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The IDRA Newsletter is published 10 times a year. Each edition focuses on issues in education, striving to provide many different perspectives on the topics covered and to define its significance in the state and national dialogue. The IDRA Newsletter can only be mailed to U.S.addresses, but pdf and web copies are available online.

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May 2015 Issue ~ Articles


Current Issue:
May 2015

Focus ~ Language

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Newsletter Executive Editor
María "Cuca" Robledo Montecel, Ph.D.

ISSN 1069-5672

English Language Learners and the Future of Texas – An Overview of Symposium Discussions, Policy Implications and Next Steps
More than 90 educators, university faculty and staff, state policymakers, researchers, and civic and community leaders gathered for the first annual IDRA José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellows Program symposium in February. At the event, Dr. Oscar Jimenez Castellanos, IDRA’s inaugural Jose A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellow recipient, shared his key findings from a year-long study of secondary level ELL programs in Texas. In this article, Albert Cortez, Ph.D., shares highlights from the research and the discussions about pressing reform issues and policy recommendations for improving the educational outcomes.

Federal Guidance on Schools’ Civil Rights Obligations for English Learners
On January 7 of this year, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice issued a significant guidance document concerning the obligations that school districts and states education agencies have in providing equal access for English language learners to a quality education. It comes at a time when diversity in public schools continues to increase. ELL students are protected by law to an equitable education with equitable outcomes of student success. Kristin Grayson, Ph.D., outlines the obligations of school districts as presented in the federal guidance.


 Listen to our Classnotes podcast episode on Civil Rights Update for English Learners – Episode 150 


The Role of Conversation – Engaging Students in Critical Thinking through Dialogue
Although teachers may be proficient in their subject area knowledge, many do not employ instructional strategies that engage students in academic discourse. In this article Paula Johnson, M.A., will investigates the role that conversation plays throughout instruction toward building teacher capacity and student self-efficacy in subject matter knowledge. Providing teachers with professional learning in the use of instructional conversations and higher-order questioning is a critical element in laying the foundation for meaningful learning.


Listen to our Classnotes podcast episode on Substantive Conversation in the Classroom – Episode 130 


IDRA Analyses Show Texas Equity Gaps would Widen under Proposed School Funding Measure – Data Presented in Texas House Public Education Committee Hearing on CSHB 1759
Two school finance proposals were offered during this Texas Legislative session in an attempt to improve the way Texas funds it public schools following the Texas District Court ruling that the Texas school finance system violates the Texas Constitution, finding that the current funding system is “constitutionally inadequate, unsuitable and financially inefficient.” While one would have provided greater funding equity than the other, neither proposal will succeed during this session. IDRA has outlined minimal features that must be assured in analyzing any plan that is put forward.  

Meet Paula Johnson, M.A., IDRA Education Associate
This year, the IDRA Newsletter is highlighting our staff’s varied and diverse talents and backgrounds. Paula Johnson, M.A., is a member of IDRA’s Department of Educational Transformation and Innovation. She also serves as an equity specialist for the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity, a federally-funded equity assistance center. Ms. Johnson has served in the education field for nearly 20 years. Though she has a passion for teaching and learning, she possesses an artistic side. Throughout her life, Paula has performed on stages: dancing, singing, acting, reciting poetry and playing the flute. 


May 2015 Issue ~ Newsletter Plus    

Classnotes podcasts on languageA

Building Critical Thinking through Visual Literacy – Episode 140

The Role of Bilingual Ed and ESL in Our Schools – Episode 138

What Parents Need to Know about Bilingual Education – Episode 115

Bilingual Stories for Young Learners – Episode 80

Science Success for English Learners – Episode 93

IDRA José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellows Program Symposium Webpage – Get information and resources from IDRA’s  inaugural symposium for the IDRA José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellow Program on February 3, 2015, in San Antonio. Dr. Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos presented his research findings on securing educational equity and excellence for English language learners in Texas secondary schools.

Watch the video from IDRA’s symposium: School Funding and English Language Learners


Federal guidelines on schools’ civil rights obligations for serving ELLs


Call for Applications for IDRA José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellows Program – IDRA is inviting research applications for the IDRA José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellows Program. This will be the second round of this new fellows program to support research that will inform efforts to secure equitable funding of public schools across the country.


7 strategies for instruction of English learners in science
From IDRA’s publication: Science Instructional Strategies for English Learners ~ A Guide for Elementary and Secondary Grades. This is a practical resource with seven research-based strategies for instruction of English learners in science with teaching learning premises, research support, essential teacher competencies, and steps for strategy implementation – along with a matrix of techniques for implementation.  

Good Schools and Classrooms for Children Learning English: A Guide
IDRA rigorously studied exemplary bilingual education programs in schools across the nation. See the 25 common characteristics that contribute to high academic performance of students served by bilingual education programs.    

Semillitas de Aprendizaje Bilingual Classroom Materials!
Semillitas de Aprendizaje is a bilingual (Spanish/English) supplemental early childhood curriculum, developed by IDRA, based on the art of storytelling. The materials are designed for literacy development with beautifully illustrated and culturally-relevant materials for 3- and 4-year-old children and include: A set of 10 Big Books, 10 corresponding unabridged storybooks, 15 Math Books focusing on numeracy and social-emotional development, 20 Cartitas – Letters Home (10 English, 10 Spanish) with family activities for teachers to send home for parents, a Teacher Guide (Manual de Maestro) with 10 units in 196 pages to lead your students through the Semillitas de aprendizaje stories (Each unit has a set of classroom activities that include a morning song, storytelling, literacy connection with STEM explorations, center activities, phonemic awareness, writing and alphabet knowledge, English transition, family connections and informal assessment), and – now available for pre-order – Storytelling-Storyreading Video DVD that brings the stories to life through engaging storytelling in Spanish and storyreading in English. 


IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework™



 Courage to Connect: A Quality Schools Action Framework
At a time when public education makes a world of difference to our students, communities and economic success, many are looking for strategies that will work for them and that will last. Courage to Connect: A Quality Schools Action Framework shows how communities and schools can work together to strengthen their capacity to be successful with all of their students.


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