Digital learning in the spotlight for February

During the month of February, all HISD teachers are being encouraged to try something new in their classrooms, as well as share ideas, resources, and lessons learned by posting their experiences and photos on social media using the hashtag #HISDdigital. Each week during the month, we are profiling a teacher who is using technology to break up the rows in their classrooms, engage their students, and innovate their instructional practice. This week’s profile features Austin High School teacher George Caldwell.

Veteran social studies teacher George Caldwell admits that when he first heard about PowerUp, HISD’s districtwide digital transformation effort, he was a little nervous and scared.

“I wasn’t very comfortable using technology in my classroom, but I decided to grab a laptop cart and let my kids know that we were going to figure this out together. They use technology every day in their lives, and we as teachers need to meet them where they are.”

A year later, all of Caldwell’s students at Austin High School have their own laptops, and he is much more comfortable using technology in his daily instruction. He’s also embraced the PowerUp:HUB, HISD’s online teaching and learning platform, as a way to facilitate student discussion and collaboration in his classroom.

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HISD teachers, campus staff earn $21.9 million for student achievement gains

The Houston Independent School District on Wednesday awarded $21.9 million in bonuses to 5,771 educators whose students made the largest academic gains during the 2013-2014 school year.

The bonuses were distributed as part of the ASPIRE Award Program, which aims to recognize the impact of teachers, administrators and other campus-based employees who are accelerating students’ progress and helping them improve significantly. Continue reading

Twenty-seven HISD students land 2015 all-state ensemble seats

More than two dozen HISD students earned a spot on a Texas Music Educators Association All-State Ensemble this year.

Trumpeter Esmeralda Sandoval (Waltrip HS) and baritone saxophonist Grace Estrada (Westside HS), as well as five students from Bellaire High School and 20 from the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, will perform in various groups during the TMEA’s annual convention in February.

All-State is the highest honor a Texas music student can receive. Approximately 1,750 students were selected through a process that began with more than 64,000 students from around the state vying for the honor to perform in one of 15 ensembles (bands, orchestras, and choirs).

Last year marked the first time a Westside student had ever been selected, and the same student (Grace Estrada, now a senior) is returning this year. You can read more about her achievement in this school-based newsletter.

Where the wild things are: Red ES students get up-close with critters

Anne Eisner from the Nature Discovery Center acquaints Red ES STEM magnet students with wildlife.

Anne Eisner from the Nature Discovery Center acquaints Red ES STEM magnet students with wildlife.

Students at HISD’s Red Elementary School welcomed naturalist Anne Eisner from Bellaire’s Nature Discovery Center on Feb. 4-5 — along with a veritable menagerie of amphibians, reptiles, and mammals.

The creatures helped impart new facts about vertebrates and invertebrates, and students learned a valuable lesson about how to interact safely with wild animals. While all the animals were popular with the students, a black rabbit named Licorice stole the show.

Red ES is a STEM magnet school that emphasizes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math by providing extra classes and presentations by organizations such as the Nature Discovery Center.

HSPVA alumnus bringing Black History Month to life for HISD students

Jason Moran poses for a photograph at HSPVA, February 3, 2015. (Houston ISD/Dave Einsel)

Jason Moran poses for a photograph at HSPVA, February 3, 2015. (Houston ISD/Dave Einsel)

Jazz pianist Jason Moran to collaborate with three schools on community art project

It’s one thing to hear about inspiring, but long-dead, historic figures as a part of Black History Month, but it’s another entirely to have a living, breathing legend in your classroom—and almost beyond imagining that as a student, you might get to work alongside that person on a creative project.

But that is exactly what students at three HISD schools will be doing over the next couple of years, as a part of the Jason Moran Homecoming Residency sponsored by Da Camera.

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HISD student athletes commit to play college sports on National Signing Day

More than 90 of HISD’s top student athletes committed to taking their academic and athletic talent to the college level as part of National Signing Day on Wednesday, February 4.

The HISD ceremony at the Region IV Education Service Center, aimed to recognize the students’ formal commitment to continue their education and sports careers at colleges and universities around the country. During the event, students signed symbolic certificates of intent to continue their careers in baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse, swimming, tennis, track and field, volleyball, and wrestling.

Among the highlights:

  • More than 50 HISD senior boys will continue their football careers in college, including 11 from Lamar High School, seven each from Reagan and Wheatley high schools, six from Kashmere High School, five from Furr High School, and four each from Madison, Sterling, and Westside high schools.
  • Five HISD senior girls will run track and field in college.
  • Eleven senior boys and four senior girls will play college basketball.

Traditionally, National Signing Day has been reserved for senior high school football players completing their letters of intent with colleges and universities. But, for the past six years, HISD has included both female and male athletes from all sports to showcase the district’s athletic talent. Additional athletic commitments also are expected after Signing Day.

During the event, students heard from featured speaker Antonio Armstrong, a Kashmere High School graduate, former NFL player, and owner of Houston-based 1st Class Training, as well as HISD Director of Athletics Marmion Dambrino, HISD Board of Education President Rhonda Skillern-Jones, HISD Board of Education Trustee Wanda Adams, and representatives from the Houston Positive Coaches Alliance.

Click here to view a list of the 2014-2015 HISD student athlete signees.

100 days and counting at HISD schools

Creative HISD teachers couldn’t let the 100th day of school Tuesday pass without using the occasion as an opportunity for learning and fun.

From teachers and students pretending to be 100 years old to math counting lessons to making posters, HISD students celebrated being 100 days smarter than they were on the first day of school.

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National School Counselor Week shines spotlight on changing role

Dean of Students Tiphaine Shaw works with Furr HS student Javeona Sudduth.

Dean of Students Tiphaine Shaw works with Furr HS student Javeona Sudduth.

National School Counselor Week runs from Feb. 2–6 this year, and HISD encourages students and parents to take time out to express their appreciation of these hard-working professionals.

The role of the school counselor has evolved quite a bit in the wake of House Bill 5, which began requiring freshmen to identify their areas of interest this school year so that they could choose a high school with the endorsement they desired. 

“The main thing that’s happening is school counselors are doing a lot more guidance in terms of leading kids to careers and post-secondary options,” said Furr High School Dean of Students Tiphaine Shaw. “It’s about connecting them with their goals a lot earlier, so that instead of just recruiting kids to come to our campus, with the new career pathways, we’re showing them how coming to our school would connect them with their future.”
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Austin HS students get to experience tugboat life

Austin HS junior Martin Delgado sits at the controls of the tugboat, ZEUS.

Austin HS junior Martin Delgado sits at the controls of the tugboat, ZEUS.

Six students from Austin High School’s maritime academy spent the morning of Jan. 30 aboard one of the newest and most technologically advanced harbor tugs on the Houston Ship Channel.

Representatives from G & H Towing Company on the 80-foot ZEUS took a break from assisting waterborne commerce to allow the students—all juniors in the maritime program—to spend some time on deck, in the wheelhouse, and in the engine room, learning about the types of careers available on the Houston waterfront.

Retired Coast Guard Master Chief John Buchanan, who serves as the lead maritime instructor at Austin, brought innovation and 30 years of his own shipboard and leadership experience to the maritime academy, and this is the latest in a string of initiatives designed to get students thinking about employment opportunities and excited to contribute to the Houston economy.

Austin High School is situated a few blocks away from the Houston Ship Channel, one of the city’s economic engines for the past 100 years.

“Very few of our students are even aware of the many opportunities right here in front of them,” Buchanan said. “Many of these jobs are stable, high-paying, and often do not require a four-year college education.”

Under the direction of new Principal Steve Guerrero, Buchanan is expanding the school’s maritime program to ensure opportunities for both college-bound and non-college-bound graduates.

Junior Martin Delgado had the chance to sit at the controls of the powerful harbor tug and experience first-hand the duties of her crew. “Maritime is full of opportunities,” said Delgado. “Visiting these tugs is an example of the stuff we get to do. How many teenagers get to say they’ve been on a tug?”

Austin is one of two HISD high schools that offers a maritime academy. The other is Yates.

Dozens of students win regional recognition through Scholastic contest

A Gold Key winning painting entitled "Childhood," by Carnegie Vanguard HS student Oulu Li

A Gold Key winning painting entitled “Childhood,” by Carnegie Vanguard HS student Oulu Li

More than 120 students from 11 different HISD schools earned recognition at the regional level of the Scholastic Art & Writing competition this year, which qualifies them to advance to the national level of judging in New York City.

Forty-two students won the Gold Key award, while 31 took home Silver Key awards, and the remainder earned Honorable Mention.

Westside High School student Christine Willis was also the only HISD student to be named an American Visions finalist. American Visions and American Voices nominees are considered regional “best of show” winners in art and writing (respectively). Each receives a $250 scholarship from sponsor Texas Arts Supply, and one in each category will earn the national medal in March.

The winning entries were selected from approximately 5,000 submissions at the regional level. Visit the HCDE website to see a complete list of winners. Other HISD students on the list are from: Bellaire, Carnegie Vanguard, DeBakey, Waltrip, and Westside high schools; Pershing and Pin Oak middle schools; T.H. Rogers, The Rice School, and the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.