Tools for Action
Focusing on Teaching Quality

There has been a sizeable national discussion about teacher quality. The conversations point to the level of university preparation, state credentialing and other individual characteristics of teachers. While these are certainly important considerations, something is missing. The missing element in the dialogue is teaching quality. IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework, which shows how we can strengthen public education for all students, identifies teaching quality as one of four areas where we need to focus systems change. This involves more than preparation of teachers, their placement in their fields of study, and continual professional development. It also involves the practices that teachers use in the classroom to deliver comprehensible instruction to ensure that all students are learning and graduating. So it’s more than the teacher as a person. Specifically, teaching quality is characterized by strong content knowledge and effective pedagogy, quality decision-making in the classroom, self-efficacy, innovation, capacity to teach diverse students, and is grounded in community and institutional support.

A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing

Developing leadersIDRA’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 works closely with school districts to provide timely, useful evaluations and research studies. Findings and recommendations are used to refine their programs, strengthen components and features that were proven to work for children and change those features that were ineffective. IDRA evaluators keep clients informed of the progress of the evaluation and make them an integral part of the process, from getting their input on surveys developed to conducting interviews with key stakeholders and reviewing findings in face-to-face meetings.

Informing policy – The IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity recently supported the Oklahoma Annual Statewide Multicultural Education Conference. This conference serves an extremely important role in assisting many school districts to meet a state-mandated requirement for all teachers to receive a certain number of professional development credits annually. The conference was set up in a way to enable teachers in rural and remote settings to receive professional development credits as well. Teaching quality is clearly elevated by the support the conference provides them to receive the best in culturally relevant pedagogy and educational practice.

Engaging communities – Mr. Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed., an IDRA senior associate and lead trainer, who also directs the IDRA Texas Parent and Information Resource Center, has been elected to the National Parent Teacher Association board of directors. This board is comprised of parents, education professionals, community and business leaders, and other child advocates from across the country. This will continue to leverage opportunities for IDRA’s work with families and communities.

What You Can Do

Get informed. Rethinking High School: Supporting All Students to Be College-Ready in Math is a new report, finding that access to high-level math classes and knowledgeable, effective teachers is crucial to preparing high school students for college and beyond. Researchers found that the schools profiled shared three things in common regarding their ability to provide effective math programs: offering high-level math courses and support for all students; providing intensive professional development for teachers to improve their subject knowledge and teaching skills; and using student progress and evaluations to help teachers tailor their lessons. To view the report, visit  .

Get involved. The book, Funds of Knowledge: Theorizing Practices in Households and Classrooms, encourages teachers to deepen their understanding of students’ home lives and family histories. By engaging in home visits, teachers discover that their students’ funds of knowledge are embedded in their language, cultural practices and life experiences. If teachers view their students’ home lives in terms of strengths and resources rather than as deficits, the students’ prior knowledge from their history and community contexts becomes the impetus for building a richer, more relevant and culturally responsive curriculum.

Get results. A new policy brief analyzes the factors behind the persistent inequitable distribution of effective teachers and recommends measures to prepare, recruit and retain more highly qualified teachers to improve academic outcomes in schools with mainly poor minority students. The brief, Improving the Distribution of Teachers in Low-Performing High Schools, was developed by the Alliance for Excellent Education and is 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.]