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Saturday, 10 October 2015

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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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September 2015 Issue ~ Articles


Current Issue:
September 2015

Focus ~ Teaching Quality


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

ISSN 1069-5672

The “Win-Win” of Quality – Accelerated Teacher Certification
Like other states, Texas is facing a dramatic teacher shortage, particularly in key areas, like bilingual/English as a second language, math, science, and special education. One reason is the often lack of sufficient support and mentoring for first- and second-year teachers. Linda Cantú, Ph.D., describes IDRA’s work in culturally-relevant coaching and mentoring of teachers through a series of Transition to Teaching programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education that have led to certification and placement of 600 new teachers.

Video series: Learning While Teaching A Conversation with New Teachers. The women featured in this video series were participants in IDRA’s Caminos project, which prepares mid-career professionals and recent graduates as teachers with EC-6 bilingual/ESL certification, with an optional certification in special education.

Quality Instruction for English Learners – Getting it Right in Writing!
Writing is one of the most difficult skills for English learners to master. It can be difficult because it involves so many aspects of language, including syntax (grammar), vocabulary, verb tenses, articles, spelling, transition words, and idioms. In this article, Kristin Grayson, Ph.D., summarizes some of the latest research about providing English learners with quality writing instruction. She includes sample activities for the language or classroom teacher.

Court Can End Neglect of Millions of School Children – Texas Supreme Court School Finance Hearing Held
On September 1, the Texas Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the largest school finance case in the state’s history, Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition vs. Williams. The hearing came 369 days after the Texas District Court ruled that the state’s funding system is “constitutionally inadequate, unsuitable and financially inefficient.” Much is at stake as the court decides whether or not to ensure that the state provides equal educational opportunity not for just some, but for all, of its children. Get key resources, like links to the trial’s livestream, a key amicus brief, podcasts, infographics and more.

Listen to our Classnotes Podcast episode: “Key Issues in the Texas School Funding Trial,” with David Hinojosa, J.D., IDRA National Director of Policy, who prior to joining IDRA was MALDEF’s lead counsel in the current Texas school finance case. 

Considering Multiple Intelligences Theory for English Learner Classrooms
A teacher’s challenge is to create a classroom within a learning environment to help all students. Teachers can, through Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory, provide various instruction strategies that will lead students to reach levels of success and acquire learning in all content areas. In this article, Sulema Carreón-Sánchez, Ph.D., discusses how the multiple intelligences theory can help teachers who are serving classrooms with diverse learners. 

Meet Kristin Grayson, Ph.D., IDRA Education Associate
This year, the IDRA Newsletter is highlighting our staff’s varied and diverse talents and backgrounds. Kristin Grayson, Ph.D., provides training and technical assistance to school districts, teachers and parents to improve student achievement particularly in the area of gender equity, race relations and English learners. Aside from her professional interests, she has a lifelong focus on family and friends. She is originally from the Chicago area and maintains close relations with her family, who now live in vast parts of the United States and around the world.

We’re here to help!
See How IDRA’s Training and Technical Assistance Can Help Your School or District
With an unwavering commitment to student success, IDRA services provide innovative, practical and sustainable solutions for diverse student populations based on the unique needs of each district, campus or classroom. A few examples of assistance packages include:

  • Assessing and Elevating the Education of English Language Learners Districtwide
  • Transforming Early Childhood Programs to Centers of Excellence
  • Using Semillitas de Aprendizaje™ in the Classroom
  • Coaching and Mentoring Novice Teachers in Culturally Diverse Classroom Settings
  • Implementing Engagement-based Sheltered Instruction
  • Building Authentic Parent and Community Engagement
  • Creating a College Readiness Culture for Success
  • Integrating Math and Science Instructional Strategies for English Learners
  • Mastering Dropout Prevention with the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program
  • Building and Sustaining Professional Learning Communities
  • Conducting Research and Evaluation

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. The Call for Applications packet is online now. IDRA will select one or more fellows who will dedicate themselves to a period of intense study and writing in school finance. This second round José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellow will be selected for a defined period beginning in early 2016.


September 2015 Issue ~ Newsletter Plus

Classnotes podcasts on teaching quality

A Valuing Professional Development Model – Episode 143

A Principal on Supporting Teachers for Student College Readiness – Episode 128

Reflective Teaching – Episode 61

Coaching and Mentoring New Teachers – Episode 24

Key Issues in the Texas School Funding Trial – Episode 155 


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.


Ensuring High Teaching Quality to Tap Into Students’ Strengths
In this interview for IDRA’s Equity Hub, PS279 principal Jean Dalton Encke in the Bronx talks about how she uses data and systems to monitor teacher effectiveness and student achievement to ensure that students are succeeding. Having grown up in the Bronx herself, she is passionate about using students’ strengths to help them learn and prepare for college. She has brought in IDRA’s Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program and has a partnership with Lehman College to bolster both literacy learning and exposure to college for students, many of whom may not have seen graduation and college as a possibility. Ms. Dalton Encke is interviewed by Nilka Avilés, Ed.D., an IDRA senior education associate. [18:18 min]


Good Schools and Classrooms for Children Learning English: A Guide
Thirty years of research have proven that, when implemented well, bilingual education is the best way to learn English. New research by IDRA has identified the 25 common characteristics of successful schools that contribute to high academic performance of students learning English. This guide is a rubric, designed for people in schools and communities to evaluate five dimensions that are necessary for success: school indicators, leadership, student outcomes, support, programmatic and instructional practices.

Semillitas de aprendizaje Teacher Guide ~ Manual del maestro
This guide contains 10 units to support early childhood bilingual literacy development (English-Spanish). 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. In addition, we have provided planning tools connected to knowledge, skill and concept objectives along with suggestions for using technology in early childhood. Includes: Bi-literacy Focus (blended instruction, storytelling & poetry reading, vocabulary development in both English & Spanish, alphabetic knowledge, English transition activities); Interdisciplinary Units (life skills, STEM focus, content integration); and Technology Integration (higher order thinking activities, phonemic awareness exercises). This guide is designed to correspond to the set of 10 Semillitas de aprendizaje bilingual big books, Cartitas series (letters home) and the set of 15 preschool math books and preschool self concept books.

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.


Framework for Effective Instruction of Secondary English Language Learners.” This IDRA research-based framework provides guidance for design, implementation and evaluation of an effective ELL program.



Resources for the Texas School Funding Trial


IDRA has created a dashboard to collect news about the Texas school finance trial for easy access for parents, educators and communities.




“If the State of Texas Wins this Trial, Texas Children Will Lose,” Austin American-Statesman op-ed by Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel.




“Texas Supreme Court has opportunity to improve public education: Constitution requires – and our students deserve – equality,” San Antonio Express-News op-ed by Al Kauffman.




Houston Public Media News 88.7 aired a five-part series by education reporter Laura Isensee that takes a look into the past, present and future of public school funding in Texas.




Education Law Center amicus brief and overview.




All amicus briefs for the school finance case on the court’s website.




Infographic on the Texas School Funding Equity Gap.




Statement: Court Rules Again: Texas School Funding Must Serve All Students Equitably, August 28, 2014.




The 50 Most Memorable Quotes in School Finance, compiled by IDRA’s founder, Dr. José A. Cárdenas, in 1994.
 #sthash.1PhQgOCI.dpuf (Edgewood plaintiff’s argument by Marisa Bono begins at 1:45 and runs to 02:02). 


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