Education Policy

College Access for Success

Many students are unable to get into college. Among those who do get in, many are unable to finish. In order to be economically competitive, our nation needs more college graduates. And we need more graduates from all groups, including low-income students and minority students, who are currently under-represented and are more likely to face certain obstacles than are wealthier, non-minority students.

The tendency of our students being unable to attend college begins in high school, middle school and even elementary school. Low test scores and high dropout rates show that many students are not prepared for college. While it may seem easier to blame students for their lack of college enrollment or success, the fact is that there are larger institutional factors at play both at the K-12 level and at the college level. When students have uncertified teachers, broken buildings, and little support, their education suffers.

We need our children to be successful in school. We need them to graduate and have options to either attend college or join the workforce.

IDRA Stands

  • High school curriculum should prepare all students for college with high-quality, rigorous courses.
  • Students should not be tracked into low-level courses nor into different diploma routes or graduation plans.
  • In-state tuition rates for all students, including undocumented immigrant students, must remain.
  • Funding for need-based financial aid, including the Texas Grant Program, must be increased.
  • College tuition must be re-regulated, but state aid also must increase to help fill the void.
  • Texas should not make changes that limit its Top 10 Percent Plan.


Schools should not make pre-college decisions on behalf of students or track them into low-level courses that limit career options, and 14-year-olds should not be forced to make choices that will impact them the rest of their lives. High schools must ensure all students receive a rigorous course of study that prepares them for college. Research on the 21st century workforce indicates most jobs will require some level of education beyond high school. Employers need employees who are life-long learners prepared to adapt to a rapidly changing workplace. Models based on preparing one group for college and a second for immediate work are outmoded.

Re-regulation of high tuition rates is desperately needed, but the state should adequately support the state’s colleges and students needing assistance. In-state tuition rates for immigrant students and the Top 10 Percent Plan have increased the diversity of students applying for and enrolling in Texas universities and increased the number of high schools sending students to Texas’ top schools.

Resource Highlights

College Bound and Determined– IDRA report profiling what happens when a school district raises expectations for students instead of lowering them

Policy solutions for Latino Access to College

IDRA’s Ready Texas studies

IDRA’s book, Courage to Connect: A Quality Schools Action Framework™

Article: “Of Course the Top Ten Percent is Constitutional… And It’s Pretty Good Policy Too,” Texas Hispanic Journal of Law and Policy (print form only)

Expecting Less is Not Better bilingual statement

Statement: HB5 Does Not Have to Block Students from College

Dropout Prevention & School Holding Power

Texas schools are losing 11 students per hour. Nationally, our schools are losing one of every four students. This lack of school holding power affects every one of us. With the magnitude of this loss, what is needed is a seismic shift from dropout prevention to graduation for all. And all must mean all.

For more resources, see IDRA’s Dropout Prevention and Graduation site. 

Individual Graduation Committees

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

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

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

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

Student Tracking Policies Weaken Curriculum

After years of research and practice have demonstrated the failure of student tracking policies, Texas has returned to the practice under the guise of helping unsuccessful students be able to earn a minimal diploma. But the state of Texas is responsible for ensuring that all students have equal access to a high-quality education and are able to attend and graduate from college.

For more resources, see IDRA’s Tracking Policies site. 

Texas Top Ten Percent Plan

The Texas Top Ten Percent Plan has opened the doors of the flagship universities to low-income, rural and minority communities – all groups who were typically denied access to the flagships. For more information, see IDRA’s latest article, “Since When are Good Grades and Diversity a Bad Thing? – 7 Recommendations and the Texas Top Ten Percent Plan,” by David Hinojosa, J.D., IDRA National Director of Policy.

Top Ten Percent Plan in Texas resources

Analysis: Texas Top Ten Percent Plan at UT-Austin Has Dramatic Impact Within Texas Senate Districts

IDRA files Amicus Brief in Fisher v. UT
IDRA has filed a friend of the court, or amicus, brief in the higher education admissions case now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. Filed on October 30, 2015, our brief encourages U.S. Supreme Court to consider systemic challenges facing Latino and African American students in public schools. IDRA’s brief presents research for the court to consider on several challenges facing, and being overcome by, Latino and African American students in Texas’ PK-12 public education system, including under-resourced schools, under-preparation for college entrance exams, disparate student discipline referrals, student mobility, and the importance of diverse experiences.

Bilingual Flier on the New Texas Graduation Requirements
The Texas Legislature changed the graduation requirements for Texas students. The Texas diploma is no longer standard across the state. Some rigorous courses are no longer required by Texas, which means many students may not be prepared for college. But it doesn’t have to be this way. See this one-page flier for an overview of the requirements and what families, schools and communities can do. (also available for black and white printing)

What Parents Want to Know about the New Texas Graduation Requirements
Texas has established new graduation requirements as a result of House Bill 5, passed by the Texas Legislature in 2013. While it was intended to give students more course options, the system has weakened the overall curriculum. Students are no longer required to take English IV, Algebra II, full credits of both Chemistry and Physics, and full credits of both World History or World Geography. Yet, these courses are needed for college access and success. And completion of the new graduation plan does not automatically qualify students for Texas ’ Top 10 Percent public college admission. Given the maze of decisions families will need to make to ensure their children get a high quality, rigorous education that prepares them for college and career, IDRA has developed this bilingual eBook to outline what parents need to know. This information is also available as a bilingual PowerPoint presentation on IDRA’s Slideshare page.

The Right to Inclusion and Success in Education is Reaffirmed
IDRA released a statement by Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA President and CEO, on the Fifth Circuit Decision in Fisher vs. University of Texas at Austin upholding the University of Texas’ holistic admissions program. The Fifth Circuit’s ruling demonstrates once again that it is possible and constitutional to develop approaches that use race and ethnicity in a narrowly-tailored admissions process designed to increase student diversity. While ensuring access to diverse students, IDRA calls on institutions of higher education working with state policymakers to focus also on both access and success for all students.

Statement on Fisher Ruling: Affirming the Right to Inclusion and Success in Education
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its earlier rulings on the use of race and ethnicity as one factor in college admissions in its decision on Fisher vs. University of Texas at Austin. IDRA President, Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel notes that the court is giving the University of Texas a unique opportunity to model an admissions process that promotes student diversity while at the same time meeting the court’s more stringent legal standards. She continues: “The solutions to ensuring equitable student access lie in changing from a perception of exclusion and failure to a vision of inclusion and success…. A vision of inclusion and success demands that all students of all backgrounds and financial circumstances be prepared to enter and graduate from college.”

Tracking, Endorsements and Differentiated Diplomas – When ‘Different’ Really is Less
IDRA released a new policy note in April 2013 that presents an overview of the failure of tracking in schools and what tracking looks like in Texas. Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA President & CEO stated: “A vital state must have educational parity for all students and not parcel out one set of opportunities for some and minimal expectations for others… Policymakers and schools should not make pre-college decisions on behalf of students or track them into low-level courses that limit career options. It’s time for Texas to step up, not step back.”

Listen to related episodes of IDRA’s Classnotes Podcast

How the Fisher Case Relates to Equity in Public Schooling – December 17, 2015

College Readiness Competencies – June 3, 2014

A Principal on Supporting Teachers for Student College Readiness – September 6, 2013

A Principal on the Core Elements of School Transformation – August 21, 2013

A Principal on Setting Expectations for College – August 12, 2013

Tracking vs. High Quality Education for All Students – June 13, 2013

Rosie Castro on Parent Engagement – November 5, 2012

Principal on Creating a College Going Culture – March 29, 2011

Connecting Every Student to a Meaningful Future – March 10, 2011

College for All – August 3, 2010

High School Youth Tekies on College Access – June 16, 2010

Youth, Technology and College Access – April 12, 2010

What Students Need their School Counselors to Hear – December 18, 2008

College Access for Low-Income and Minority Students – October 14, 2008


Latino Access to College

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