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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August 2014 Issue ~ Articles


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August 2014

Focus ~ Change Strategies 

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

ISSN 1069-5672

The Power of Leadership in Schools
We need great leaders in schools who understand the demands of the day for education that prepares all diverse learners for higher and higher levels of schooling, for college going and completion, and for life success. We need great teachers and we need powerful principals who know how to lead a school to academic excellence and high student performance. In this article, Bradley Scott, Ph.D., speaks to the need for dynamic principals who can exercise powerful leadership on school campuses to move all students to high academic outcomes, college completion and successful lives.

 See IDRA’s Equity Hub
Visit the IDRA SCCE Equity Hub to get stories about school leaders who are successfully facing issues of equal educational opportunity, school desegregation, civil rights as well as school safety issues, like bullying, harassment, conflict and violence.

School Discipline Gone South – The Call for Restoration
New national data on school disciplinary practices show that millions of children are being removed from classrooms for increasingly minor behavioral issues. Estimates show that 10 percent of middle school and high school students were suspended at least once. And in Texas, only less than 3 percent of cases, removal from school – through suspension or expulsion – was legally required. Laurie Posner, MPA, highlights data on the scope of the problem across the country and in Texas and gives examples of family leaders, community organizations, children’s advocacy, and youth across the South who are taking action to bring a halt to punitive practices that they recognize as ineffective, unfair and unsafe.

Immigrant Students’ Rights to Attend Public Schools –
School Opening Alert
As schools are opening their doors for a new school year, this alert is a reminder that public schools, by law, must serve all children. The education of undocumented students is guaranteed by the Plyler vs. Doe decision, and certain procedures must be followed when registering immigrant children in school to avoid violation of their civil rights.

As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Plyler vs. Doe, public schools may not:

  • deny admission to a student during initial enrollment or at any other time on the basis of undocumented status;
  • treat a student differently to determine residency;
  • engage in any practices to “chill” the right of access to school;
  • require students or parents to disclose or document their immigration status;
  • make inquiries of students or parents intended to expose their undocumented status; or
  • require Social Security numbers from all students, as this may expose undocumented status.

You can also download the alert as a bilingual school opening alert flier (English-Spanish) to share with others.

Get more information on our dedicated webpage.


Serving Unaccompanied Immigrant Children
The number of unaccompanied immigrant children arriving from Central America has caused a flurry of media attention, protests, calls for assistance, and political posturing. Unfortunately, much of the attention has been driven by misinformation and rumor. One fact is certain, as stated in the school opening alert (see above), all school-age immigrant children must have access to educational services as required under Doe vs. Plyer. And all means all – regardless of immigration, refugee or asylum status.

The Right to Inclusion and Success in Education is Reaffirmed
In July, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling in the Fisher vs. University of Texas that upheld University of Texas’ holistic admissions program. Read the statement by Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA President and CEO, on the Fifth Circuit Decision in Fisher vs. University of Texas at Austin on the University of Texas’ Holistic Admissions Program. The Fifth Circuit’s decision affirms the importance of striving for diversity in all state colleges and universities, stating “Universities may use race as part of a holistic admissions program where it cannot otherwise achieve diversity.”

Dr. Robledo Montecel Receives San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Advocacy Award
In July at its business awards event, the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce honored IDRA President and CEO, Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, with its Advocacy Award. Upon receiving the award, she noted that the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber recently joined IDRA, MALDEF, Presente! and others to advocate for a San Antonio City Council resolution establishing college readiness as the gold-standard city-wide: “The resolution, adopted unanimously, signals that our city sees economic competitiveness and educational quality as inseparable.”

She added: “Research tells us that schools that focus on college readiness for all their students are best at reducing high school dropout rates. Education is, in fact, an indispensable economic strategy.”

Photo: Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, with St. Mary’s University law professor Al Kauffman, who introduced her at the awards event.

National PTA Visits Comunitario PTAs in the Rio Grande Valley
National PTA President, Otha Thornton, visited the lower Rio Grande Valley in May to see first-hand IDRA’s Comunitario PTA effort that is spreading all over the lower Rio Grande Valley. He was invited by Lourdes Flores, co-founder of the first Comunitario PTA at ARISE. A Comunitario PTA is a community organization-based-PTA that gathers family leaders in Texas’ poorest communities to engage them on education policies and educational opportunities for their children. Also, the Comunitario PTAs were awarded by the National PTA President.

See video highlights from the National PTA president’s visit to Comunitario PTAs in south Texas, by PSJA ISD [10:09 min]



2014 Martha A. Hernández Scholarship Winner Announced
Ms. Lea Amber Borrego has been selected as this year’s Martha A. Hernández Scholarship recipient. During her life and in her work at IDRA, Ms. Hernández distinguished herself for exceptional professionalism, service and care of others. In her honor, IDRA set up a scholarship in her name through the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame. This year, all scholarships awarded by the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame were directed to graduating seniors at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy of San Antonio ISD. IDRA commends Ms. Borrego for reflecting these same characteristics in her scholarship application and wish her success in college and in life.  

IDRA Research for Change Strategies
As we continue yet another year of working to assure equal educational opportunities for every child, it is the “Research” in our name that we are purposefully and with profound intent spotlighting in the IDRA Newsletter. And we are doing so by increasing visibility and awareness of IDRA’s research and the impact it has had for children. Each newsletter this year will feature our research contributions to particular topic. This month, the spotlight is on IDRA’s research for actionable knowledge.

August 2014 Issue ~ Newsletter Plus  

Classnotes podcasts on school leadership and change strategies

A Principal on Setting Expectations for College – Episode 126

A Principal on the Core Elements of School Transformation – Episode 127

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

School Change Strategies – Episode 53

Framing Systems Change for Student Success – Episode 8

Tool for Building Quality Schools – Episode 81

Latino and African-American Communities Leading School Reform – Episode 64

Tools for reframing school discipline

Office for Civil Rights – Data Snaphot: School Discipline

Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs in Texas – A 2009 Update, IDRA

Center for Civil Rights Remedies – Find suspension rates for your school district and other data

Guiding Principles – A Resource for Improving School Climate and Discipline – Guidance document that draws from emerging research and best practices to describe three key principles and related action steps that can help guide state- and locally controlled efforts to improve school climate and school discipline.

Directory of Federal School Climate and Discipline Resources – Index of the extensive federal technical assistance and other resources on school discipline and climate available to schools and districts.

Compendium of School Discipline Laws and Regulations Document describing an online tool that catalogues the laws and regulations related to school discipline in each of the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico states and compares laws across states and jurisdictions. Read the description of the compendium and how to use it here.

Overview of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative – Outline of recent federal efforts on these issues through the interagency Supportive School Discipline Initiative.

The School Discipline Consensus Report: Strategies from the Field to Keep Students Engaged in School and Out of the Juvenile Justice System

Black Male Donor Collaborative, School Discipline and the OCR Data, Schott Foundation for Public Education

Why Are Black Students Facing Corporal Punishment in Public Schools?, The Nation

Sent Home and Put Off-Track: The Antecedents, Disproportionalities, and Consequences of Being Suspended in the 9th Grade

Arkansas Cradle to Prison Pipeline

Fix School Discipline Videos

Model Student and Parent Handbook – To build a quality, healthy school district, by Southern Echo 2012

The Center for Effective Discipline  

Resources on the Supreme Court ruling in the Fisher case

IDRA Statement: The Right to Inclusion and Success in Education is Reaffirmed – July 16, 2014

Court Ruling – July 15, 2014

MALDEF Statement: Fifth Circuit Upholds University of Texas Holistic Admissions Program – Race May be Considered as One Factor in UT-Austin Admissions Decisions – July 15, 2014

IDRA Statement: Affirming the Right to Inclusion and Success in Education – June 24, 2013

Resources on the rights of immigrant children at attend public school  

Listen to IDRA’s Classnotes Podcast episode on “Immigrant Children’s Rights to Attend Public Schools”

See a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education (May 2014) advising school officials that activities that deny or discourage students to attend school are unlawful. Along with the letter, there is a factsheet and a Q&A handout. Get more information on our dedicated webpage.

IDRA OurSchool portal – designed to help you – educators and community members – find out how well your high school campus is preparing and graduating students, what factors may be weakening school holding power, and what you can do together to address them.



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.