May 2016 IDRA Newsletter
This month's focus: Student Voice

Students must have a voice that is listened to by the adults who teach them and who make decisions that affect their lives. This issue of the IDRA Newsletter has stories of youth who launched a campaign about environmental justice in their community, other young people pushing for college preparation for students in their neighborhoods, voices of teenage tutors, and ways teachers can foster conversation in the classroom through instructional dialogue.
Student Voice
Youths in Action - Intergenerational Leadership
by Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed.
Young people informing their community about environmental problems, presenting about their experiences with dual credit classes in high school, and organizing field trips to a local college - all of these are aspects of leadership modeled by youths from neighborhoods that outsiders often claim don't value education.
The community-based organization, ARISE (A Resource in Service for Equality), has had a dynamic youth involvement and youth leadership approach since its inception in 1987 by Sr. Gerrie Naughton. Early on, ARISE members saw a need for summer activities for children in the most-isolated colonias where city and county services were lacking or nonexistent.
Every June, hundreds of children now participate in games, learning activities and physical activities that are wholesome and entertaining. To achieve this with very little money, teenagers and pre-teens from the communities take on the role of mentors and guides for the children. This volunteer activity has persisted, and there are now many adults today who remember participating as children or youth mentors.
Just as ARISE has always had a strong base in seeking social justice, the youths have taken on important community issues. For example, training in ecological justice helped them focus on some pervasive problems in their neighborhoods. One that everyone there lives with is a stench that comes from stagnant water. A group of 20 youths went through some training that highlighted issues of environmental justice, and they launched a campaign to inform the community and to present testimony to the city council and the county commissioners on the issue. Keep reading

The Role of Conversation in the Classroom - Promoting Student Voice through Instructional Dialogue
by Paula Johnson, M.A.
Paula Johnson
Teachers know it is not enough to be proficient in the subject area they are teaching. They also must have an understanding of pedagogy, or how students learn, particularly across the diverse learning environments we see today. 

A key strength is the ability to employ instructional strategies that engage students in academic discourse. In order to assess what students are thinking, we have to get them talking. This strategy is instrumental in the development of academic vocabulary for all students, especially English learners.
Thus, there is a call for professional development that guides teachers, and in turn students, in redefining their roles in the development of knowledge (Schoen, et al., 2003). Providing teachers with professional learning in the use of instructional conversations and higher-order questioning is a critical element in laying the foundation for meaningful learning.
How do peer-conversations about a student's approach to a problem or conjecture regarding an idea develop critical thinking skills? What constitutes meaningful discourse? Is it possible to effectively increase understanding and engagement by delivering instruction through a student-centered dialogue model? In this article, we investigate the role that conversation plays throughout instruction toward building teacher capacity and student self-efficacy in subject matter knowledge. Keep reading

Students Become Leaders in their Community to Support Peers on the Path Toward College
by Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed.
A group of about 20 student leaders from the community-based ARISE Las Milpas center have been asking some key questions: Why can't I take advanced math courses even if I already have taken the minimum required for graduation? What does it cost to attend an out-of-state college? Where are the resources for financial aid? How can we help our parents know about these things?
Carla Judith Reyna, a young adult and coordinator of youth activities at ARISE Las Milpas, has supported this group of middle school and high school students with planning, carrying out activities and recruiting persons who can be resources to them. A sophomore in college, Carla interrupted her college studies to spend a year supporting these activities.
Some of the resource people she recruited were students from their neighborhoods who had college experience. Pedro Nepomuceno (whom IDRA highlighted in our November-December 2015 issue) spoke to the students about the college experience. He has a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University and is currently in nursing school at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio.
The youth leaders come from neighborhoods that have had little if any support in the past for these efforts. The students are breaking ground, ascribing to the #AllMeansAll hashtag. They agree with the goals set by their innovative school district that every high school graduate will already have earned college credit hours while still in high school. Some plan to graduate with an associate's degree from the local community college. 
Keep reading
Teenage Voices on Their Experience in the 
IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program

The IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program is a research-based, highly successful cross-age tutoring program. With a 98 percent success rate, the program shows what happens when students suddenly feel valued for who they are and for their contributions to others.
"The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has made me a better student after I experienced being a teacher and having to take responsibility and being a role model to my students. I have learned that the way you treat them and talk to them can change the outcome of how the students act toward you and others."
- Elijah Peña Zamora, Middle School, South San Antonio ISD
Slideshare: Mendez and Brown ~ Youth Picture Pathways to Graduation
With the civil rights promises of Mendez vs. Westminster and Brown vs. Board of Education as a backdrop, IDRA and Critical Exposure worked with a group of Canton high school students as they took up 35 millimeter cameras to reflect on barriers and opportunities for building pathways to high school graduation and college in Canton, Mississippi.  Watch now
Video: Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program Tutors

Teens talk about how the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has changed them. [00:45] -  Watch now

Implementation of New Texas Graduation Requirements Needs Further Study
Ready Texas: Stakeholder Convening Proceedings Report Released
IDRA Report
Texas adopted substantial changes to high school curricula in 2013 (under House Bill 5). Policymakers, education and business leaders, families, and students are now faced with the question of how implementation of those changes is impacting the state of college readiness and success in Texas.
Comprehensive research is needed to understand the implications for various student groups and Texas as a whole. Some research and evaluation is already underway; other questions need to be examined.
The Ready Texas: Stakeholder Convening took place February. This convening, led by IDRA and carried out in partnership with UTeach at UT Austin, brought together education, community, policy, foundation, business and philanthropic leaders to discuss the future of post-secondary education in Texas and to provide input on the design of a statewide study of HB5 implementation. The convening was made possible through a grant from Greater Texas Foundation.
Dr. María "Cuca" Robledo Montecel, IDRA President & CEO, said: "We must make sure that every student has access to high quality teaching and a quality curriculum that prepares them for post-secondary education. As researchers, we play a critical role by examining policies and practices that contribute to students' success or failure. Together, the future is in our hands." 
Keep reading

The Intercultural Development Research Association is an independent private non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring educational opportunity for every child. IDRA strengthens and transforms public education by providing dynamic training; useful research, evaluation, and frameworks for action; timely policy analyses; and innovative materials and programs.
IDRA works hand-in-hand with hundreds of thousands of educators and families each year in communities and classrooms around the country. All our work rests on an unwavering commitment to creating self-renewing schools that value and promote the success of students of all backgrounds.