IDRA’s Education CAFE™ model is an innovation for school-family-community collaboration. Education CAFEs are based in a community organization rather than in a single school, and their sole purpose is to collaborate with schools to improve the success of students in the community.
IDRA transformed traditional parent involvement into a more effective vehicle for parents who have been previously excluded or underserved through a mutual school-home partnership in support of children’s academic and social success.
With the base of a community organization that already exists and that is committed to serving its community, the Education CAFE it cultivates has built-in sustainability through shared revolving leadership.
Examples of Education CAFE Projects
In 2011, when the Texas legislature cut billions off the education budget, families were alarmed and began taking public action to pressure the state legislature to put the money back in the school coffers.
And when a bill was passed in 2017 that weakened the high school graduation requirements and removed critical requirements of all students, such as Algebra II, one large community requested specific training from IDRA on the issue. They then conducted a survey of more than 1,600 families, produced a report and still today holds yearly conferences to assess whether families are informed and know if their secondary students are on a college track.
Education CAFEs wanted to learn more about the basic structure of the state legislature and how bills become law. Following the general overview and introduction to the legislative process, IDRA provided a training-of-trainers session on how to submit public comments and testimony to the legislature. Members then crafted and submitted their comments to the legislature. Spanish-speakers develop their ideas and written comments in Spanish, and IDRA provides translation support. For many, this is their first time submitting official public commentary on proposed legislation.
Concerned about poor math instruction in their high school, family members in one community surveyed parents and students. Students presented their findings to the community and school leadership, leading to focused professional development for math teachers.
Education CAFE families convinced their school district board to keep its biliteracy program (See video)
Three components are central to the Education CAFE™ model
Community-based, Distributive Leadership – Education CAFEs are born in their communities. They must be connected to a local organization that commits to focus on education (among its other mission areas). Meetings are attended by parents, grandparents, students’ older siblings, neighbors and all who consider themselves custodians of children’s academic success and future. By rotating leadership roles, the Education CAFE is not dependent on a central charismatic leader and instead is based on a distributive leadership model.
School Partnerships – Education CAFE members come together and partner with schools in their neighborhood in order to ensure student success. Collaboration includes co-planning and sharing responsibility for outreach and ongoing activities that improve education in their neighborhood public schools.
Education Projects – Education CAFEs carry out education projects using actionable data. For example, they bring families together to examine education policies and their implications for children’s access to advanced placement, dual credit and pre-algebra courses; the state’s education budget; and college readiness strategies. They also meet with school administrators to talk about shared concerns. Some group projects have included campus visitations to introduce the new organization, open hearings with school board candidates, large public events to protest cuts to the state education budget, and surveys about how new graduation plans are being implemented and their impact on poor and minority students.
There are now hundreds of Education CAFE families working with school district leaders to monitor the academic success of their children and other neighborhood children.
The first Education CAFE (originally called “Comunitario PTAs”) are rooted in colonias (unincorporated communities) in south Texas. The new name, Education CAFE, emphasizes the diversity of communities who are engaged in impacting their public schools.
Based on this success, in late 2012, IDRA was selected by the U.S. Department of Education to expand development of and research IDRA’s model in five communities in South Texas, through the i3 Initiative. By the end of the grant period, there were eight Comunitarios who collaborated across communities on several education leadership projects, including new graduation requirements.