Tools for Action
Lever of Change – Actionable Knowledge
IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework, developed by executive director Dr. María "Cuca" Robledo Montecel, shows how public education can be strengthened for all students. Most traditional dropout prevention efforts have not worked because they inappropriately focus on student characteristics or they focus on only one element of a larger system. Real success, however, requires addressing systemic factors that lead to students dropping out.
This means communities and schools working together in new ways. As shown in the action framework (www.idra.org), the levers of change fall within actionable knowledge, finding out what’s happening in your own community and schools. Clear, consistent and credible data are essential to good public policy, accountable leadership and an engaged public. But knowledge alone is never enough. The critical step is to begin a cycle of knowledge and action.
A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing
Developing leaders – IDRA recently presented "Graduation for All: The Road is Tough but Worth the Investment" at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Leadership Initiative’s Texas Statewide Policy Institute on Higher Education Access and Success. Elected officials were given a tool for receiving data about high schools and their communities that could be used to take local and state action.
Conducting research – Each year, for the past 22 years, IDRA has published findings from its high school attrition research (see "Texas School Holding Power Worse than Two Decades Ago"including the addition of a searchable online database that anyone can use to look up attrition rates for their county in Texas. These studies have used consistent research methodology, that at the time was new. But today, researchers across the country are using this methodology for state- and national-level studies of school attrition.
Informing policy – IDRA recently provided testimony before the Commission for a College Ready Texas and submitted a list of policy recommendations based on three InterAction forums IDRA held in 2004 in three distinct communities – Houston, Midland-Odessa and Edinburg – where participants looked at PK-20 pipeline issues through a framework consisting of seven areas: preparing students, college access, institutional persistence, affordability, institutional resources, graduation, and graduate and professional studies.
Engaging communities – Under IDRA’s Graduation Guaranteed/Graduación Garantizada initiative, IDRA has been piloting a school holding power portal that gives community-school action teams data on how their schools are doing on student attrition and achievement. The portal provides data on the factors (from teaching quality to curriculum access and funding equity) that affect attrition, achievement and school holding power at the campus level. The IDRA portal can be accessed at: http://www.idra.org/portal/.
What You Can Do
Get informed. See the report, Every Child, Every Promise: Turning Failure Into Action, by America’s Promise Alliance, for strategies to improve the lives of youth. This is the first report in a biennial series, and it comprehensively measures the presence of the essential resources that correlate with success in both youth and adulthood
Get involved. Is attrition a problem in your school? If so, which students are lost? When are they most at risk, and why? Does your school have the capacity ("holding power") to graduate all students and prepare them for college and work? A daunting mix of data can keep people from getting straight answers to shape a plan of action. In What Your Community Can Do to End its Drop-Out Crisis: Learnings from Research and Practice (http://web.jhu.edu/CSOS/images/Final_dropout_Balfanz.pdf), Robert Balfanz at Johns Hopkins University recommends a three-part plan, beginning with the data. To get started, take a look at Project U-Turn’s citywide campaign, grounded in data analysis and designed to focus attention on Philadelphia’s dropout crisis (http://www.projectuturn.net/about.html).
Get results. A Community Action Guide-Seven Actions to Fulfill the Promise of Brown vs. Board of Education and Mendez vs. Westminster is an IDRA booklet that details seven actions community members can take to help fulfill the promise of Brown vs. Board of Education and Mendez vs. Westminster in the education of African American and Latino students. It also includes a step-by-step tool for developing a blueprint for action in a local community. You may access the booklet free via IDRA’s web site at http://www.idra.org/images/stories/A_Community_Action_Guide.pdf.
[©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.]