Education Policy

Accountability that Doesn’t Hurt Children

IDRA Policy Issues

IDRA Stands

  • The state’s accountability system should be supportive, moving away from rigid, punitive structures.
  • The state should collect some valid testing data and other performance measures to enable it to hold schools accountable for student achievement with data disaggregated by sub-groups.
  • School accountability should be achieved by sample testing, saving millions of state tax dollars and simultaneously reducing the misuse of tests.
  • The state accountability system must contain “opportunity-to-learn metrics,” including resource allocation, college preparation and teacher quality.


We must make sure our schools are doing an excellent job with all students, and disaggregated data helps us know where to focus improvement efforts. Sample testing makes it unnecessary to test all students to ensure schools produce good results and can prevent misuse of testing data in holding students back or preventing them from graduating. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act also gives Texas a chance to focus on improving struggling schools through asset-based approaches rather than punishing them.

Texas should drop its A-F accountability grading system and avoid the creation of a state- or privately-controlled “opportunity school district” that strips local control from communities. Instead, the state should add opportunity-to-learn metrics as part of its accountability system, which will allow the state to focus its resources on areas of need, thereby increasing the efficiency of the system.


Testimony: TLEC Urges Texas House to Permanently Allow the Use of Individual Graduation Committees

Statement 2019: Reported STAAR Design Flaws in Reading Show Why High-stakes Punishments Should be Removed from the STAAR

Policy Brief 2019: Don’t Block Graduation Because of a Test

Infographic 2019: Use of Individual Graduation Committees Unlocks Diplomas for 14,422 Qualified Students in Texas

Article 2018: In-grade Retention National Trends and Civil Rights Concerns

eBook: Failing In-Grade Retention

Failing Our Children – Finding Alternatives to In-Grade Retention

News Release 2017: Texas’ temporary policy relieved high-stakes for 6,000 students

Infographic 2017: Use of Individual Graduation Committees Unlocks Diplomas for Qualified Students

Article 2016: In-Grade Retention in the Early Years – What’s Holding Children Back?

Article 2001: Use of Tests When Making High-Stakes Decisions for Students

IDRA’s Accountability website

Article 2010: Accountability that Doesn’t Hurt Students

Factsheet on Accountability that Doesn’t Hurt Students

Effective Accountability that Puts Children First and Supports Schools

We must make sure our schools are doing a good job with all of our students. But it is not necessary to test all students in order to hold schools accountable for producing good results. For example, when the state tests lakes and rivers for water quality, it does not test all the water in them. Researchers get samples from each body of water to indicate the quality of the whole system. We could measure the performance of our schools by the same method – testing a sample of students in each school.

We have seen too many give in to the temptation to use students’ scores on a single state test to make high-stakes decisions about whether they should be promoted or held back, or whether those who are otherwise eligible to graduate from high school will actually receive a diploma.

A more comprehensive and accurate picture of how a school is doing would consider governance efficacy, appropriate resources, parent and family engagement, student engagement, teaching quality and access to quality curriculum. IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework guides communities and schools in identifying weak areas and strengthening public schools’ capacities to graduate and prepare all students for success. IDRA’s new book, Courage to Connect – A Quality Schools Action Framework™ shows how communities and schools can work together to be successful with all of their students. The book’s web page ( provides a table of contents, excerpt, related podcasts and other resources.

In addition, IDRA’s OurSchool data portal provides actionable knowledge to help educators and community members find out how well their high school campus is preparing and graduating students, what factors may be weakening school holding power, and what they can do together to address them.

“The bottom line is: schools are responsible for the education of children – for all children, be they Black, Brown, White, poor, rich, female, male, disabled, non-disabled, English-speaking or not,” said Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA president


A Post Session Assessment of Texas Education Policy Changes Considered, Adopted and Rejected in 2013, by Dr. Albert Cortez, IDRA Newsletter, August 2013

Assuring Civil Rights Protection with State ESEA Flexibility Waivers, by Bradley Scott, Ph.D., IDRA Newsletter, May 2013

Failing Our Children – Finding Alternatives to In-Grade Retention, publication, by Pam McCollum, Ph.D., Albert Cortez, Ph.D., Oanh H. Maroney, M.A., and Felix Montes, Ph.D.
Presents an in-depth look at the issue of in-grade retention (particularly in Texas), reviews research that finds this practice to be ineffective, and outlines alternatives to both retention and social promotion.

Texas: Turning its Back on the Future – An Assessment of Major Education Policy Reforms Considered by the 82nd TexasLegislature, by Albert Cortez, Ph.D., IDRA Newsletter, August 2011

School and Community Capacity Building for Collaboration, by Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed., IDRA Newsletter, February 2011

Accountability that Doesn’t Hurt Students, by Albert Cortez, Ph.D., IDRA Newsletter, November-December 2010

At a Time When We Most Need Strength, Texas Education is At-Risk of Being Weakened, statement by Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA President & CEO, June-July 2010

All Students Deserve a Chance – Don’t Take it Away, by Rogelio López del Bosque, Ed.D., IDRA Newsletter, June-July 2010

TexasAccountability – A Fast Track for Some; A Dead End for Others, by Josie Danini Cortez, M.A., IDRA Newsletter, February 2010

School Attrition Rates and Title I School Accountability to Families – Necessary Information, by Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed., IDRA Newsletter, October 2010

TexasPolicymakers Live Up to Their Own Low Expectations – A Post Legislative Session Assessment of Changes Proposed and Reforms Adopted in 2009, by Albert Cortez, Ph.D., IDRA Newsletter, September 2009

The Role of School Governance Efficacy in Building an Equity Context for School Reform, by Bradley Scott, Ph.D., IDRA Newsletter, June-July 2009

Federal Judge Rules That Texas’ Services for its LEP Students Are Inadequate, by Albert Cortez, Ph.D., IDRA Newsletter, February 2009

All Texas Students Must be Accounted for Holding On to Students Usually Requires Systemwide Transformations Rather than Piecemeal Programs, IDRA statement, August 1, 2008

Uncompromising Expectations for Graduating All Students – IDRA Principles Regarding Graduation and Accountability, Albert Cortez, Ph.D., IDRA Newsletter, November-December 2007

Graduation for All Students – Dropout Prevention and Student Engagement Strategies and the Reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, IDRA statement, April 23, 2007
Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA executive director, presented testimony before the Committee on Education and Labor, U.S. House of Representatives, in Washington, D.C., in a hearing on “NCLB: Preventing Dropouts and Enhancing School Safety.”

Read five-minute verbal testimony
Read written testimony
View archived webcast at the committee’s web site

Accountability and Equity in our Schools, Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed. , IDRA Newsletter, February 2007

Knowledge and Action – From Dropping Out to Holding On, by María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Ph.D., IDRA President, IDRA Newsletter, November-December 2006

Assessing Policies for Success of Minority Children, by Albert Cortez, Ph.D., and Abelardo Villarreal, Ph.D., IDRA Newsletter, June-July 2006

The Promise and Perils of the Texas School Success Initiative – Critical School-Parent Action to Promote Student Success, by Adela Solís, Ph.D., and Anna Alicia Romero, IDRA Newsletter, October 2005

Beyond the Surface – The Costs of High-Stakes Testing, Amanda Walker, Ph.D., IDRA Newsletter, June-July 2005

The Two Faces of NCLB, by Kathryn Brown, IDRA Newsletter, January 2005

Retentions in Grade – Continuing Dysfunctional Educational Responses in Texas, Albert Cortez, Ph.D., and Josie D. Cortez, M.A., IDRA Newsletter, January 2005

Retention and High-Stakes Testing, Accountability and Some Alternatives to Existing State Policies, IDRA statement, February 20, 2003