• IDRA Newsletter • April 2007

Effective schools depend on a high quality, enriched and accessible curriculum. In IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework, curriculum quality and access encompasses the educational programs of study, materials and other learning resources (such as technology) and ensures all students have access to this quality curriculum. Dr. María Robledo Montecel, IDRA executive director, expands, “It also relates to the fair and unbiased assessment of students and the degree to which schools take responsibility for the academic success of all students.”

A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing

Developing leaders – In a South Texas school district, planned variation of its Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, the Professional Learning Communities and Learning Model, taps the leadership and commitment of eighth-grade teachers at a junior high school. The model provides a way for teachers to center their work on student success through IDRA’s guided reflections and technical assistance.

In addition, IDRA is developing a supplementary bilingual early childhood bilingual curriculum, Semillitas, with classroom lessons, storytelling videos, big and little storybooks, a book set for home, classroom posters, activities for family engagement and tips for setting up the classroom. Semillitas addresses comprehension, phonological awareness and phonics, book knowledge and use, print and emergent writing, and storytelling and poetry. With a spirit of valuing diversity and cultures, the curriculum encourages the richness of language and print. Semillitas is designed to help teachers encourage communication and language exploration through discussions in both Spanish and English as a basis for learning English. The curriculum will be available this summer.

Conducting research – IDRA has begun a research study with San Antonio College to describe the experience of first-time college students. This is part of the Achieving the Dream Initiative that is designed to increase college access and success of students, particularly minority students. The research findings will help inform San Antonio College and other Achieving the Dream colleges as they refine their curricula and services to their students.

Informing policy – IDRA is bringing together community, policy and education leaders to explore linkages among existing institutions in order to facilitate the transition from high school to college for under-served students. The effort is broadening citizen-based reform that is seeking to address inequities in education by providing viable solutions and improved policy and practice for greater access to college and the world of work for minority youth.

Engaging communities – IDRA’s Good Schools and Classrooms for Children Learning English: A Guide is a rubric based on research by IDRA that identified the 25 common characteristics of successful schools that contribute to high academic performance of students learning English. The guide is designed for people in schools and communities to evaluate five dimensions that are necessary for success – school indicators, leadership, student outcomes, support, and programmatic and instructional practices – in their neighborhood public schools.

What You Can Do

Get informed. Visit the web site for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development at http://www.ascd.org to learn more about the issues surrounding quality curriculum development. Review the Quality Schools Action Framework online (http://www.idra.org/change-model/quality-schools-action-framework/) to see how curriculum quality and access is related to student success and school holding power.

Get involved. If you are an administrator, provide the space for your teachers (from pre-kindergarten through grade 12) to plan and attend professional development together so that there is vertical alignment in the curriculum being taught and so that teachers can experience and communicate this with their colleagues. IDRA’s Math Smart! and Science Smart! trainings encourage that continuum across and within grade levels. See article entitled: “Re-Invigorating Math Curricula” in the April 2006 issue of the IDRA Newsletter. Get more information on Math Smart! (http://www.idra.org/getting-started-school-math-smart/) and Science Smart! (http://www.idra.org/services/math-smart-science-smart/). Both are also available for the elementary setting.

Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2007, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the April 2007 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.]