Tools for Action
Enlightened Public Policy

Enlightened public policy provides both the appropriate standards and the resources schools need to serve all children. As such, IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework outlined by Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel positions enlightened public policy as one of three levers of change, along with engaged citizens and accountable leadership, to strengthen school holding power and secure student success. For effectiveness, policymaking must reflect sound, accurate information about schooling, and it must reflect the voice and will of parents, community members and educators as leaders in opening paths for all students’ futures.

A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing

Developing leaders – The IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity collaborated with the Office for Civil Rights, Dallas office and the Texas Education Agency to host a regional training conference on the Unlawful Harassment of Students in Educational Programs. IDRA SCCE and the OCR disseminated a technical assistance package on the law. While almost 300 educators attended from approximately 78 districts, the state department established selected statewide feeds via technology through its educational service centers of selected sessions around the state to enable those who could not attend the conference to benefit from the important presentations that impact policy under Titles IX, VI and Section 504.

Conducting research – IDRA’s Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has a 23-year track record of success that has been supported by rigorous research and evaluation. Designed and implemented by IDRA, the Coca Cola Valued Youth Program is a dropout prevention program in which secondary school students who are considered at risk of dropping out of school are placed as tutors of elementary school students. Quantitative and qualitative measures are used throughout the school year. This last school year (2006-07), the program worked with 2,104 U.S. students (526 tutors and 1,578 tutees) and 4,200 students in Brazil (1,050 tutors and 3,150 tutees). Research shows that the program has maintained a less than 2 percent dropout rate.

Informing policy – The American Civil Liberties Union contracted with IDRA to conduct a thorough review of the education records for all plaintiffs, analyze teaching credentials of the Hutto instructional staff, read 28 additional documents submitted by ACLU and observe the classrooms of the T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center this past summer. A final activity was to submit a written report on the findings. Specifically, the observations served to review current educational practices, materials, resources and interactions among teachers and students and to ascertain whether the educational program at Hutto was in compliance with Texas education standards and requirements for the instruction of immigrant English language learners. While there was an attempt by the Hutto facility and staff to follow standards for the required instruction of English language learners, as well as to comply with the minimum Texas curriculum standards, the formal observations, review of the documents and discussion with the principal, led to the conclusion that the instructional program at Hutto was not meeting the needs of its students. Prior settlement agreements on the education of immigrant children were not being followed. The report outlined three different options for addressing the deficiencies found in the instructional program and specified more than 28 recommendations. The case was settled before going to trial. Many of the specific recommendations were included as part of the settlement agreement.

Engaging communities – IDRA presented a parent institute at the Texas Association for Bilingual Education conference that was held in San Antonio in October. The bilingual institute revolved around three themes: bilingual education, parent leadership and plans for advocacy. This institute engaged parents to list and prioritize the strongest defenses for bilingual education programs, define leadership for bilingual education and to develop a plan of action that advocates for limited-English-proficient students. Parents learned that their voices and actions will make a difference in advocating for their children’s bilingual education programs.

What You Can Do

Get informed. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) has created a pamphlet entitled, “Know Your K-12 Education Rights: The Federal Education Rights of Students and Their Families.” This valuable resource informs students and their parents of their federal rights in U.S. public schools. A few important issues in this pamphlet include: the rights of immigrant students to equal access to K-12 public school programs, the right to be free from unlawful discrimination, and English language learners’ right to receive an appropriate education. For more information, visit

Get results. Visit IDRA’s School Holding Power Portal ( to: (1) assess your high school’s dropout rates; (2) find out how well schools are holding on to students and preparing them for college; and (3) partner and take action to strengthen schools. See Page 11 for more information.

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

[©2007, 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.]