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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January 2016 Issue ~ Articles


Current Issue:
January 2016

Focus ~ Language


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

ISSN 1069-5672

Three Teaching Strategies for Scaffolding Instruction for English Learners in the Content Classroom
Effective teachers scaffold instructional content for English learners by supporting development of academic language and objectives by first modeling a desired task, then gradually shifting responsibility to the students. This article by Paula Johnson, M.A., highlights three teaching strategies that have been proven effective in scaffolding instruction for English learners in the classroom. Each of the strategies below includes a brief description, counter examples and benefits for English learners. It should be noted that these practices support learning for all students, not just English learners.

Listen to our podcast: Building Critical Thinking through Visual Literacy (13:58 min.)

Listen to our podcast: Substantive Conversation in the ClassroomI (14:04 min)

Transformative and Effective School Leadership in Culturally Diverse Environments
Much has been written about the core competencies of effective school leadership, but less is studied about the transformative effect of these qualities within culturally diverse learning environments. This article by Rosana G. Rodríguez, Ph.D., and Abelardo Villarreal, Ph.D., explores a few examples of the virtues and transformational qualities of educational leaders working with diverse student populations. It poses the question of self-transformation as requisite for systemic transformation.  

IDRA’s Six Goals of Education Equity

Giving English Learners Access to Language and Curriculum in Rural Arkansas
Upon request, the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity recently returned to southern Arkansas to assess rural districts’ needs in response to the growing numbers of English learners (ELs) in public schools.

At about the same time, the U.S. Department of Education released a new English Learner Toolkit. Kristin Grayson, Ph.D., describes how the toolkit and other the resources shape the discussion with directors of English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs from various school districts about how to better serve EL students.

Good Schools and Classrooms for Children Learning English

Semillitas de Aprendizaje Bilingual Classroom Materials
Semillitas de Aprendizaje is a bilingual (Spanish/English) supplemental early childhood curriculum, developed by IDRA, based on the art of storytelling. The materials are designed for literacy development with beautifully illustrated and culturally-relevant materials for 3- and 4-year-old children and include:

  • 10 Big Books
  • 10 corresponding unabridged storybooks
  • 15 Math Books focusing on numeracy and social-emotional development
  • 20 Cartitas – Letters Home (10 English, 10 Spanish) with family activities for teachers to send home for parents
  • Teacher Guide (Manual de Maestro) with 10 units in 196 pages to lead your students through the Semillitas de aprendizaje stories (Each unit has a set of classroom activities that include a morning song, storytelling, literacy connection with STEM explorations, center activities, phonemic awareness, writing and alphabet knowledge, English transition, family connections and informal assessment),
  • Storytelling-Storyreading Video DVD that brings the stories to life through engaging storytelling in Spanish and storyreading in English.

See our eBook about the Semillitas de Aprendizaje™ materials and training on Slideshare

We’re here to help!
See How IDRA’s Training and Technical Assistance Can Help Your School or District
With an unwavering commitment to student success, IDRA services provide innovative, practical and sustainable solutions for diverse student populations based on the unique needs of each district, campus or classroom. A few examples of assistance packages include:

  • Assessing and Elevating the Education of English Language Learners Districtwide
  • Transforming Early Childhood Programs to Centers of Excellence
  • Using Semillitas de Aprendizaje™ in the Classroom
  • Coaching and Mentoring Novice Teachers in Culturally Diverse Classroom Settings
  • Implementing Engagement-based Sheltered Instruction
  • Building Authentic Parent and Community Engagement
  • Creating a College Readiness Culture for Success
  • Integrating Math and Science Instructional Strategies for English Learners
  • Mastering Dropout Prevention with the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program
  • Building and Sustaining Professional Learning Communities
  • Conducting Research and Evaluation

Call today! 210-444-1710 or email

January 2016 Issue ~ Newsletter Plus

Building Critical Thinking through Visual Literacy – Episode 140

The Role of Bilingual Ed and ESL in Our Schools – Episode 138

What Parents Need to Know about Bilingual Education – Episode 115

Bilingual Stories for Young Learners – Episode 80

Science Success for English Learners – Episode 93

Substantive Conversation in the Classroom – Episode 130

See our eBook about the Semillitas de Aprendizaje™ materials and training on Slideshare

Good Schools and Classrooms for Children Learning English
IDRA rigorously studied exemplary bilingual education programs in schools across the nation. See the 25 common characteristics that contribute to high academic performance of students served by bilingual education programs. This guide is a rubric, designed for people in schools and communities to evaluate five dimensions that are necessary for success: school indicators, leadership, student outcomes, support, programmatic and instructional practices.

Low Funding for Educating ELLs Affects Students Across Texas – Symposium Proceedings
IDRA released the proceedings report of the IDRA José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellows Program symposium focusing on education of English language learners. The report shares key insights from the robust discussion among the participants in IDRA’s ELL symposium along with the research study conducted by Dr. Jimenez-Castellanos. The report also provides a set of recommendations useful for policymakers, educators, community and business leaders and parents.

IDRA José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellows Program Symposium Webpage – Get information and resources from IDRA’s  inaugural symposium for the IDRA José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellow Program on February 3, 2015, in San Antonio. Dr. Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos presented his research findings on securing educational equity and excellence for English language learners in Texas secondary schools.

Watch the video from IDRA’s symposium: School Funding and English Language Learners

Federal guidelines on schools’ civil rights obligations for serving ELLs

The U.S. Department of Education released a new, comprehensive English Learner Toolkit, which is a compilation of the latest research findings, current policy and resources or “tools,” such as sample surveys and assessments, for districts and schools to use in addressing the educational needs of their English learners. When used in its entirety, the kit will be a great new resource for districts and schools to provide a quality education for English learners as required. But, the toolkit also may be misused to justify practices that do not protect the civil rights of English learners or that promote detrimental programs. IDRA’s letter highlights potential areas for abuse of the toolkit.

Tool: IDRA’s research-based Framework for Effective Instruction of Secondary English Language Learners – This IDRA research-based framework provides guidance for design, implementation and evaluation of an effective ELL program.


See handout listing the seven strategies for instruction of English learners in science.

Science Instructional Strategies for English Learners is a practical resource with seven research-based strategies for instruction of English learners in science with teaching learning premises, research support, essential teacher competencies, and steps for strategy implementation – along with a matrix of techniques for implementation.  

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.