• IDRA Newsletter • September 2009

The framework is in place: IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework is a comprehensive approach to changing and transforming schools for the success of all students. The framework has several divisions: levers of change, change strategies, school system fundamentals and indicators, and outcome indicators. The final outcomes are that students be kept in school, succeeding academically and preparing for college.

Within that system, a key piece for families and communities are the change strategies:

  • Community Capacity Building
  • Coalition Building and
  • School Capacity Building

Community Capacity Building. The Parent Information and Resource Center (Texas IDRA PIRC) mandate to work with families whose children are in Title I schools is congruent with these strategies. One of the three GEPRA measures is school accountability, and a key factor in building the community’s capacity is giving families and the broader community the tools to assess how well schools are doing by the children. Accountability applies not just to test scores, but the quality of teaching, attendance, preparation for college and participation in school activities.

Building Coalitions. Along with building the capacity of families to assess and strengthen the academic offerings and instructional effectiveness of their children’s schools is the strategy of building coalitions by bringing together of interested constituent groups and developing integrated plans around accountability issues engages the larger community to support the success of the schools. This effort broadens the community will for excellent neighborhood public schools and extends the network of families and organizations united around educational goals.

School Capacity Building. The third strategy is the concurrent effort from within the schools to support holding power, excellent teaching and strong two-way communication with the families. This capacity building can include planning sessions with representation from all stakeholder groups as well as training and professional development on curriculum, instruction, meaningful parent engagement, valuing and high expectations for all students, and efficacy in preparing students for college.

These three change strategies – community capacity building, building coalitions and school capacity building – do not work in isolation. They are concurrent, interconnected and interdependent to transform the neighborhood public school. Families are integrated into the process, and family leadership in education underlies all community efforts. Families are not urged to be antagonists but rather are assisted to become critical friends of the schools. Schools, while not castigated, are nevertheless catalyzed to have a paradigm shift in how students and their families are perceived. The capacity built across school professionals, parents and community organizations is for collaboration and mutual support in achieving distinctly new heights in student success, college access and eventual degree completion. This meets both the letter and the spirit of the Title I federal mandates and goals for public schools that serve the poor families.

[©2009, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the September 2009 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.]