Tools for Action
Parent and Community Engagement
IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework is designed to help identify where the systems change needs to occur for any particular school system. In determining how to make the change happen, one of the three strategies outlined is community capacity building. "Community oversight is a critical missing ingredient in effective and accountable dropout prevention efforts at the local level," states IDRA executive director, Dr. María "Cuca" Robledo Montecel. "Schools and communities working together have the capacity to craft and carry out effective solutions that will make a difference for students."
A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing
Developing leaders – IDRA’s Family Leaders Engaged in Children’s Academic Success (FLEChAS) project is a comprehensive, multicultural, bilingual project that is strengthening school-family partnerships in a San Antonio school district. IDRA is working with schools, families and community-based organizations to promote academic success for students through an array of capacity-building activities, technology and technical assistance, information dissemination and model development. FLEChAS is strengthening the voice and leadership role of families by working with parents, students, school personnel and community-based organizations to recognize, honor and value family, culture and community as assets to teaching and learning from pre-k through higher education.
Conducting research – Through IDRA’s highly successful dropout prevention program, the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, tutors in one south Texas school district recently participated in a college awareness day at the University of Texas at Pan American. The students participated in hands-on activities that explored college options and aspects of college, such as what courses are needed in high school to prepare for college, names of colleges (both local and outside of their community), and cost of college tuition. Students also participated in a college tour. A former tutor from the same school district who is now attending the university spoke to the students and encouraged them to consider college in their future.
Informing policy – The IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity recently hosted its annual focus group and work session on educational equity. The regional focus group supports parents’ options under the No Child Left Behind Act. This meeting specifically focused on services to magnet and charter schools. One of the charter schools represented at the meeting provides a rich alternative setting for African American and Latino students. Representatives from magnet schools in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas participated. New Mexico sent a district representative who oversees the implementation of charter schools for the state.
Engaging communities – Through a new project, Cartitas (Valorizando el Compromiso entre la Familia y la Escuela/Valuing the Family-School Connection and Commitment: Letters Home Series), IDRA is developing early childhood education materials that strengthen family-school connections for early literacy. The goal of Cartitas is to address the need for authentic, bilingual materials that value the diverse, cultural and linguistic traditions of families and strengthen the family-school learning partnership. Participants include teachers and families in San Antonio school districts, early childhood Head Start centers, non-profit agencies from the predominantly Latino, Westside San Antonio neighborhoods, and 150 families and teachers participating in the Annual IDRA La Semana del Niño Early Childhood Educators Institute.
What You Can Do
Get informed. The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released a Kids Count working paper, States Ranked on the Basis of Child Well-Being for Children in Low-Income Families, that ranks all 50 states in terms of the condition of children living in low-income families. This new information is an important look at a target population that is often the focus of public policies to improve the lives of children. For a copy of the working paper, visit http://www.aecf.org/upload/PublicationFiles/lowincomewellbeing.pdf.
Get involved. In San Antonio, a group of parents gathered to learn how to read their school’s data through the newly released Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) report, which provides comprehensive data on each Texas school district and campus. These reports provide vast information on the performance of students in each school district in Texas annually. To view the 2006-07 report, visit http://www.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/aeis/2007/index.html.
Get results. The Education Trust in Washington, D.C., has developed an easy guide to collecting and analyzing school data in order to improve student achievement. Making Data Work: A Parent and Community Guide is designed to help parents and community members learn how to understand and use data to improve their community schools. Community advocates, school counselors, parents, policymakers and educators can use this guide to focus their efforts to change their schools for the better. To get your guide, visit http://www2.edtrust.org/edtrust/images/dataguidefinal.pdf.
[©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.]