Tools for Action
A study by the U.S. Department of Education released in 2006 has received new attention recently. It found, "The academic intensity of the student’s high school curriculum still counts more than anything else in precollegiate history in providing momentum toward completing a bachelor’s degree." The authors of The Toolbox Revisited – Paths to Degree Completion From High School Through College (http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/toolboxrevisit/toolbox.pdf) stress the critical need for all students to have access to high quality curriculum.
IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework also identifies curriculum quality and access as a critical school system indicator. It includes the educational programs of study, materials and other learning resources, such as technology, and their accessibility to all students. It also relates to assessment and accountability – the school practices related to fair and unbiased assessment of students and degree that schools take responsibility for the academic success of all students. IDRA is working with school and community leaders to help schools strengthen their curriculum to better engage students and ensure all students have access to high-level courses, particularly in mathematics and science.
A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing
Developing leaders – The 15th Annual IDRA La Semana del Niño Early Childhood Educators Institute™ recently was held in San Antonio. This year’s theme, "Inspiring Children’s Creativity and Inquiry in Mathematics and Science," analyzed the critical issues around early literacy that affect the quality of instruction offered by schools. The institute created opportunities for children to develop a love of reading while they are doing mathematics, art, music and science.
Conducting research – IDRA is conducting a study using the IDRA publication, Good Schools and Classrooms for Children Learning English: A Guide, to look at the three following dimensions of school success as they pertain to a Texas school district’s population of high school English language learners: effective leadership, quality teaching and other student support. This study measures the effectiveness of programs, instructional accommodations and regulatory compliance. You can also use this guide in your own community, visit www.idra.org to order a copy.
Informing policy – Recently, a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court ruled in favor of school districts in several states who claimed that the No Child Left Behind Act requires them to pay for testing and other programs without providing sufficient federal money. In an IDRA Classnotes Podcast, "Court Ruling on Compliance with NCLB Mandates," IDRA’s policy director, Dr. Albert Cortez that gives an overview of the recent NCLB-focused court ruling and its implications for states, school districts as well as for NCLB reauthorization. Listen to this informative podcast by going to IDRA’s web site at http://www.idra.org/resource_center_categories/classnotes-podcast/ or through iTunes.
Engaging communities – IDRA’s Parent Information and Resource Center (PIRC) continues to work closely with parents in school districts in Texas to review the academic achievement of its students. Recently, IDRA convened a group of enthusiastic parents to seek ways to support the success of all students, especially in math. Parents are also learning how they can identify when and how they can help their children attend and complete college.
What You Can Do
Get informed. Doing What Works is a new web site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education dedicated to connecting educators to research and identify effective teaching practices and how to implement them to improve student achievement. For more information, visit http://dww.ed.gov/.
Get involved. Parents can check out the things they should know about and expect from their schools and themselves. "12 Things You Should Know and Expect" is a useful guide created by KSA-Plus Communications’ Parent Leadership Group and can be downloaded for free and distributed to parents at your school, visit at http://www.parents.ksaplus.com/framesplpubs.html.
Get results. The U.S. Department of Education has collected data in "Mapping Educational Progress 2008" about the academic performance of students and schools. See data on student achievement in reading and math, high school graduation rates, schools making adequate yearly progress, highly qualified teachers, and more. Visit http://www.ed.gov/nclb/accountability/results/progress/index.html for information about educational progress in your state. Use this information to identify needed areas of change.
Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2008, IDRA. The following article originally appeared in the IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Every effort has been made to maintain the content in its original form. However, accompanying charts and graphs may not be provided here. To receive a copy of the original article by mail or fax, please fill out our information request and feedback form. 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.]