High Schools That Work
Technical Assistance Visit
Furr High School
October 30 – November 1
My Personal Journey, and
A Personal Invitation….
SREB builds on strengths, using data
SREB provides the framework, but Furr
provides the individualization
SREB allows staff members to connect to a
network of similar schools who are trying
research-based improvement initiatives
SREB allows staff members to learn and grow
“The more you do, the more you CAN do.
The more you enable your students to do,
the higher your professional capacity is.”
What Does This Mean to Me?
“I’m already doing my “There are so many
best, and being challenges, it’s often
successful with my overwhelming.”
students, so what’s in
it for me?” “The pressure of
TAKS is what drives
“I just do my thing in me most.”
my classroom. I can’t
control the entire “If I can just get my
school.” kids to graduate, I’ve
done my job.”
“I’m too new at this
to be expected to do “I’ve been doing this
everything.” so long. I can’t
Some progressive thoughts…
If I join a focus group, maybe I’ll learn something useful
and meet new colleagues.
If I push my students to be lifelong learners, shouldn’t I
be the same?
Is there a better way out there?
Using wise practices makes everyone wiser.
I won’t allow myself to be the barrier to progress.
The best and worst thing about teaching is that you can
always learn more, do more, achieve more.
The Furr Potential
Furr is… Furr can be…
Caring and nurturing Exemplary
Intelligent Successful for ALL
Committed to Setting the standard
excellence for research and wise
“Snapshot” as seen by those
external to your school. The team:
– Interviewed students, teachers, parents,
administrators and others
– Observed classrooms
– Reviewed data and plans
– Heard presentations
Review of school and classroom
Use as a tool to further school
Site Coordinator and Administrators
Teachers and students
The team wants to specifically recognize
the students for their polite, positive
attitudes. They were welcoming and
undistracted by our presence.
TAV Team Members
Scott Warren Saralyn Richard
Rose Avalos Martha Quijano
Robert Lann Perkins Debra Rimmer-
Lurlean Dixon Majorca
Robin Raibon Willie Spencer
Kevin McDonald Jean Hall
Components of theTAV Report
• Promising Practices
• Next Steps
• Challenges and Action Steps
Increasing expectations and
providing extra help
• Daily objectives and student work were posted in most classrooms.
• In a state where athletics is often emphasized, the Furr “Super Stars” are
prominently displayed in the main entrance in caps and gowns.
• Most teachers kept students involved in lessons, not permitting anyone to opt out.
• High expectations were evident in cosmetology and CAST classes, where math
and science concepts were being taught.
• One teacher said, “I care about how many of my students complete college, not
how many go. I try to give projects that require the high level work to prepare
students for life.”
• Several high level lessons and assignments were observed, especially in the
magnet school classes.
• Smart boards were in use in several classrooms.
• Furr has hired a new math teacher to pull out repeated failed students for test
preparation tutorials during the second semester. One math teacher had tutorial
times posted on his door, and an English teacher provides re-teaching and extra
help during 6th period daily. Another math teacher invites students to use
calculators and work on their homework in his classroom during lunch periods.
• The REACH program provides credit recovery opportunities, and several regular
Southern teachers cross over to work with REACH students during the school day.
Regional • Life Skills students are given assistance in searching for jobs and writing resumes
by an employment director.
Education • The 2006 TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) scores for Furr made
Board AYP (adequate yearly progress). YAY!!!
Continuous review and revision of the academic
and career/tech curriculum to meet student
• The CAST program has an alliance with the American General Contractors
Association and an internship with Baylor University. Building trades classes
are receiving OSHA training for certification in December.
• The dual credit computer maintenance students are working toward A+
• Another dual credit course in math is offered in cooperation with Houston
• The AVID program expectations and strategies are being used in ESL, PE, and
• Coop students have jobs as Shell, Exxon, the Houston Chronicle, banks, and
• Literacy strategies, including the use of lexiles to evaluate reading materials
throughout the school, have resulted in eliminating textbooks in favor of a
standards-based curriculum, and the use of literature and poetry in the ESL
• Classes in Russian are producing students who are successfully competing at
the state level.
• An English teacher, who noticed his students were having difficulty
understanding humor in the written word, developed a unit in understanding
Southern written humor, culminating in a project illustrating mastery of the concepts.
Regional • Two social studies teachers had students engaged in gubernatorial debates
and pictorial riddles of famous Americans.
Education • Daily journals were also required in several classes.
Several examples of students engaged in
There was an art-English integrated project in one classroom.
CAST classes were planning to build a fountain on campus, using
English and math in its creation. High level math formulas were in
use. Students were competing with their various designs; the
winning design will be used.
One social studies class has no tests, only projects and essays. A
student said, “We do real stuff in here, not book stuff.”
There was an integrated BCIS-science-math project.
Integration of technology
Smart boards were in use in several classes of different disciplines.
Social studies class was doing research reports in four stages. The
final stage was a Power Point.
Cosmetology class uses five computers.
Some classes incorporated music, Power Points, movie clips in
Southern student presentations.
Regional One class used EdMark software as enrichment.
Several examples of students engaged
in challenging learning, continued
Lots of examples of students working in pairs/groups in English and
AVID and REACH used common instructional practices.
Social studies class used animated, interactive discussions.
Life Skills teachers were giving excellent training in housekeeping
tools, following directions, and controlling emotions.
Advanced literacy and numeracy strategies across the curriculum
Use of Cornell notes, graphic organizers, pictorial representations of
World history class defined “paganism,” using literacy strategies.
Social studies class presented pictorial clues to describe famous
Americans, attempting to stump the class and teacher with riddles.
Cosmetology students were required to do a daily journal related to
a real-world setting.
Southern High level assignments and assessments in English, plus
commendations and recommendations for improvement.
Debates about gubernatorial elections were held.
Advanced assignment and assessment in dance; students
Board performed and interpreted at high levels.
Commitment to developing a
Guidance and Advisement System
Efforts are underway at FHS to improve guidance
and advisement to meet the needs of students
and their parents.
FHS has a Go Center to encourage a college-bound
REACH assignments have career orientations.
There is an ESL Parent Liaison who meets with
parents, takes students to the Go Center, and advises
students and parents about college matters.
A second counselor and a college access coordinator
have been hired to assist in creating a college-bound
Advocacy and Expedition sessions meet weekly to
provide adult mentoring to students in mixed-grade
Teachers have support of system of
School and district administration are providing quality leadership and support to
improve student achievement.
The leadership team participated in a mountain-climbing event in Colorado,
from which came the school’s philosophy and mission statement.
To provide support for an instructional focus and embed professional
development, the administrative structure was reorganized from one principal
and two assistant principals to a principal and a team of professionals with
Weekly book study creates common terminology and ideas.
The bi-weekly academy meetings and tri-weekly PLC meetings provide
opportunities for exchanges of ideas and common practices.
The weekly gathering allows participants to reflect on specific topics, as well
as to celebrate successes and reaffirm philosophy and goals.
Principal appoints teachers to an Instructional Council, which meets to
improve instruction in all classrooms.
All leadership team members have been trained in and use Carolyn Downey’s
reflective walkthrough strategies.
There is a nurturing environment for teachers. Those struggling are given
extensive help in lesson planning, classroom management, and other
Southern professional development topics.
Regional Board member expressed full support for any initiatives that would enhance
student achievement at Furr.
Leadership team members expressed a willingness to work hard, work late,
Board work on weekends, whatever it takes to “make Furr students soar.”
Next Steps Planned by FHS
Take advantage of professional development from David
Ramirez on how to use data (INOVA).
Build a Fine Arts magnet school for 2007-08.
Investigate implementing the Project Lead the Way course
sequence as a high level C/T program.
Train teachers on more effective use of Smart Boards.
Expand the use of Achieve 3000 program.
Expand the AVID program strategies to include the entire
Participate in SIOP training to improve student readiness
for college-preparatory coursework.
Develop leadership among staff members, including
teacher-leaders and administrators, to improve support
and sustainability of all school improvement initiatives.
Challenge #1: To create a college-
readiness culture for all students by
raising academic expectations across
Set a goal to have 85 percent of graduating students
complete a solid academic core add higher-level courses,
such as dual credit, pre-AP and AP courses;
Revise course offerings to ensure that all courses prepare
students for college and career success;
Institutionalize the AVID ideals for all students, across all
Implement a redo policy and a re-teach policy;
Work through the College Access Coordinator to train
teachers on college readiness checklists, writing
Southern recommendations, conducting SAT preparation activities,
and preparing FAFSA and other financial aid forms.
Challenge #2: Engage students in
rigorous instruction in all
Deepen the schoolwide literacy focus through the use of SREB
literacy goals and implement a school-wide plan for
improvement in literacy across the curriculum.
Establish demonstration classrooms.
Provide staff development in the areas of asking higher level
questions and cultivating higher level answers (Lynn Erickson’s
Structure of Knowledge, Socratic seminar, project-based
learning, and integration of academic and vocational
Continue to provide lesson planning training for those who need
Have all teachers present their best lessons at department and
PLC meetings on a rotating schedule.
Set expectations for follow-up use of staff development
Challenge #3: Create an improved
guidance and advisement system,
including a comprehensive
Create a true developmental counseling program in
which counselors and advocates:
Create four- to six-year plans and personal graduation
Involve parents in student course planning and selection,
Host college and career fairs during the school day, and
Create a program of study booklet that articulates broad
career concentrations and courses students should take to
meet business and industry standards.
Make broader use of the Bridges career exploration
Consider making Furr an SAT and ACT test site.
Refine the advocacy/expedition program to concentrate
on college/career readiness, including a parent
Challenge #4: Improve the academy
structure by upgrading academics and
Use surveys and community input to refine the academy
structure to fit the size of the school and the needs of the
Reorganize leadership around the new academy format
to ensure that each has an instructional leader,
Adopt new kinds of career/technical (CT) programs, such
as Project Lead the Way, that challenge students with
rigorous academics and a career focus.
Require every student to complete four courses in either
Southern a math-science, a humanities, or a career/technical
Challenge #5: Create an intervention
program for extra help for all students,
particularly for seniors failing TAKS.
Create a systematic plan for continous re-teaching
and redoing of work to meet standards, making sure
the emphasis is on acceleration rather than
Consider an embedded extra help period within the
school day in an effort to make additional instruction
Investigate the use of online assistance programs,
content-area study teams, a mastery approach to
Southern algebra providing variable learning time, and use of
Regional community tutoring programs.
Challenge #6: Continue working to
create an effective ninth-grade
Designate an administrator and counselor to focus
solely on the needs of freshmen.
Support ninth-graders with effective orientation,
including tours during the eighth grade year,
welcoming newsletters describing the freshman
opportunities and teaching staff (also produced in
Spanish), peer tutors, upperclass mentors, and a
strong advocacy curriculum.
Consider reinstating summer bridge programs, and
double periods of English and mathematics for those
who may need extra time.
Select a team of English and math teachers to
participate in SREB’s 9th grade transition course
training in the summer of 2007, implementing the
Board courses in Fall, 2007.
Summary of Challenges
The overriding challenge for FHS is to create a college-
readiness culture for all students by raising academic
expectations across the school.
To engage students in rigorous instruction in all
To create an improved guidance and advisement system,
including a comprehensive counseling/guidance system.
To improve the academy structure by upgrading
academics and career/technical programs.
To create an intervention program for extra help for all
students, particularly for seniors who have failed TAKS.
To continue to create a ninth-grade transition program.
Review all data including TAV
Establish teacher focus teams
Use your data to select and
prioritize action steps
Develop/integrate new three-
year action plans and get
– Interim Timelines and
Working Together to Make Furr
Soar (make the Furr fly)!
Many resources, one goal
– TAV Team
– Texas High School Project
– SREB and High Schools That Work
– Latest research on wise practices
– Dedicated and enthusiastic faculty and
staff at Furr
– Parents and community who support
– Above all, students who deserve
our very best efforts!
TAV Team Appreciation and Support
The Technical Assistance Team wishes to thank you
for your hospitality, cooperation, and helpfulness
during the site visit. THANK YOU!
Dr. Simmons, Principal
Mr. Serenil and Ms. Wiggins, Asst. Principals
Ms. Whitford, School Improvement Facilitator
Ms. Borzon, Literacy Coach
Mr. Sondhi, College Access Coordinator
Department Chairs and PLC Facilitators
Regional Counselors, Title I Coordinator
Education Ms. Avalos, THSP Program Manager
Board Ms. Richard, THSP School Improvement Consultant
School Improvement Consultant