Tools for Action
Teaching Quality for Success

Success in school means having quality teachers, teachers who know their subject, who know effective instructional practices, and who value their students. Unfortunately, many students do not have access to these teachers. This shows up in the high numbers of students who fail at least one part of standardized accountability tests, who are held back and who do not graduate from high school. It also shows up in the low numbers of young people who are going to college and graduating. Why this dismal lack of success for some?

For some time, observers have ascribed students’ lack of success exclusively, or primarily, to students. IDRA believes that much of our schools’ failure is due to limited access to quality teaching. IDRA has taken an unwavering stand for quality teaching for all students – teaching that is characterized by strong content knowledge and effective pedagogy, quality decision-making in the classroom, self-efficacy, innovation, capacity to teach diverse students, and is grounded in community and institutional support. IDRA’s work is guided by the conviction that all students deserve success, and failure is never an option.

A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing

Developing leaders – IDRA has been developing a new observation tool to assist in the instruction of English language learners. This Student Engagement Observation Tool is designed to assist teachers in their instruction and ensure the cognitive engagement of all students, including English language learners, in the content being taught. Educational research is very clear about cognitive engagement. Without engagement, learning cannot take place. This tool, and its accompanying Teacher Strategies for English Language Learner Engagement Tool, is part of a new professional development model called Engagement-Based Sheltered Instruction (EBSI). This professional development model enhances and refines teachers’ use of sheltered instruction as a method to develop content and language skills of English language learners.

Conducting research – IDRA’s Science Smart! model offers the opportunity to become familiar with and implement various approaches that may be used in any classroom setting through engagement of scientifically-based researched strategies that build bridges between understanding science and becoming scientifically literate. This professional development package is especially designed to be integrated with a school district’s current curriculum through needs assessments, observations, online teacher support, mentoring, trainer preparation and ongoing evaluations.

Informing policy – IDRA has articulated the role of policy in shaping the quality of educational services to minority children and to those with special needs. Dr. Albert Cortez and Dr. Abelardo Villarreal have outlined a set of criteria to assess the adequacy and appropriateness of policies that ensure students’ full participation, engagement and success in the educational process. The criteria are presented in the June-July 2006 issue of the IDRA Newsletter article, “Assessing Policies for Success of Minority Children.”

Engaging communities – IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework shows how we can strengthen public education for all students. Specifically, it provides a model for assessing school outcomes, identifying leverage points for improvement, and focusing and effecting change. The leverage points focus on changing four school system features: parent and community engagement, student engagement, teaching quality, and access to quality curriculum. True, sustainable action for change that fundamentally alters the lived experience of children in the classroom must address the root causes and trends that give rise to inequity.

What You Can Do

Get informed. The National Council for Teachers of Mathematics has set up Illuminations, a web site with standards-based resources to improve teaching and learning of mathematics for all students.

Get involved. The Family Involvement Network of Educators (FINE) is national network of more than 5,000 people who are interested in promoting strong partnerships between children’s educators, their families and their communities. FINE is sponsored by the Harvard Family Research Project.

Get results. The following web sites offer prepared and integrated lesson plans for many subjects and grades.

[©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.]