Who We Are

Our Story – Transforming Education by Putting Children First

An independent, private non-profit organization, IDRA works with thousands of K-12 educators, and family, community and higher education partners to achieve equal educational opportunity for every child through strong public schools that prepare all students to access and succeed in college.

The Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) is a recognized international leader in dropout prevention and research-based effective practice for emergent bilingual students. In STEM areas, IDRA has partnered with public schools to achieve impressive teacher and student outcomes through innovative mathematics and science professional development models.

IDRA began in 1973 based on the belief that it is not possible to have excellent, equitable schools without an excellent, equitable system of funding for schools. Since then, IDRA has broadened its scope to include other issues related to excellence and equity in education. As a result, IDRA has changed the face of education at the local, state, regional, and national levels.

IDRA propelled the reform of state funding systems, designed and implemented school-based programs that cut dropout rates by 98%, developed programs that work for young learners, fostered student and teacher leadership development, and conducted research that informs policy reform. Everything we do is built on a model for success, IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework, which is a comprehensive action model for graduating and preparing all students for college.

In 2023, IDRA celebrated 50 years as a national pioneer in promoting excellent, equitable schooling for diverse students by intersecting research, policy and practice.

IDRA was founded in 1973 by Dr. José A. Cárdenas. For more than two decades, Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel led IDRA as a dynamic, independent organization with constancy of purpose, commitment, principles and courage. Today, IDRA is directed by Celina Moreno, J.D., and remains dedicated to the improvement of educational opportunities for children. The issues IDRA has framed and the solutions that have been created, by IDRA and our partners, are all firmly grounded in this purpose.

(Read Dr. José Angel Cárdenas’ story about the defining moment that led to IDRA’s founding philosophy.)

Highlights of IDRA’s Work

• IDRA is a recognized leader and innovator in educational equity as evidenced by four decades of operating an equity assistance center funded by the U.S. Department of Education since their inception in 1975. IDRA has guided thousands of school districts to focus on educational opportunity as a fundamental responsibility and civil right for which all schools and districts are accountable.

• IDRA’s Valued Youth Partnership is a research-based, internationally-recognized dropout prevention program that has kept 98 percent of its tutors in school. The lives of more than 718,000 children, families and educators have been positively impacted by this innovative program since 1984.

• From school buildings to state capitols, IDRA works with policymakers, families, students, education leaders to advocate smart, fair and effective policies.


• Through its Transition to Teaching programs, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, IDRA partnered with universities and more than 20 K-12 public schools across Texas to prepare a new generation of skilled, effective teachers to lead and innovate in schools that need them most.

• IDRA leads professional development for teachers and principals to build leadership capacity that is sustainable. Our assistance is tailored to address each school’s unique needs, including assessment, coaching and mentoring, classroom observations and demonstrations, and online communities of practitioners.

• IDRA has been at the forefront of school finance reform efforts in Texas and has served as a resource for a host of grassroots and legal organizations involved in school finance litigation in Colorado, California, New Mexico, and other states. IDRA is the only organization that can claim continuous, uninterrupted involvement in school finance reform issues in Texas dating back to 1973.

• IDRA has gathered, analyzed, and synthesized data that have promoted a broader understanding of education policy issues among public and professional decision makers. For example, among IDRA’s powerful research studies was the first comprehensive statewide study of school dropouts in Texas in 1986. The findings and recommendations served to inform the development of legislation that set policy for ameliorating the dropout problem in Texas. Every year since then, IDRA has kept pressure on the state by releasing annual attrition rates for the state and its counties and by working with policymakers to ensure dropout counting and reporting procedures are appropriate and accurate.

• Grounded in IDRA’s Family Leadership in Education model, hundreds of Education CAFE families in multiple areas working with school leaders to monitor the academic success of their children and other neighborhood children. The sole purpose of IDRA’s Education CAFE model is for families and community members to collaborate with schools to improve the success of students in the community.

• IDRA led the Texas Chief Science Officer program, which empowers middle and school high school students to enrich school STEM culture and career awareness by bringing STEM-related opportunities to their communities and schools, particularly in historically under-resourced schools and to serve low-income students, students of color and girls.

• Stemming from IDRA’s early childhood education research, we developed Semillitas de Aprendizaje, an early childhood supplemental curriculum. From bilingual big books to small readers, storytelling videos, STEM activities and cartitas (“letters home”), the materials are designed to help teachers foster literacy, numeracy and social-emotional development, while valuing children’s home language and culture.

• Through IDRA’s research-based evaluation and data science work, educators and other program implementers can assess and document project outcomes using qualitative and quantitative methods and improve future activities by clarifying what works, for which students and under what conditions. Our clients have included school districts, education service centers, campuses, college and university programs, state education agencies, and federal programs.