Tools for Action
Enlightened Public Policy
IDRA emerged in 1973 as the only entity in the state dedicated exclusively to the reform of the public school finance system. IDRA conducted the necessary research to substantiate the claims made earlier by the plaintiffs in the Rodríguez vs. San Antonio ISD, which had been overturned. IDRA provided state agencies and others with extensive information on the need for reform; prepared and distributed materials; and awakened educators, lawmakers, government officials and the general public to the inequities in the system of school finance and their implications for children’s educational opportunities.
Since then, IDRA has broadened its scope to include other issues related to excellence and equity in education. 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 student success. Enlightened public policy provides both the appropriate standards and the resources schools need to serve all children.
A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing
Developing leaders – IDRA’s Math and Science Smart (MASS) is a new project funded by the U.S. Department of Education that is a collaboration with five teacher preparation programs and 10 school districts. MASS is recruiting, preparing, placing and retaining a critical mass of highly qualified mid-career professionals and recent graduates as secondary math and science teachers with an English as a second language supplemental endorsement for students in 10 high-need Texas school districts.
Conducting research – IDRA is briefing state policymakers to provide research and analyses of critical issues for the next legislative session. These key issues, as outlined in the article in this newsletter entitled "Texas Education Policy Prospects for 2009," include school finance, school holding power, serving English language learners and disciplinary alternative education programs.
Informing policy – After an investigation by a regional Office for Civil Rights office found that most schools in a particular state were not meeting the requirements of Title IX and were in violation of the law, IDRA’s South Central Collaborative for Equity was called on to help. The center provided specific training for the technical assistance staff of a state department of education on sexual harassment and the law so that it could provide training, support and guidance to schools throughout the state.
Engaging communities – Through its Brown and Mendez Blueprints for Action Dialogues, IDRA is sharing data and strategies for engaging Latino and African American communities. These dialogues are sparking cross-sector and multicultural dialogue and local action about what can be done together, across all racial groups, to create schools that are equitable and excellent for all children. This information is especially important for community members and parents so that the promise of these court decisions, that transformed the nature of U.S. public education, can be fully met.
What You Can Do
Get informed. The Education Trust reports on what states are doing (and not doing) to boost graduation rates and offers specific recommendations for state leaders. Counting on Graduation states, "This improvement agenda is designed to support school and district efforts to accurately account for all students, hold them accountable for real improvement, and generate a statewide focus on closing the gaps and increasing graduation rates for all student groups." The report is available at http://www2.edtrust.org.
Get involved. When parents, families and others are actively involved as partners with their schools, students thrive and the community itself is made stronger. Listen to IDRA’s Classnotes podcast episodes "Action for School Change" and "School Holding Power for Every Child," as IDRA president & CEO, Dr. María "Cuca" Robledo Montecel, discusses the essence of the dropout problem and what can be taken to guarantee graduation for every student.
Get results. MDRC recently released a report that offers lessons from the last in a series of three high school reform conferences that brought together leaders from 22 midsize urban school districts. The resulting report provides strategies for improving high schools, like clearing stumbling blocks on the road through high school, creating schools where students feel attended to and that they attend, and fostering high-quality academic experiences. You can view the report, Relationships, Rigor, and Readiness – Strategies for Improving High Schools, free online at http://www.mdrc.org/publications/498/full.pdf.
Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2008, 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.]