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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June-July 2014 Issue ~ Articles


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June-July 2014

Focus ~ Actionable Knowledge 

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

ISSN 1069-5672

IDRA’s New CollegeLink App Connects Transition Counselors with New College Students as they Navigate Confusing College Systems
IDRA is piloting a new app with students in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district (PSJA) who are attending South Texas College and the University of Texas at Pan American. CollegeLink is a student-centered, counseling communication mobile app that enables counselors to help students more efficiently. This app was designed to help PSJA’s transition counselors communicate with their “case load” so that more PSJA students would make it through that crucial first year. Lead designer for the app, Hector Bojorquez, describes how the app functions and the partnership that led to its development.

Armed with Data, PTA Comunitarios Work with Schools for College Preparation – An IDRA OurSchool Portal Story
IDRA’s OurSchool portal was designed to inform families, parents and educators about educational outcomes in Texas high schools. Parents visit the site to see how well students are prepared for college by looking at SAT and ACT scores, the numbers of students actually going to college, and the percentages of students having to take remedial courses. In this article, Hector Bojorquez and Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed., discuss how the data have been a powerful catalyst for parent groups to approach schools with questions, concerns and ideas for collaboration. One excellent example of this type of collaboration is how the burgeoning PTA Comunitarios in the Lower Texas Rio Grande Valley have used the data to kick start community efforts and collaborations with schools.

See this video designed to help you – educators and community members – find out how well your high school campus is preparing and graduating students, what factors may be weakening school holding power, and what you can do together to address them. [02:16 min]

Teacher Leadership in Science in Schools with Diverse Students
Student achievement in science in U.S. public schools is at the forefront of recent educational reform initiatives. Having effective science teachers who can improve science achievement for all students is of utmost importance. Kristin Grayson, Ph.D., outlines key research on the factors that contribute to effective instruction, including resources, pedagogical practices, teacher content knowledge, class size, curriculum, etc.

Six Teens Win 2014 National Essay Contest Award
Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program Tutors Tell How the Program has Helped Them

Six students received prizes in a national competition among participants in the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, IDRA’s nationally-recognized cross-age tutoring program. Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program tutors wrote about how the program helped them do better in school and how they had helped their tutees to do better. “I never wanted to come to school, but those kids made me come to school every day. They are also the reason my grades are up, so that they can look up to me and say ‘He is really smart,’” wrote Nicholas Alderete.

See the full text of the winning essays

Effective Dropout Prevention – Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program – IDRA’s Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program is a research-based, internationally-recognized dropout prevention program that has kept 98 percent of its tutors in school. Learn more about the program and how to bring this program to your school.


IDRA Research for Actionable Knowledge
As we continue yet another year of working to assure equal educational opportunities for every child, it is the “Research” in our name that we are purposefully and with profound intent spotlighting in the IDRA Newsletter. And we are doing so by increasing visibility and awareness of IDRA’s research and the impact it has had for children. Each newsletter this year will feature our research contributions to particular topic. This month, the spotlight is on IDRA’s research for actionable knowledge.

June-July 2014 Issue ~ Newsletter Plus  

Classnotes podcasts on actionable knowledge 

Engaging Parents through Powerful Coalition Building – October 11, 2011  

Parents Using Data to Improve Schools – August 9, 2011

Tools for Building Quality Schools – December 9, 2010

What Parents Should Know about Their Schools – February 17, 2010

Communities Using Data to Improve their Schools – June 3, 2008

New eBook, Seven Elements of the PTA Comunitario ApproachMeaningful family and community engagement is a critical element for strengthening schools. IDRA’s PTA Comunitario model is an innovation for parent organizations and for school-family-community collaborations. Yet it is probably very close to the intentions and actions of the founders of PTA over a hundred years ago. The roots are in colonias (unincorporated communities) in south Texas. This eBook outlines the seven elements of the PTA Comunitario approach that make it so unique and powerful.

Video: Dropout Prevention that WorksSee this quick overview of how the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program impacts students and schools. [01:30 min]

TV News Story: IDRA’s Dropout Prevention Tutoring DemonstrationSee the WOAI News 4 San Antonio TV story about the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. Earlier this year, we held events showing how IDRA’s Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program works with a tutoring demonstration in South San Antonio ISD. We had guests from across the country visiting to find out how to bring the program to their schools. This research-based, internationally-recognized dropout prevention program keeps 98 percent of its tutors in school – students who were once considered at-risk.

South San ISD student mentoring program draws national attention – More media coverage of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth ProgramThis is a story by Francisco Vara-Orta at the San Antonio Express-News who came by to observe IDRA’s Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program in action. There are some wonderful photos here too.

Continuities: Lessons for the Future of Education from the IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program Jan July  – Get seven key lessons for improving the quality of education for all students. This publication presents the voices of youth, teachers, family members and program leaders and the reasons valuing youth is at the heart of school transformation. Free online. 

IDRA has released a new report, College Bound and Determined, showing how the Pharr-San Juan Alamo school district in south Texas transformed itself from low achievement and low expectations to planning for all students to graduate from high school and college. In PSJA, transformation went beyond changing sobering graduation rates or even getting graduates into college. This school district changes how we think about college readiness. 

See video interview on communities using data  [06:02 min]. Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed., tells the story of a group of low-income Spanish-speaking families and their high school children used data and surveys to collaborate with their school to improve math instruction.

Classnotes podcasts on how to start a PTA Comunitario

How to Start a PTA Comunitario – Episode 131

Promotora Model for Family Leadership in Education – Episode 118

Community PTAs Growing in South Texas – Episode 99

Classnotes podcasts on using iPads in the science classroom

Leading with iPads for Diverse Students – Episode 129

Teaching with iPads for Diverse Students – Episode 122

Learning with iPads for Diverse Students – Episode 114 


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.