• by Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed • IDRA Newsletter • February 2010 •Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed.

When parents in one school district received a letter from the school announcing that their children’s high school was not meeting the federal requirements for adequate yearly progress, IDRA staff representing the Texas Parent Information and Resource Center reviewed with families the school’s data on the School Holding Power Portal. IDRA developed the School Holding Power Portal as a tool for parents and communities to assess the quality of their children’s high schools in Texas. The families in this district quickly noted that their children’s algebra test scores were the reason for the school being rated poorly.

A committee of parents decided to investigate the causes more fully, assuming that one reason for the problem was the prevalence of unqualified or mis-assigned math teachers at the school. But, they discovered that not only did the teachers have the appropriate credentials to teach high school math, they also were experienced teachers.

This particular school has a student population that is 90 percent Hispanic. It is also a Title I school due to its high proportion of economically disadvantaged students.

As the group of parents continued to explore reasons for the school’s poor math education, a parent shared that, in a recent conversation with the school’s math department chair, she learned that the teachers as a whole assumed that only 10 percent of the students at that high school were capable of handling the challenges of algebra.

Though it is important to ensure that teachers are appropriately certified and teaching in their area  of expertise, there are other key factors, such as attitudes and low expectations toward students and families that dramatically affect teaching quality.

The parents worked over time with their school and later formed the first PTA Comunitario (a community-based PTA).

IDRA’s School Holding Power Portal is available free online to assist school-community-parent groups. Organized around IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework, the portal is a web-based tool that helps schools and communities get key data to: (1) assess dropout rates; (2) find out how well schools are holding on to students and preparing them for college; and (3) partner and take action to strengthen schools.

IDRA’s president and CEO has stated: “Community oversight is a critical missing ingredient in effective and accountable dropout prevention efforts at the local level. We also know that schools and communities working together have the capacity to craft and carry out effective solutions that will make a difference for students.”

Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed., is an IDRA senior education associate and director of the Texas IDRA Parent Information and Resource Center. He also serves on the national board of PTA. Comments and questions may be directed to him via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2010, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the February 2010 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.]