National Origin Equity

IDRA EAC-South Technical Assistance

The IDRA EAC-South’s capacity-building technical assistance can help state and local education agencies in creating asset-based solutions that help address inequities and desegregation issues impacting national origin equity. National origin issues in public schools may be self-identified by districts or may be identified through an active school desegregation court order, an Office for Civil Rights resolution, or an investigation by a federal or state civil rights enforcement agency.

Among other benefits, promoting national origin equity can help schools ensure equal access to strong academics for all students, improve leadership capacity, and increase student expectations.

To ask about the availability of services for your school or school district, complete an intake form.

How national origin inequity may manifest itself in schools
  • Bullying and harassment based on national origin, ethnicity, or language
  • Lack of a comprehensive, structured English language (EL) assistance program
  • Low expectations, disproportionate grade-retention rates, and low graduation rates for ethnic minority or EL students
  • Failure to identify EL students who are gifted and/or talented
  • Under/Over-representation of EL students for special education
  • Low expectations and poor school climate for secondary EL students, including newcomers and students with limited formal schooling
Examples of technical assistance and training available through the IDRA EAC-South
  • Review of policies and practices on recognizing and responding to bullying and harassment based on national origin to align with best practices
  • Contextual analysis to identify strengths and needs of current language program policies and practices
  • Climate analysis and training to ensure student diversity, bilingualism, and student experiences are valued
  • Train-the-trainer workshops to help build internal district capacity
  • Coaching and mentoring of instructional and/or administrative staff online and/or onsite
  • Conducting bilingual (Spanish-English) parent and student forums to increase family engagement and family leadership
  • Creating rubrics and turn-key tools
  • Establishing a local monitoring plan to ensure fidelity of implementation of program model
  • Professional development on cultural competency and implicit bias
  • Professional development for teachers focused on engagement of EL students in instruction utilizing best practices

See our resource page for tools on educational equity and national origin. Highlights are below.

Article: Stop the Bad; Do the Good – Hurting and Excluding Students Feeds the School-to-Prison Pipeline

By Morgan Craven, J.D. • IDRA Newsletter • September 2021 •

I have worked on school discipline and policing issues for more than a decade as an attorney representing young people in schools and courts, as an advocate supporting local campaigns, and as a collaborator on state and national policies. In these roles, when I talk to people about strategies to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, I often frame the solution as “Stop the Bad, Do the Good.”

I admit that may seem overly-simplistic, particularly for an issue that so profoundly impacts the lives of and limits opportunities for so many young people. But I use this framing precisely because the lived experiences, data, and academic research on school discipline and policing are clear about what works and what doesn’t to create safe and welcoming schools for all students.

See article.

Article: Schoolwide Restorative Justice Practices – A Guided Tour

By Paula N. Johnson, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • September 2021 •

Public schools are increasingly adopting a restorative approach for building community and relationships. Restorative justice practices involve developing welcoming learning environments that are inclusive of all students and foster relationships within the school community. Studies show that using restorative justice practices positively impacts student behavior (Johnson, 2019).

Successful implementation relies heavily on understanding that behavior is not the primary focus. IDRA encourages schools and districts to implement restorative justice as a means of addressing issues of equity schoolwide.

Here, I provide a guided tour of the implementation process and share expectations, challenges and benchmarks for the first two to three years.

See article.

Article: Culturally Sustaining Instruction Requires Culturally Sustaining LeadershipB

By Paula N. Johnson, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • May 2021 •

The pandemic reminded us very quickly that relationships are important for effective student and family engagement. Millions of students found themselves disconnected from the school community when COVID-19 forced schools to go online. Teachers and school leaders have relied on these relationships to keep students engaged.

But disengagement did not start with the pandemic and it will not end when schools reopen this fall. There is growing concern about the continued disengagement that disproportionately affects high percentages of Black students and Latino students.

See article.

Article: Anti-Racist Schooling for All Students of Color

By Bricio Vasquez, Ph.D., & Altheria Caldera, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • May 2021 •

Anti-racist schooling occurs as a result of an explicit stance against racism accompanied by purposeful, strategic actions that affirm students of color. It humanizes all students by respecting their cultural backgrounds and exemplifies cultural pluralism rather than cultural homogeneity.

All levels of racism historically have existed in education: interpersonal, internalized and institutional. Interpersonal racism is racial discrimination that occurs between individuals and groups. Internalized racism is racial bias held by people of color against their own racial group. Institutional racism is race-related oppression embedded in institutional policies and practices. Anti-racist educators reject all three.

Anti-racist education is liberatory only if it counters the specific manifestations of racism that inflict violence upon all racially-minoritized students. Said differently, inter-group analyses of racism help educators recognize and reject the distinct ways schools enact racialized violence (cultural, psychological, physical) against students of color.

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Podcast: Teaching that is Culturally-Relevant -Responsive and -Sustaining – Podcast Episode 211

Classnotes Podcast (May 18, 2021). In exploring the role of teachers in bringing about academic success for students of color, three terms are often used interchangeably: culturally responsive, culturally relevant, and culturally sustaining. But understanding the differences in these terms can deepen how educators work with their students in their diverse classrooms.

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Article: Visions and Provisions – Planning for K-12 Ethnic Studies Implementation

By Irene Gómez, Ed.M. • IDRA Newsletter • May 2021 •

As a Latina raised in Texas, I come from a state where 52% of students are Latino and 12% are Black. These figures won’t reflect the full intricacies of ethnic-racial identity – youth who are both Black and Latino, for instance – but they do represent a majority who aren’t primarily of European descent (TEA, 2020).

I think back to my senior year of high school, when our English class read Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and I realize that in my 11 years of schooling, we had only covered U.S. racism through two books, both written by white women: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and To Kill a Mockingbird.It’s fitting that my first school-assigned book authored by and centering a Black American and his perspective on racial justice focused on invisibility.

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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.

See article.

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.

See article.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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Article: How Schools Can End Harmful Discipline Practices

By Morgan Craven, J.D., Nilka Avilés, Ed.D.,Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed. • IDRA Newsletter • February 2020

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).

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Article: Three Guiding Principles for Removing College Readiness Barriers in School Policies and Practices

Nilka Avilés, Ed.D., and Hector Bojorquez • IDRA Newsletter • November-December 2019

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Bilingual eBook on Supporting Immigrant Students’ Rights to Attend Public Schools

School Opening Alert flier (in English and Spanish).

eNews School Opening Alert – August 2017.

Alert for Registering Students for School

More resources are on our Education of Immigrant Children web page.

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 min

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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.

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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.

Listen now: Skills Needed for Teaching in Diverse Classrooms – #173

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.

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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 climate

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Read article: Data to Measure an Effective Instructional Context for Secondary Level Newcomers and English Learners