In order to have student success and effective school holding power, administrators, teachers and other stakeholders must build school capacity. To truly build school capacity, there must be lasting systems change that depends on sustained action within and outside of those systems. IDRA has created a model, the Quality Schools Action Framework, that bridges the gap between the often-studied best practices of high performing schools, and the less-often studied contextual and moderating factors that may impede or accelerate school system change.
A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing
Developing leaders – Through a series of Science Smart! institutes, IDRA is delivering professional development training to teachers to strengthen their leadership and efficacy in closing achievement gaps and increasing student achievement in science. Training includes classroom demonstrations, one-on-one meetings with the teachers, and online mentoring and coaching. See Science Smart!
Conducting research –IDRA is partnering with a group of middle school teachers, a principal, counselor and social worker to create a small professional learning community whose only mission is to ensure the academic success of its students. This emerging professional learning community meets regularly to work together, sharing and exchanging insights about their students, developing strategies for success, and sharing in their responsibility for students. IDRA is guiding them with the best research, the best thinking and the best practices available.
Informing policy – In November, Dr. María Robledo Montecel, IDRA’s executive director, testified before the Texas State Board of Education concerning attrition and strategies for increasing school holding power in Texas public schools. IDRA has been releasing its study of attrition rates in Texas every year for more than 20 years (see the October issue of the IDRA Newsletter). You can hear an audio file of Dr. Robledo Montecel’s testimony by going to the State Board of Education’s web page on the Texas Education Agency web site: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/audio/nov06.html. Dr. Robledo Montecel’s testimony is captured in link titled, “November 16: Committee of the Whole C.”
Engaging communities – With technical assistance provided by IDRA’s Parent Involvement Resource Center, a group of young people from ARISE, a faith-based grassroots organization led by women from the poorest neighborhoods in South Texas, support their parents and other adults to learn to use computers, go online and access information about their schools, the state education agency, colleges and universities, and other educational topics. Most of the adults have limited, if any, experiences with computers, and many have limited English proficiency. The young people formed a group, Youth Education Tekies, a makeshift computer center has been established, and the youth volunteer to become the tech connection for their families. They hold monthly meetings and provide continued assistance for adults on the use of computers.
What You Can Do
Get informed. The Center for Parent Leadership has published, No Child Left Behind: What’s in it for Parents, as a guide for parents to understand the No Child Left Behind Act generally, and specifically Title I of that act. The guide talks about leverage points for parents to use in securing the assistance their child’s school should receive under the law, and it also takes a closer look at what the act says about involving parents in schools. You can see this publication at the center’s web site: http://www.centerforparentleadership.org/NCLB%20Guide.pdf.
The U.S. Department of Education has published a bilingual English and Spanish brochure called, Ten Facts Every Parent Should Know About The No Child Left Behind Act: Diez Datos Que Cada Padre Debe Saber Sobre La Ley Que Ningun Nino Se Quede Atras. This brochure provides parents with vital information regarding what the act can and cannot allow to happen to their children in public school. The publication can be viewed at: http://www.royce.house.gov/UploadedFiles/tenfacts-nclb.pdf.
Get results. Based on the teaching quality needs in your own neighborhood public schools, you can initiate and/or expand partnerships among educators, school administrators, parents and local community members that can jointly work toward better teaching quality. Communities and schools can monitor the plan for meeting NCLB teaching quality requirements this year; press for greater school finance equity; and build wider support for teaching and curricula that serve diverse learners, such as bilingual education and ESL programs.
The Public Education Network is coordinating a national campaign called Give Kids Good Schools (www.givekidsgoodschools.com). The corresponding web site is a source of vast information for all stakeholders who want to build school capacity on a local, state or national level.
[©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.]