• By Christina Quintanilla-Muñoz, M.Ed. • IDRA Newsletter • February 2024 • Christina Quintanilla-Muñoz

Four high school student researchers and alumni of IDRA’s inaugural Youth Advisory Board led a research project to examine the intersections of culturally responsive education and school discipline in Texas public schools.

Manav Lund, Kennedy Moore, Josué Peralta de Jesús, and Shreya Selvaraju conducted their project, “Culturally Responsive Education and School Discipline in Texas Schools: A Mixed-Methods Case Study,” by employing mixed-method research methodologies to assess student peers’ perspectives through a survey and focus group interviews at high schools attended by the student researchers in central and north Texas. IDRA staff served as mentors to support the students’ work.

The student researchers recruited 47 students from their respective high schools to take their online survey and recruited 16 students to voluntarily participate in three, 60-minute virtual focus group interviews.

Their study did not establish a strong causal link between culturally responsive education and discipline outcomes at the campus level. But the survey- and interview-based research conducted across various Texas regions, including Austin, Frisco, and San Antonio, uncovered valuable insights.

The findings from their student experience survey and student focus groups reflect themes of academic and social alienation, racial profiling, discriminatory disciplinary practices and other harmful experiences students face in their schools.

Overall, students reported in focus group interviews concern for weak administrative attention to incidents of race- and identity-based discrimination. Students reported the hostile sociopolitical landscape present in the Texas education system with the rise of classroom censorship and other restrictive policies contributing to these patterns.

Findings from the survey suggest that exposure to culturally diverse curricula in the classroom and teachers’ effort to create spaces for discourse on current social justice issues would lead to greater academic engagement and an overall sense of belonging in schools. By leveraging these insights, educators and policymakers can work collectively to foster a more inclusive, equitable and supportive educational environment for all students.

IDRA will publish the students’ final report in March. The students presented highlights during a research symposium held by IDRA in May 2023. The event video is online.

Christina Quintanilla-Muñoz, M.Ed., is an IDRA research analyst. Comments and questions may be directed to her via email at christina.munoz@idra.org.

[© 2024, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the February edition of the IDRA Newsletter. 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.]