Education CAFE Families Provide Insight on State-Level Education Policies
by Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed. • IDRA Newsletter • April 2021
The Texas Legislature is hearing from a new contingent of families through IDRA’s Education CAFE network. The legislature holds its regular session from January to May every two years. Education CAFE members in the south Texas Rio Grande Valley started preparations in the fall of 2020 with the leadership of ARISE Adelante, which supports family leadership in education through the work of community centers situated in colonias (unincorporated communities with scarce public services).
The Education CAFE network in the area holds community events once or twice per year focused on education issues members raise. Due to COVID-19, they moved their Mesa Comunitaria online in the fall of 2020 to review education issues concerning families, especially those in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Participants identified several central issues of concern: inequitable school funding, college preparation and access, the digital divide exacerbated by the COVID-19 isolation, effective dual language programs in their schools, and mental health and wellness concerns aggravated by the pandemic.
Words Matter – The Case for Shifting to “Emergent Bilingual”
by Araceli García • IDRA Newsletter • February 2021
Throughout IDRA’s almost five decades, we have paid close attention to how we speak about people in terms of race or ethnicity, gender, etc. Words matter.
Almost 5 million students in U.S. public schools are learning English as a second language. That’s over 10% of the student population. The number almost doubled over the last 15 years. IDRA recently took another look at the terminology used to identify these students and the implications of using certain labels.
Challenging Colonialism in the Classroom – Part 1 – Podcast Episode 203
Classnotes Podcast (July 15, 2020). Educators across the country are working to make classrooms and instruction culturally responsive and relevant to their students and communities. The task is deeper than a checklist of inclusive terminology and activities. The foundations of settler colonialization have impacted the creation of all of our institutions. And in education, it infiltrates our pedagogy, curricula and policies.Listen podcast
We Create Hope Within Our Communities – Before and During COVID-19, Texas Chief Science Officers Advocate for STEM
by Elizabeth Alexander, Shreya Chaudhary & Isela Herrera • IDRA Newsletter • June-July 2020
The Chief Science Officers (CSO) program emphasizes student voice across the globe for STEM engagement. CSO students create action plans that encourage STEM throughout their community. These action plans enable students to further their STEM education, bring awareness of future career paths, and advocate for STEM. Alongside the action plan process, CSO students network with many different corporations to further advance our future endeavors in STEM fields.Watch webinar recording: Student Perspectives on a Changing School Climate
IDRA, Partners Provide South Texas Families Tech Support for Distance Learning During COVID-19 Crisis for Virtual Classrooms
IDRA launched a partnership with two community-based organizations in the Texas Rio Grande Valley to help Spanish-speaking families navigate virtual classrooms while schools are closed due to COVID-19.
Mentors from the College Scholarship Leadership Access Program (CSLAP) provide tech support to members of ARISE, a grassroots organization that promotes empowerment through education and part of IDRA’s Education CAFE network. ARISE volunteers connect families with CSLAP mentors, who are graduates of Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD with computer, software and technical expertise on online learning platforms. Each mentor holds office hours during which they provide support over Zoom or by phone.Read more
Article: Implications of Texas SB 1882 Patchwork of Partnerships
By Chloe Latham Sikes, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • May 2020
Three years ago, the Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 1882 to incentivize school districts to relinquish local control over campus operations, governance and budgets to an external partner presumably to lead to school improvements. Eligible external operating partners include charters, private schools, private childcare providers, non-profit organizations and institutions of higher education.See article
Implications of Texas SB 1882 Patchwork of Partnerships
Article: Ensuring Equity in Online Learning
IDRA Newsletter • April 2020
In the wake of the COVID-19-propelled public health crisis, schools around the nation are turning to online learning for students. Technology presents a huge opportunity to engage students to continue their schooling.
However, online education also brings a host of equity and access concerns, misperceptions around students’ technology abilities, lack of access for students with no home internet access, and unique challenges for some student populations, including special education students and English learners.
This special edition issue brief provides educators ideas on how technology can best serve us during these times. The following suggestions rely on best educational practices, logical conclusions drawn from school district equity audits and classroom observations, research on technology access, and our collective empathy toward families and students.See article
Article: The 2020 Census is Here – Schools Should be Active
By Bricio Vasquez, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • March 2020
This spring, families and individuals across the country will complete the 2020 Census form. Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau counts every person living in the United States, including unauthorized immigrants. The results determine how many representatives each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next decade. And, critically, the census results determine the allocation of $675 billion in federal funding for public schools and universities.
With just a few phrases in the U.S. Constitution, the founders created a monumental undertaking leading to the creation of the Census Bureau. Local untrained U.S. Marshals conducted the first census by hand in 1790. A century later, the 1890 census used a newly-invented electromechanical tabulating machine with punch cards, cutting the tabulation time from eight years to six weeks. The first census by mail did not take place until 1960.
Article: Racial and Gender Disparities in Dress Code Discipline Point to Need for New Approaches in Schools
By Chloe Latham Sikes, M.A. • IDRA Newsletter • February 2020
Recently, two Black high school students in Barbers Hill Independent School District in Texas were disciplined for violating the district dress code by wearing their hair in dreadlocks (per their families’ cultural custom). As in this case, while supposedly established to minimize disruption in the classroom, dress code policies and their disciplinary consequences can actually disrupt the learning opportunities and school environment for students, and can be discriminatory against students’ gender, religious and cultural expression (NWLC, 2018; Sherwin, 2017), with a disproportionately harmful impact on students of color and girls.See article
Article: How Schools Can End Harmful Discipline Practices
Positive cultures of teaching and learning support students’ attendance, academic achievement, engagement and positive self-concept. These cultures depend on effective discipline, which addresses challenging and unsafe behaviors constructively.
Unfortunately, data show the prevalent overuse of ineffective exclusionary discipline measures, such as suspensions and alternative school placements, in schools across the country. Students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students are more likely to be punished, even though they are not more likely to misbehave (Rumberger & Losen, 2016).See article
Article: Three Guiding Principles for Removing College Readiness Barriers in School Policies and Practices
In most circles, the importance of college preparation in K-12 schools is obvious. In addition to schools’ public mandate, data on future earnings and life choices leave little doubt that schools need to provide rigorous courses and other supports to prepare students for college and career. But school leaders may struggle with making this a reality.
IDRA has worked with a number of schools in the U.S. South as educators change policies and practices that hinder college preparation, particularly when they reflect issues of inequity.See article
Article: Texas Higher Education Law Aims to Improve Outcomes for Students in Developmental Education
by Bricio Vasquez, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • November-December 2019
College-level placement in Texas community colleges relies heavily on a single college readiness placement test, the Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSIA), unless exempt. The state requires most incoming college students to take the TSIA to be assessed in the areas of reading, writing and math. But this practice can lead to higher numbers of students being misplaced into remedial courses.See article
Principal Leadership for English Learner Success – Podcast Episode 198
Classnotes Podcast (November 14, 2019) English learners success in many ways depends on strong school leaders, many of whom are adjusting to both the growing numbers of English learners and the growing numbers of languages spoken in their school. Strong leaders innovate, inspire and empower their staff to serve their diverse populations. In this episode, Dr. Nilka Avilés talks with principal David Garcia about his dual language school and his vision of having not only bilingual students but biliterate and multicultural students who excel.Listen podcast
English Learner Success Depends on Strong Principal Leadership
by Nilka Avilés, Ed.D. • IDRA Newsletter • September 2019
Demographic changes in recent years have affected not just the numbers of English learners but also the communities where they reside. Many schools that once had few, if any, English learners, now have a sizeable English learner population. And other schools that had English learner students with a common home language now have a population speaking multiple languages.See article
Article: Five Best Practices for Effective Principals and School Leadership Teams
by Nilka Avilés, Ed.D. • IDRA Newsletter • September 2019
Research shows that, in schools, the principal is second only to the teacher as the individual who impacts student success the most (Leithwood, et al., 2008; Wallace Foundation, 2013). Yet, the country is experiencing a serious shortage of expert principals in schools with diverse student populations (Theoharis & Brooks, 2012). In addition, schools face accountability challenges that require strong leadership with a commitment to address inequities.
As a catalyst for change, IDRA has developed best practices to improve effectiveness of principals and their leadership teams. We focus on equipping principals to be visionary leaders, student advocates, instructional leaders, collaborators and risk-taking innovators to improve student achievement. Coaching is the strategy that brings these practices to life.See article
Article: Superintendent Dr. Daniel King Describes How Strong Family Leadership Leads to School Innovation
by Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed., featuring Superintendent Daniel King, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • September 2019
The school principal’s way of working with families ripples throughout the campus. It influences whether the school welcomes parents or merely tolerates them.
Dr. Daniel King, superintendent of the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (PSJA), reflected recently on the climate he cultivates among the principals and other faculty at PSJA.See article
eBook: Supporting Immigrant Students’ Rights to Attend Public Schools
As schools are opening their doors for a new school year, this alert is a reminder that public schools, by law, must serve all children. The education of undocumented students is guaranteed by the Plyler vs. Doe decision, and certain procedures must be followed when registering immigrant children in school to avoid violation of their civil rights.See eBook and other resources
Code-switching as a School Strategy – Podcast Episode 192
Classnotes Podcast (July 1, 2019). In linguistics and language classes, the term “code-switching” describes how speakers mix two or more languages and speech patterns in writing and conversation. But the term has become broader to encompass dialogue that spans cultures, such as how we change the way we express ourselves depending on who’s in the room. In our increasingly diverse schools, many students still do not see themselves reflected in the curriculum or the classroom discussion.
In this episode, special guest, Dr. Martina McGhee talks with Michelle Vega and Hector Bojorquez about how schools can build inclusive curriculum that is more honest and whole and how to use code switching to help students feel encouraged and supported. Dr. McGhee is a doctoral fellow in the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) who is leading a new course on race and identity through pop culture. Michelle Martínez Vega is IDRA’s technology coordinator, and Hector Bojorquez is IDRA’s director of operations.
Show length: 27:23 minGet info and listen
Classnotes Podcast Episode: Skills Needed for Teaching in Diverse Classrooms – #173
With the quickly-changing dynamics across our communities, teachers often are facing the challenge of incorporating multicultural education without proper preparation. To stay engaged in the learning process, students – like adults – need the school climate and curriculum to reflect their racial and economic backgrounds, languages, religions, funds of knowledge and family structures.Get details and listen
Paula Martin Johnson, M.A., an IDRA education associate, presents three critical areas of professional development that school leaders need to be providing for their teachers to effectively deliver high-quality and inclusive instruction in 21st-century classrooms.
Paula is interviewed by Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed., IDRA senior education associate. Show length: 14:30 min.
Article: Three Approaches for Dismantling Discriminatory Discipline in Schools
by Paula N. Johnson, Ph.D., & José A. Velázquez, M.Ed., March 2019
In recent years, schools across the nation have moved toward resolving behavior issues that do not take the child out of the classroom – focusing on a “whole child” approach to student learning and success built on relationships and community.
The IDRA EAC- South has a three-pronged approach to addressing disparities in school discipline. First, technical assistance builds capacity to increase positive school climates through research-based services; second, revising discriminatory school discipline practices better aligns schools with the district’s tiers of support for behavior; and third, building capacity for effective family and parent engagement to improve relationships between all stakeholders.
As a result, districts we’ve worked with across the IDRA EAC- South region report lower rates of suspension and expulsion each year.See article
Article: School Leaders Improve English Learner Literacy with Focus on Inferencing
by Nilka Avilés, Ed.D., September 2018
Inferencing and literacy skills are vital to students’ success. With leaders at five schools, IDRA provided customized teacher professional development focused on inferencing and reasoning skills. Through this program, the schools improved literacy scores and helped close the achievement gap between English learner and non-English learner students.
IDRA found effective implementation practices for improving leader and teacher capacity for educating EL students, improving school climateSee article
Article: Institutionalized Discrimination… Does it Exist in Your School
by David Hinojosa, J.D., April 2018
This article addresses how schools can identify institutionalized discrimination – discriminatory practices that manifest through behaviors, actions and policies of public institutions that target or exclude based on race, sex, gender, national origin, religion and disability, among others. This kind of discrimination can be difficult to stop because it often has a basis in patterns and practices from historical norms. David Hinojosa pinpoints three critical areas – expectations, school funding and curriculum – as starting points for schools to identify and correct their own discriminatory policies and practices.See article
Article: Addressing “Ecological Shock” – Supporting Refugee Students in School
by Kristin Grayson, Ph.D., and Hannah Sung, March 2018
Dr. Kristin Grayson and Hanna Sung address in this article how schools can support refugee students through building connections and fostering understanding. Educators and school stakeholders must understand the effects of trauma and the unique aspects that refugee students bring to the classroom.
Schools can pro-actively create a welcoming and positive learning environment to help these students cope with stress and fear by fostering community – bringing students in fully as members of their schools rather than isolating them. Building this positive learning environment requires a commitment to equity.See article
Article: Schools’ Duty to Educate English Learner Immigrant and Migrant Students
by Kristin Grayson, Ph.D., March 2018
English learners in our schools are a vastly diverse group, from the languages they speak to the to the age they began learning English to how they entered the school system. By instilling policies and practices that value their language, multiculturalism, and families and that provide them the tools necessary to succeed, we can help prepare these students for flourish in the global economy.See article
Article: Data to Measure an Effective Instructional Context for Secondary Level Newcomers and English Learners
by Kristin Grayson, Ph.D., IDRA Newsletter, June-July 2017
Teachers and administrators may feel overwhelmed by the use and analysis of data for English learners (ELs) as is required by the federal guidelines under Title III of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Yet collecting and conducting data analysis is essential for EL success and is based on strong and seminal research in second language acquisition. Using data is even more critical when students are secondary level newcomers and English learners with interrupted schooling.Read article
When considering how to collect and use data, the Casteñeda v. Pickard decision of the Fifth Circuit Court,1981, provides an excellent framework (Thomas & Collier, 1997). This article focuses on the data needed to support teachers and English learners who enter U.S. schools as newcomers and as students with interrupted schooling. IDRA’s Good Schools and Classrooms for Children Learning English ~ A Guide (Robledo Montecel, et al., 2002) and its supplement for secondary students also provide a way to collect much of the needed data.