Tools for Action
Governance Efficacy – Leading At All Levels

Educational excellence and equity happens with great effort and collaboration. To envision and then yield brilliant results, a school system must adapt to the times and the needs of its students. The process necessitates the cooperation and agility of everyone at all levels, and it must be bolstered by education research, effective policy and classroom best practices.

To build governance efficacy, school leaders and community members must take a longitudinal look at their school systems. For example, has the school district improved after the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case of 1954 that desegregated schools based on race and was to create equal opportunities for all students. They also should take a vertical look across all grade levels and determine whether the policies, curricula and teaching quality are congruent and creating a seamless education that is leading all students toward graduation prepared for college. Finally, they should view the system with the eyes of their students, who go to school wishing to learn and be challenged and who need teaching to be relevant to their lives.

A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing

Developing leaders – Every year in April, IDRA staff facilitates opportunities for classroom leaders and parents to enhance their leadership as advocates for effective teaching and positive student results. At the 14th Annual IDRA La Semana del Niño Early Childhood Educators Institute, experienced practitioners shared tools and strategies for making math, science and reading interesting, engaging and understandable to English language learners. Participants learned to expand their expectations of these little learners.

Conducting research –IDRA is implementing a research study of South Texas children in the pre-kindergarten ages (3 to 5). Through funding from the U.S. Department of Education for the Early Reading First program, IDRA is working with selected Head Start preschool centers to create early childhood centers of excellence. Through ongoing classroom-based professional development and by enabling teachers to form an integrated instructional program, Head Start children are better prepared for transition to kindergarten and are encountering greater reading successes when they enter school. The project is showing that reforms at the preschool level can produce very positive results for young learners.

Informing policy – Recently, Texas policymakers debated a policy that for a decade has increased college enrollment among rural and minority students in the state. The policy automatically admits students graduating in the top 10 percent of their high school senior class to any Texas public university. Countering erroneous data on the effects of the law, IDRA published a policy brief entitled, Ten Percent Plan in Texas, that summarized the success of the Ten Percent Plan and helped re-direct the debate on the issue (see article “Ten Percent Plan in Texas IDRA Releases Policy Brief”).

Engaging communities – In January, IDRA convened a community dialogue on issues of race equity in Little Rock, Arkansas. The event gathered African American, Latino and Anglo community, business and education leaders in the area to facilitate a community-based conversation about the public schools in the region and a review local efforts to serve all students. The overall effort will culminate with a local plan of action that will serve as a blueprint for fulfilling the promise of Brown vs. Board of Education and Mendez vs. Westminster to all of Little Rock’s students.

What You Can Do

Get informed. Convene public community forums on attrition to share information on key issues and mobilize action. The article, “Parent-Teacher Participation in the Context of School Governance” by Patricia A. Bauch and Ellen B. Goldring in the Peabody Journal of Education (v73 n1 p15-35 1998) examines participation of parents and teachers in school decision making in the context of school governance.

Get involved. Build diverse cross-sector partnerships and coalitions (from local partnerships with schools to local, state and regional networks). The Journal of Law and Education article, “Making Local School Councils Work: The Implementation of Local School Councils in Chicago Public Elementary Schools” by S. Raja Krishnamoorthi (v29 n3 p285-314 Jul 2000) discusses reform in Chicago’s public schools that has involved decentralizing decision-making to parent-dominated local school councils.

Get results. Establish partnerships with parents and community members to strengthen school holding power, tying parent and community involvement programs to school reform. Read “Parents Are a School’s Best Friend,” by June Cavarretta in Educational Leadership (v55 n8 p12-15 May 1998). This active parent describes how more than 400 parent volunteers in the Carpentersville (Illinois) school district were trained to participate in their children’s education through shared decision making. Each school practices a governance model focusing on trust building, collaboration, shared vision and continuous improvement.

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

[©2007, 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.]