Neighborhood public schools belong to their communities. The strength and vitality of any community is, in part, dependent upon the strength of its schools. And the reverse is true. Schools are more successful when they engage with families and others in their community. Even though the process of forming partnerships through engagement can be challenging, doing so can yield significant results for all stakeholders in the education system.
A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing
Developing leaders – More than 200 parents gathered at IDRA’s Annual Bilingual Parent Institute in San Antonio. Parents of school-age children and parent educators examined current educational issues, observed parents who presented on what they have done during their leadership sessions in their districts, explored technology avenues to assist in advocacy, and networked with other parents. The institute fully incorporated IDRA’s model of valuing parents as leaders. To listen to an IDRA Classnotes Podcast episode about parent engagement, go to http://www.idra.org/resource_center_categories/classnotes-podcast/
and scroll down to "Valuing Families in Children’s Education."
Conducting research – With funding from The Marguerite Casey Foundation, IDRA is working with 13 of the foundation’s grantee organizations in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. During this 18-month effort, IDRA is providing guidance and technical assistance to the grantees so that each organization (a) develops a plan for an integrated progress monitoring system that is informed by an in-depth assessment of their current capacity and context, and (b) develops and uses an integrated system of data collection and analysis that informs and guides their work, reaching the capacity needed for sustaining impact.
Informing policy – Eight of 20 regions in Texas have higher high school attrition rates than they did 22 years ago. Overall, Texas schools are losing one-third of their students. IDRA has just released detailed findings showing that regional attrition rates range from a low of 20 percent to a high of 46 percent. In 2006-07, attrition rates ranged from a low of 20 percent in ESC 17 (Lubbock) to a high of 46 percent in ESC Region 1 (Edinburg), compared to the state average of 34 percent. To see the study, go to http://www.idra.org/research_articles/attrition-dropout-rates-texas/.
Engaging communities – A growing body of research has found that professional learning communities in schools, combined with mentoring, result in clear improvements in outcomes for staff and students. IDRA’s Professional Learning Community and Mentoring Model, a planned variation of IDRA’s Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, has been implemented in a Texas middle school for the past three years, and each of the teachers mentored, advocated for and championed three students who needed an educator in their lives who believes in them and their capacity for learning and success. The first-year results for students and participants was so successful that the model was expanded to a second team of participants for the second year and all eighth grade middle school teachers for the third year of implementation. Results included greater instructional competencies for learning community teachers (through linked courses) and increased academic achievement for tutors with teachers. To find out how a south Texas middle school is transforming teaching and learning through a new learning community, listen to IDRA Podcast Episode 25 at http://www.idra.org/resource-center/professional-learning-communities-in-schools/.
What You Can Do
Get informed. Developed by the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) with the help of parents and principals, "10 Partnering Tips for a Strong Community" is part of an overall strategy for building relationships with principals to improve student achievement (http://www.pta.org/archive_article_details_1118700977312.html). Visit the National PTA’s web site to view this resource and many others!
Get involved. A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement examines key issues in the field of family and community connections with schools. It is a synthesis of studies about the impact of family and community involvement on student achievement, and effective strategies to connect schools, families and community. Get the PDF version at http://www.sedl.org/connections/resources/evidence.pdf.
Janice Petrovich of the Ford Foundation recently published, A Foundation Returns to School: Strategies for Improving Public Education. This publication reviews the activities and lessons of the Ford Foundation’s 13-year initiative to help communities realize changes in schools through constituency and coalition-building, policy research and evaluation, strategic communication, and networking. To view this publication, visit http://www.fordfound.org/pdfs/impact/strategies_improving_public_education.pdf.
Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©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.]