Tools for Action
The true measure of school success is the success of its students. Student success means graduating students from high school fully prepared for college and the world of work. No state in the United States knows what percentage of students who enrolled in kindergarten went on to enroll in college (Venezia, et al., 2003). Thirteen out of 19 public universities in Texas graduate less than half of their students; six graduate less than a third (National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2004). IDRA is working in several areas to help schools address systemic factors that lead to student achievement, graduation and college success.
A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing
Developing Leaders – IDRA’s Science Smart! professional development provides teachers with scientific-based strategies to teach initiative scientific concepts, critical-thinking skills, problem-solving abilities and processes. As teachers’ understanding of science and pedagogy increases, they become more able to engage young minds in the sciences. This professional development series supports teachers through mentoring and coaching strategies. There is also online mentoring and coaching to facilitate building a network and community of learners who share and reflect on successful practices through online discussions.
Conducting Research – In January, IDRA completed an update to its 1996 desegregation study of a major urban school district’s efforts to eliminate segregation in its schools. The current study assessed the status of the district’s desegregation efforts and the implications for unitary status. The report findings were submitted to the district, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), which represented the plaintiffs in the 1970s desegregation case, the U.S. Office for Civil Rights, and the U.S. District Court in Midland/Odessa.
Informing Policy – The current national trend of making early childhood education mandatory is a sign that policymakers and others are recognizing the value that early childhood education has. IDRA has developed a model for effective early childhood education creating centers of excellence that ensure reading, cognitive and emotional success for all preschool children through a print-rich environment, with appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities. See the article entitled “Study Shows that Model Learning Community Bears Fruit for Young Children.”
Engaging Communities – IDRA’s award-winning dropout prevention program, the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, includes as an essential component the interaction of the surrounding community with the tutors through tutor field trips and visiting guest speakers who serve as role models for the tutors. The guest speakers are powerful because tutors are encouraged by the success of people who have come from the same community and circumstances as they do. Field trips enable the tutors to experience situations they might never have considered, and the community gets to see the quality of the students who will be graduating and becoming productive community members. For more information, see the article entitled “Coca-Cola Valued Youth College Tutors – On the Road to College Success.”
What You Can Do
Get informed. Visit the web site for the National Association for the Education of Young Children to learn more about how quality early childhood education leads to student success. The site also offers tips on becoming an informed advocate for early childhood education and student success. Visit the site at http://www.naeyc.org for more information.
Get involved. Help young children see themselves as future college students. IDRA has an excellent publication called I’m Going to College. The book is written for children in elementary school grades and includes fun activities and pictures that foster staying in school, graduating and going to college. IDRA also has a publication called Hacia Adelante ~ Pathways to College ~ A Guide for Latino Families that informs parents and students on how to plan together for college. This guide includes steps for choosing high school courses, selecting a college or university, financial planning and an action calendar. Both publications are available free online by clicking on the titles above.
Get results. Talk to students before the ninth grade about going to college. How do counselors and teachers orient them to take the classes, programs, and opportunities they need to be college ready? If you work in education, help ensure teachers have access to professional development on innovative teaching strategies that engage students actively in their learning. Check out a new report released by The Education Trust, Gaining Traction, Gaining Ground: How Some Schools Accelerate Learning. This report includes key findings and tips in working for student success and is the result of a careful, on-the-ground study into the practices of public high schools that serve high concentrations of either low-income or minority children and have a strong track record accelerating learning for students who enter high school below grade level.
Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2006, 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.]