• IDRA Newsletter • January 2023 •

In 2023, IDRA is celebrating its 50th year of working for excellence in education for all children. We are reflecting on relationships we have built and on some of the changes we have seen since 1973 when a small group of concerned citizens set out to change the world.

In IDRA’s case, our purpose has not changed. As long as excellence in public schools is available to only a few students, IDRA will keep its purpose – its mission – to achieve equal educational opportunity for every child through strong public schools that prepare all students to access and succeed in college.

When IDRA began its work, many, including educators, did not realize that vast inequalities in school funding existed or the reasons for these inequities. IDRA worked for five decades to expand public and individual awareness and to transform classrooms. More importantly, IDRA’s efforts focused on engaging people – including key decision-makers – to move and support a system in need of change.

IDRA met with anyone and everyone who was interested: teachers, administrators, civic organizations, community-based groups, parents, ministers, business people, news media, students and policymakers.

Clearly, most public schools and communities do not have the resources and training they need to prepare all their students. Since 1973, IDRA is the only organization that can claim continuous, uninterrupted involvement in Texas school finance reform.

IDRA’s research on school attrition in Texas led to revisions in 1984 in the state’s education law regarding monitoring and preventing school dropouts.

IDRA staff played a key role in helping to guarantee the civil rights of all children regardless of race, sex and national origin in landmark court cases, such as Rodríguez v. San Antonio, U.S. v. Texas, Keys v. Denver, Lau vs. Nichols, Doe v. Plyer, and Rodríguez v. L.A. USD, Edgewood v. Kirby I, II, III and IV, and Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition vs. Michael Williams.

IDRA has provided leadership in the area of immigrant education throughout its history, from studying innovative strategies to guiding schools on their duty to welcome immigrant students.

IDRA is in classrooms working hand-in-hand with teachers and administrators to improve teaching strategies and school programs, making a difference for students. We know the challenges. We also have seen the excitement and pride of teachers, school personnel, parents and students when they work together and are successful.

IDRA helped write Texas’ first bilingual education law, which is still on the books today.

Our internationally-recognized dropout prevention Valued Youth Partnership program has created transformations in almost a million students, teachers and schools.

Our Education CAFE model of parent leadership helps schools and communities see the inherent value in all families and students. We have mobilized thousands of parents to assert their value and to impact change in their schools as well as in policymaking bodies.

IDRA is a national leader in educational equity, providing assistance to schools and districts to examine their gaps and create solutions, such as addressing disparities in student access to high-level STEM courses, confronting racial and gender bullying and harassment, diversifying the teacher workforce and ending harmful discipline practices.

While the focus on its first day was Texas, IDRA soon expanded its work across the country, including adding staff in Georgia and coordinating with partners across the U.S. South.

When schools closed due to COVID-19, IDRA immediately responded to educators and families so students could continue learning.

Because every child is valuable, IDRA believes that each student must count in every school system. The goal of this work has been to ensure schools embrace the characteristics of all students, celebrating the strengths and contributions that they and their families bring.

Thousands of classroom teachers, school principals, other educators, families, policymakers, community leaders, researchers and, of course, students themselves, have been a part of the IDRA story. As a result, millions of students’ lives have been powerfully affected by dramatically raising educational opportunities for all children. Today, we celebrate the progress we are achieving by working together and by taking a consistent stand when few others would.

[©2023, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the January 2023 issue of the 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.]