Tools for Action

Engaging Students for Success

Studies have shown that greater student engagement increases academic achievement and encourages students’ positive self-concept, to the point of reducing dropout rates (Brookhart and Durkin, 2003; Finn and Voelkl, 1993). Engaged students perform better academically. Whether engagement is used in the context of students being captivated during lessons by powerful learning opportunities or of engaging students in the larger arena of activism, engagement is a vital part of academic success for students.

A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing

Developing Leaders – The Annual IDRA La Semana del Niño Early Childhood Educators Institute fosters leadership not only in early childhood educators generally, but also in those educators whose students are bilingual. The workshops and dialogues during the institute help educators to create classrooms that are both accessible and culturally relevant. This institute also engages parents as their children’s first teachers, showing them ways to engage their children in home and school.

Conducting Research – Research and evaluation are an integral part of IDRA’s
Coca­-Cola Valued Youth Program. One of the reasons the program is so successful in keeping students in school and learning is the empowerment they feel in teaching younger students – there is another person who knows when the tutor is gone and who misses them. Through the pre- and post-testing done with all tutors in the
Coca­-Cola Valued Youth Program, it is obvious that these students feel valued, and therefore empowered, in a way they never felt before (see article on the launch in Detroit and the article in the October 2004 issue of the IDRA Newsletter). The
Coca­-Cola Valued Youth Program has been engaging students for 21 years and has positively impacted 416,000 students, educators and families.

Informing Policy – IDRA’s South Central Collaborative for Equity, works to influence district policy to create classrooms that are safe and comfortable for all students. The center is the equity assistance center serving federal region VI (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas). It is working with several school districts to get them back into compliance with federal mandates around equity for all children regardless of race, gender or national origin.

Engaging Communities – IDRA convened three Blueprint Dialogue roundtables across Texas that were highly successful in extending community and school leader interaction to urban and rural communities through a cross-sector and multiracial approach that focused on Latino and African American youth, preschool through graduation. Supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the dialogues were action-focused and challenged leaders to plan specific strategies that would improve educational opportunities for all students, especially minority students. See for more information.

What You Can Do

Get informed. Visit the National Survey of Student Engagement to see how college and university students are ranking their institutions on engagement. You can see the full report at

Find out more.
Which system factors may be weakening school holding power? Is funding appropriate and equitably distributed to offer an excellent education to every student in your district? Are teachers certified and teaching in their area of expertise? What are your district’s student retention policies and practices? What is the quality and accessibility of the curriculum? Is schoolwork comprehensible to all students, no matter what first language they speak? Are students engaged in learning and academic life – do they sense that they are valued and expected to succeed? If not, what must be changed? See IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework to see how these elements work together,

Get results. Use the tool, Promoting Student Leadership on Campus: A Guide for Creating a Culture of Engagement, to build a vision of engagement and student leadership on your campus. You can find the IDRA publication here. It is available for free download online.

Also, student engagement is strengthened when students’ families are engaged with their schools. You can work with your school to create involvement strategies that are meaningful to families. See “Improving Educational Impact through Community and Family Engagement,” by R.G. Rodríguez and A. Villarreal for suggestions.

Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at

[©2006, IDRA. This 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.]