Tools for Action
The national context of governance efficacy for public schools can sometimes be unclear. In the most overarching way, effective governance at the national level involves promoting student success by upholding the civil rights of every child and combining appropriate standards with investment in schools and children. It also includes recognition of the democratic value and imperative of a public school system that is accountable to the public.
State-level efficacy includes good and effective governance issuing from policymakers and leaders who ensure that education, as a centerpiece of social and economic health, is funded at the level schools need to provide an excellent education for every child. Effective state governance must ensure that education resources are distributed equitably so that a child’s opportunities do not depend on the zip code in which she or he happens to live.
Leadership at the local level requires building the capacity of schools, families, communities and students to achieve success.
A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing
Developing Leaders – Developing new thinking around student success is imperative. A systemic approach can only be possible when key stakeholders – administrators, teachers, counselors, students, parents, and community members – work together to find solutions. In November 2005, IDRA and LULAC launched Graduation Guaranteed/Graduación Garantizada Statewide Summit on School Holding Power. Attendees were charged with going back to their individual communities and finding ways to implement what they learned in their local schools. In June 2006, the Ysleta Independent School District along with the University of Texas at El Paso’s Center for Civic Engagement and Communities in Schools hosted a one-day summit for El Paso area middle and high schools. More than 200 educators, students and parents were in attendance learning and sharing ways to increase school holding power.
Conducting Research – Schools and communities in Texas and around the country are looking to new ways to understand the obstacles to school success and to work together to address them. IDRA is developing a School Holding Power Portal that provides quality information and puts no-nonsense data in the hands of people at the leading edge of systems change. The portal has information for educators and community members to find out how well their high school campuses are preparing and graduating students, what factors may be weakening school holding power, and what they can do to address them.
Informing Policy – As the student population becomes more diverse, more appropriate tools are needed to assess the efficacy of policies. A new IDRA-developed framework includes: inclusivity, funding equity, quality of action, flexibility, goal appropriateness, agency accountability, institutional accountability, educational impact, and interconnectedness. You can read a full description of these assessment criteria in the article “Accessing Policies for Success of Minority Children.”
Engaging Communities – IDRA has developed a series of publications for use by families, schools and administrators that help to assess the quality of interaction among those key stakeholders. One of the publications, the Family and Community Engagement Survey – Field Test Version, is a survey that can be used by teachers, administrators and parents to assess a school’s effectiveness in partnering with families and communities. It is a useful tool for planning strategies that are clustered around four domains: (a) student achievement; (b) access and equity; (c) organizational support; and (d) quality of interaction. The questions and ideas used in the guide are gleaned from the literature on effective partnering with communities and families.
What You Can Do
Get informed. Get more information about how governance efficacy affects your school’s teaching quality, curriculum quality and access, student engagement, and parent and community engagement. In Texas, you can refer to IDRA’s web portal for data. Find out how much money your district is able to spend per student. Compare this with other districts. Find out how funds are being distributed within your district.
Get involved. Talk with parents. Engage your school’s site-based decision making team, PTA, boosters and other groups and find out what they are doing. Find various ways that parents can take leadership roles and invite other parents to school activities where they can provide input that leads to school improvement. Ensure that information reaches parents in a language and format that is understandable.
Get results. The National Governors Association’s High School Honor States Program is a governor-led initiative to improve high school and college-ready graduation rates in 26 states. Many of the changes being undertaken by states are outlined in An Action Agenda for Improving America’s High Schools and Getting it Done: Ten Steps to a State Action Agenda, which provides a framework for states to continue restructuring efforts begun during the NGA Redesigning the American High School initiative. For more information visit the NGA web site at http://www.nga.org.
Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at: email@example.com.
[©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.]