Learning,“ underscored the work of teachers, administrators, university faculty, parents, students and community members as they joined together to share successful strategies for whole school reform. Keynote speakers presented two powerful and complementary approaches to this topic. Tony Wagner, author of “Change Leadership: A Practical Guide to Transforming Our Schools,” provided a framework to analyze the work of school change. George Thompson, president of the Schlechty Center for Leadership and School Reform, focused on how to improve student learning by representing classroom activities that engage students, developing clear and compelling student assessments and connecting students’ work with expected outcomes. Participants were offered 17 workshops of varying length. Interactive workshops with the keynote speakers were the most attended, followed by workshops on alignment, relevance and rigor, and then positive behavioral interventions. Attendees rated the quality of the learning experience from 4.54 to 4.8 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest. Each year, FRSSI activities are designed to foster collaboration. Participants attend as school teams or are placed on them if they attend individually. They are then grouped into learning communities and led by trained facilitators in guided practices of the skills presented. This year, in response to feedback from previous institutes, participants were grouped into learning communities that included members of their school teams. Participants praised this change.

Teacher Externships This dynamic and relatively new job shadowing program, in partnership with the Greater Houston Partnership, has increased relevancy and rigor in the classroom as teachers connect their instruction with the workplace. As positive feedback has spread among educators, participation requests have soared. In 2005-2006, teacher externships provided 111 teachers with a one-week discovery of the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the workplace. This is more than double the 42 participants in 2005 and the six teachers who helped found this program in 2003. Houston ISD had the largest number of schools represented, followed by Alief, Spring Branch, Aldine, Humble – and the newest participating district, Fort Bend. Teachers report learning powerful lessons during their visits, such as, the importance of problem-solving and critical thinking skills, teamwork, communication, technology and deadlines in the workplace. Teachers report a newfound appreciation for soft skills like working in a team and respect for others. During the one-week program, teachers write lesson plans for use in the upcoming school year. At a closing luncheon, teachers and their sponsors reflect on what they’ve learned and how to apply it in the classroom. Throughout the year, lesson plans are assessed by a program coordinator, and, if possible, a company representative. Classroom observations measure the impact of teacher externships on student and teacher learning. Seventy businesses took part in the summer 2006 teacher externships to help bridge the gap between school and work, contributing more than $70,000 for teacher stipends. They represented industries that spanned from accounting, engineering and legal to financial, medical, service, non-profit and energy. For many businesses, it was eye opening to see how teachers are so eager for information, connections and resources.

Executive Principals Houston A+ Challenge, in collaboration with the American Leadership Forum (ALF), provides training and technical support to Houston ISD executive principals in the development of professional learning communities on their campuses. Response was so positive when this program was first offered in 2004-2005 that Houston ISD requested its continuation in 20052006. Washington Mutual provided partial sponsorship to fulfill this request. A total of 19 executive principals meet twice monthly to determine the key conditions needed to implement an effective learning community and to determine what knowledge and information must be shared to build trust. Consultants from Houston A+ Challenge and ALF lead the principals in meetings and action labs. The growth of learning communities and a change in culture is clearly evident. Houston ISD has appointed new executive principals to oversee the development of professional learning communities that align with school feeder patterns. The result has been increased standardization of best practices, which will lead to equal opportunities for student success regardless of which schools students attend.

Regional Senior Fellows The Regional Senior Fellows network is comprised of 48 superintendents, assistant superintendents and executive principals from eight Houston-area school districts who are committed to learning best practices for coaching school principals. They met five times in 2005-2006 under the direction of national consultant Dr. Mary Neuman. Participants report an improvement in their observation, questioning and reflection skills as they work with principals to develop campus action plans. Others are applying their skills to campus and classroom visits and using proven protocols to review student work with content area specialists.

Public Engagement C reating pathways to student success which, in turn, will foster individual and societal economic prosperity requires active support from all stakeholders in the community. That means bringing together parents, businesses, foundations, faith-based organizations, and other community members to become advocates for, and contributors to, system-wide school change. Houston A+ Challenge is seeking to do this through its public engagement initiative aimed at putting the public back in public education. Working across multiple school districts, Houston A+ Challenge is developing a network of parents, teachers, administrators, and community advocates to create effective learning environments in the home, school and community. The four components of this public engagement initiative in 2005-2006 included: Student Voice, which was promoted by James Vollbracht’s presentation, “Creating a Culture that Cares for Kids”, attended by approximately 1,200 participants, and by Search Institute Senior Trainer Clay Roberts’ training on the 40 Developmental Assets that lead to student success Parent Leadership, which was advanced through quarterly meetings where best practices and resources were shared with organizations that support public school parents, and by training at three Houston ISD high schools by The Metropolitan Organization Business/Community Partnerships, which were fostered through the Houston A+ Challenge Teacher Externship program; promoted in monthly meetings of the four model schools in the high school network; resulted in the procurement of key resources through the Kashmere Full Service model; developed Operation School Work by Houston A+, the Mayor’s Office and Communities in Schools to provide 80 former Louisiana educators with positions as teaching assistants to students from New Orleans; and Community Campaigns, which were seen in the Reach Out to Dropouts Walk and the Link Up Houston Citywide Conference with the Texas Association of Partners in Education that promoted the 40 Developmental Assets.

More 2005-2006 Highlights Houston A+ Challenge coordinated three public forums on school finance prior to the special session of the Texas Legislature, which was called to address school finance reform. Houston A+ Challenge partnered with Austin Public Voices to coordinate a public hearing on the effects of federal No Child Left Behind legislation. Feedback from students, parents, teachers and administrators was summarized and sent to the Public Education Network for compilation with other hearings held across the country. Ultimately, Congress will receive this information. Houston A+ Challenge joined with the American Leadership Forum to host the 2006 Convocation on Public Education, which examined the best ways to connect student teaching from Pre-K through college. For the first time ever, Texas’ commissioners of elementary/secondary education and higher education shared the stage. This enabled community and business leaders, educators, students and parents to ask questions about the major issues they face in public education.

Partnership for Quality Education Initiative F or six years, Houston A+ Challenge has joined a holistic approach to education reform that engages university faculty and public school teachers to adopt a P-16 mindset that focuses on improving teacher preparation programs. This P-16 approach, championed by the Partnership for Quality Education Initiative (PQE), has gained momentum in Texas, as evidenced by the formation of regional P-16 councils by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. PQE’s overarching goal is to restructure teacher preparation programs as a critical element in creating the pathway to student success. This collaborative effort between university education programs and school districts is elevating and unifying content knowledge and teaching methods, with emphasis on the use of technology. Representatives to PQE come from Houston A+ Challenge, six Houston area school districts and five Houston colleges and universities. Since its inception in 2000, the PQE has revised 45 courses in math, science, history, political science and language arts at the partner colleges and universities. Four teacher preparation programs have updated the design and delivery of 95 courses. Also, Houston Community College created an alternative certification program modeled after the PQE teacher preparation program design. Fundamental to all coursework is collaboration, increased use of technology, and lesson plans that integrate content from multiple subject areas. The result is schools reporting that their teachers are better prepared. The U.S. Department of Education provided a substantial part of the funding for the five-year PQE initiative. To sustain productive public school programs and promote pre-service teacher preparation that integrates technology and involves content specialists, members of the Regional Faculty work in tandem with the PQE. Their goal is to bring together outstanding Houston-area educators to build leadership capacity and create an ever-evolving P-16+ educational system. In 2005-2006, the Regional Faculty were given greater focus through the creation of a 16-member executive committee. Members include school superintendents, provosts, deans, content experts, businesses, the community, policymakers and school and college/university faculty recognized for their expertise around providing a quality education for all children.

2005-2006 Highlights Collaborations created within and across universities and between schools and universities. Technology integrated into teacher preparation and classroom teaching. Courses changed to include active and interactive learning. Publication of Looking Back, Moving Forward to chronicle the work of PQE.

FI NANCIALS The following information was extracted from financial statements that were audited by an independent accounting firm. A complete set of audited financial statements is available upon request. Houston A+ Challenge is a 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization.

STAT E M E N TS O F F I N A N C I A L P O S I T I O N AS OF JUNE 30, 2005 AND 2006




Cash and cash equivalents Grants receivable Other assets

11,342,299 8,028,184 41,451

10,688,238 13,942,125 66,356


19, 411,934

24,696, 71 9

4,308,128 306,244

4,781,573 238,458

4, 614,372 14,797,562

5,020,031 19,676,688

19, 411,934

24,696, 71 9

Training Fees Interest Income 1% 7%

LIABILITIES AND NET ASSETS: Liabilities: Grants payable Other payables Total liabilities Net assets: TOTAL LIABILITIES AND NET ASSETS

Contributions 92%





Contributions Interest income Training fees

2,129,258 425,926 21,600

2,351,166 188,792 18,000

Total revenue



High school reform Challenge network Leadership and professional development Higher education

4,645,483 1, 777,191 513,252 248,915

4,947,347 1,488,769 628,015 261,398

Total program expenses Management and general Fundraising

7,184,841 167,565 103,504

7,325,529 156,652 95,763

Total expenses






Fundraising 1%



Program Services 97%


Management and General 2%

DONORS 2005-2006

$4 Million The Annenberg Foundation $2 Million The Brown Foundation $1.5 Million The Carnegie Corporation of New York $100,000 ExxonMobil Foundation $50,000 to $99,000 Coalition of Essential Schools U.S. Department of Education McGovern Foundation $25,000 to $49,000 Asia Society * Wedge Group, Inc. $10,000 to $24,000 Baylor College of Medicine Centerpoint Energy Duke Energy Corporation Powell Foundation Simmons Foundation The Wachovia Foundation Washington Mutual, Inc.

* In-kind donation

$1,000 to $9,000 Amegy Bank, N.A. Baker Hughes, Inc. Bank of America, N.A. Consular Ladies Club of Houston El Paso Corporate Foundation Enbridge Energy Partners Foundation for Orange County Public Schools Greater Houston Partnership Houston Chronicle HP Joe B. Foster Family Foundation Johnson Performance Kelly Services, Inc. The Samuels Foundation Shell Oil Company Texas Children’s Hospital Vinson & Elkins, L.L.P. Wells Fargo $999 and below Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, L.L.P. City of Houston Combined-Municipal Campaign Epstein Becker Wickliff & Hall P.C. Fiesta Mart, Inc. Harris and Eliza Kempner Fund Horizon Wind Energy Intekrity Michaelann Kelley Audrey T. MacLean Malcolm Pirnie Inc. Daniel M. and Karol K. Musher Oceaneering International, Inc. Pappas Restaurants Margaret Lotterhos Smith Tellepsen Family Fund Dr. and Mrs. Peter K. Thompson Elizabeth D. Williams Winstead Sechrest

BOARD (2005-2006) CHAIR Harry M. Reasoner Senior Partner Vinson & Elkins, L.L.P. PRESIDENT Joe B. Foster Founder Newfield Exploration Company SECRETARY Ann Friedman, Ph.D. Community Volunteer Leonel J. Castillo Mayor’s Office (Retired) City Hall Jonathan Day Co-Chair Andrews & Kurth, L.L.P. Michael Dee Managing Director Morgan Stanley Roberto Gonzalez Vice President Employment & Training Centers, Inc. H. Devon Graham, Jr. President R. E. Smith Interests, Inc. Jenard M. Gross Gross Investments Steven L. Miller Chairman & President SLM Discovery Ventures, Inc. Karol Musher, M.A., CCC-SLP Speech-Language Pathologist Texas Children’s Hospital Maconda Brown O’Connor, Ph.D. Chairman The Brown Foundation J. Victor Samuels Chairman Victory Packaging, Inc. Yava Scott Community Volunteer

Credits: Editor

Nan Powers Varoga


Henry Hunt/New Pencil Design

1415 Louisiana, Box 9 Houston, Tx 77002 713.658.1881 / 713.739.0166 (fax) www.houstonaplus.org

Andrea White Community Volunteer Randa Duncan Williams President Enterprise Products Company Rosie Zamora President Houston Wilderness, Inc.

Profile for Houston A+ Challenge

2006 Annual Report  

Houston A+ Challenge's 2006 Annual Report

2006 Annual Report  

Houston A+ Challenge's 2006 Annual Report