• IDRA Newsletter • March 2008 • 

A key question is: How do curriculum, instruction and standards help our children in receiving and benefiting from an excellent education?

Key Terms

Curriculum – is what is to be learned and therefore to be taught. Most schools have adopted texts and other materials. Curricular materials are intended as tools to meet a certain set of standards. Computer-based materials and online information are an increasing resource. Some predict books will become secondary and the computer will be the central source of information for the student and the teacher.

Instruction – is how the curriculum is carried out and taught.

Standards – identify what students are expected to know and be able to do. Standards can also support high expectations for all students. For many reasons there has been a strong push for having uniform high standards in education.

A Case in Point for English Language Learners

Assessing the academic success of students, in this case, very specifically those learning English as a second language, is clearly within the state and federal definitions of parent engagement. The strength and popularity of the phrase “leave no child behind” comes from the pervasive desire in all communities that all children succeed to their highest potential.

IDRA has identified the 25 common characteristics of successful schools that contribute to high academic performance of students learning English. This guide, Good Schools and Classrooms for Children Learning English, is a rubric designed for people in schools and communities to evaluate five dimensions that are necessary for success: school indicators, student outcomes, leadership, support and programmatic and instructional practices. Families can use this instrument to examine how effectively the school is teaching the children.

Here are the school indicators

  • Retention rate The degree to which students are mastering required skills and therefore are not being held back in grade (e.g, the lower the better).
  • Dropout rate The degree to which students are held in school through completion of a high school graduation (e.g, the lower the better).
  • Gifted, talented and advanced placement program participation the availability and inclusion of students in rigorous and high quality curriculum and instruction (e.g., the higher the better).
  • Enrollment in special education and remedial programs The degree to which students are participating and excelling in the regular and advanced programs (e.g., the lower the better).
  • Test exemption rates The degree to which all students are included in the standard testing and assessment procedures (e.g., the lower the better).

The five-point scales to measure the status of each indicator is a simple tool that families can use to measure the impact of curriculum and instruction on the children at any given campus. Acquiring the data might need some guidance, and families might need to persist to get an accurate picture of the status of the campus, but the questions are not difficult for families to understand, and the answers will be quite revealing to all concerned.

Families, exactly as they are without any more preparation in understanding curriculum, instruction and academic standards, can assess how well the school is doing. And this is both the spirit and the letter of the law: meaningful parent engagement in creating schools that work for all children.

For more information on parent engagement in education and meeting parent involvement requirements of NCLB contact Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed., 210-444-1710 at the Texas IDRA PIRC. Comments and questions may be directed to them via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2008, IDRA. The following article originally appeared in the March 2008 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]