Tools For Action
Engaging Students for Success

Engaged students perform better academically. And the role of fostering student engagement is critical both in the classroom and schoolwide. When the whole school environment and activities value students and incorporate them in learning and co-curricular school activities the result is academic achievement. Research provides student engagement indicators that educators can use to observe students to help guide educator decisions for strategy adjustment and implementation. These student indicators cluster around four areas of evidence showing: students as part of a community; students use of academic language, students’ concentration and focus; students’ confidence in performance; and students as active and participatory.

A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing

Developing leaders – IDRA has created a professional development model to help teachers engage English language learners. Through this training, teachers learn, reflect on use and adapt instructional strategies so that English language learners are engaged in the instructional process. See Engagement-Based Sheltered Instruction at the IDRA web site ( for more information.

Conducting research – Each year, for the past 23 years, IDRA has published findings from its high school attrition research (see "Texas Public School Attrition Study, 2007-08 – At Current Pace, Schools will Lose Many More Generations") including the addition of a searchable online database that anyone can use to look up attrition rates for their county in Texas (see These studies have used consistent research methodology, that at the time was new. But today, researchers across the country are using this methodology for state- and national-level studies of school attrition.

Informing policy – Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed., director of the IDRA Texas Parent Information and Resource Center, presented a framework for policy and action at the education summit of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Inc. in Washington, D.C. Based on IDRA’s two decades of research on attrition and the constellation of factors that result in weak school holding power, IDRA offered four primary recommendations focused at the campus, district and system levels for breaking the routine: count every student to make sure every student counts, tend to the transition points, spur school-level action around a Quality Schools Action Framework, and invest in school holding power.

Engaging communities – The promise of access to college and to educational technology has not been fulfilled for low-income Hispanic students, particularly first-generation college students and their families. IDRA kicked off the second phase of its Technology Enhanced Community Neighborhood Organizations (TECNO) project with a College Rocks! fair for hundreds of students featuring information about colleges, college tours and seminars on Kid’s College, financial aid, and middle school college preparation.

What You Can Do

Get informed. The Annenberg Institute has released a report, Organized Communities, Stronger Schools: A Preview of Research Findings, that indicates that effective community organizing contributes to an improved learning environment and improved educational outcomes for students; strengthens school-community relations, parent engagement and a sense of community and trust in schools; and stimulates important changes in policy, practices and resource distribution that expand equity and capacity at the system level, especially in historically underserved communities. View the report free online at:

Get involved. A special report from Indiana University’s High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE) shows that two out of three students are bored in class every day, while 17 percent say they are bored in every class. The HSSSE is a new survey that offers teachers and administrators actionable information on school characteristics that shape the student experience. For more information and to see the latest report, "Voices of Students on Engagement," go to:

In a Classnotes Podast episode, Dr. Juanita García, an education associate at IDRA, describes how enabling students to generate their own content questions increases engagement, improves learning, and can result in purposeful involvement with the content. She discusses ways to foster student questions and describes a specific group memory strategy teachers can use right away. Listen to the podcast conversation, "Fostering Student Questions" at

Get results. A research brief outlines steps for initiating collaborative efforts among all of the schools’ stakeholders. View the brief, Developing a Collaborative Team Approach to Support Family and Community Connections with Schools: What Can School Leaders Do?, online at:

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

[©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.]