: High on the Hog Blog
Purveyor of Idle Observation

Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at

Charlie Rose talks with Teach for America Founder Wendy Kopp

Charlie Rose featured an interview with Wendy Kopp, the Founder of Teach for America (official website) last week. For anyone interested in education the conversation is a fascinating one, following the recent publication of her book One Day, All Children…: The Unlikely Triumph Of Teach For America And What I Learned Along The Way.

I’m fascinated with Teach for America as a program. It’s most impressive accomplishment in my opinion, is not teacher recruitment or classroom performance, on which most commentators in educational circles understandably focus, but on Kopp’s more ambitious purpose in raising a generation of leaders who understand teaching from the inside. I’ve run into a number of Teach for America alums here in Houston, most of whom are no longer teaching but who remain deeply committed to the issues they were exposed to through the experience. Kopp’s original inspiration, to create an alternative to allow America’s top graduates to explore careers that offered a more meaningful impact on their society than the corporate jobs many were being recruited for, has been a wild success.

Those who have stayed in teaching are doing some remarkable things. KIPP Academy, a charter school founded by Teach for America alums Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg and Chris Barbic’s YES Prep have become widely recognized as exemplary schools. I’ve taught in KIPP’s saturday school as part of the Street Law program at the University of Houston Law Center and the mindset of the kids is remarkable.

Kung Fu Dancing with Cats

Photoshopped, unless my spidey-sense deceives me, but brilliantly so. via ffffound!

Houston Ready for its Close Up, Bucks National Economic Trend

Daniel Gross has nominated Houston as the poster child for bucking the recent downturn in the economy in Newsweek’s Houston, We Have No Problems: Houston has become a sort of Silicon Valley for the global energy industry. Urban cowboy? Think suburban geek.

To find a hot spot where soaring oil and commodity prices, and the booming economies of the developing world, are keeping cash registers ringing and construction crews fully employed, you don’t have to trek to Dubai or Moscow. You need travel only as far as Houston. In May, the unemployment rate in the nation’s sixth largest metropolitan area was a measly 3.8 percent. In the past year, Houston-based companies, which include 26 Fortune 500 firms, added 71,000 jobs to their payrolls.

It’s not an altogether unfamiliar role, as the soaring energy prices that sap the margins of industries in other parts of the country tend to fill the coffers of the energy complex that dominates Houston’s economy. As Gross notes, however, Houston has outgrown it’s rough and tumble wildcatter heritage to become an engineering haven built on the minds oil has attracted over the years. For instance, this statistic surprised even me – “The city’s biggest employer: the Texas Medical Center, the nonprofit megaplex that runs two medical schools and 14 hospitals.”

Similar sentiments lead Kiplinger magazine to vote Houston the Best City to Live, Work and Play for 2008 in their annual rankings. The reasons it cites are heavy on the economic scale, with Houston’s higher than average average income and lower than average cost of living tipping the scales in its favor.

Population: 5,542,048
Population Growth Since 2000: 14.9%
Percentage of Workforce in Creative Class: 31.3%
Cost-of-Living Index: 88.1 (100 being national average)
Median Household Income: $50,250
Income Growth Since 2000: 13.1%

Other links of interest: Houstonist, Houston Strategies