September 3, 2020 Edition
In This Issue

Texas-focused Education Equity Groups Support Lawsuit Challenging U.S. Department of Education Rule that Shifts Relief Funds from Public Schools to Private Schools

Using Choice Boards in the Virtual Classroom

Student Team Gathering Community Perspectives on School Reopening

IDRA Partners with UT Austin to Lift Up Latino Experiences During Pandemic

Webinar On-Demand: Youth Tech Mentors Bridge Schools and Families - Creative Community Responses to COVID-19

Webinar On-Demand: The Power Schools Bring to the Last Days of the 2020 Census - How Schools Can Help their Communities Get Counted
More resources and trainings for teachers, school administrators, families and communities are on our Learning Goes On website. See Spanish-language version of this edition.
Policy Update
Texas-focused Education Equity Groups Support Lawsuit Challenging U.S. Department of Education Rule that Shifts Relief Funds from Public Schools to Private Schools 
Advocacy groups, school districts and others across the country filed lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Education, challenging a new rule that requires some public school districts to use more of their CARES Act emergency relief funds to support private school students within their district boundaries. The lawsuits claim the Department’s rule ignores Congress’ intent that relief funds only be used to support private school students from families with limited incomes – a long-standing requirement for federal funds called “equitable services.” Instead, the new rule allocates more public funds to private schools based on total student population, regardless of family income.
Many organizations have filed amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs in the lawsuits, with several briefs citing IDRA’s recent analysis, Cutting Public School Funds to Subsidize Private Schools. The analysis shows the Department’s new rule could cost 185 Texas school districts a total of more than $44 million – an additional $38.7 million more than they are required to use for private school services under the normal rules.

In the amicus brief filed by the coalition of Texas-focused educational equity advocates, the groups argue the Department’s new rule unlawfully replaces the equitable services distribution methods Congress intentionally adopted in the CARES Act. 

Additionally, the groups point to the detrimental impact the Department’s rule will have on students of color and students in Texas schools that have been historically underfunded and underserved. Citing projected revenue shortfalls and decades of funding equity battles in the courts and legislature, the groups argue the rule “will further exacerbate existing educational inequities by depriving Texas public school districts of funds desperately needed to keep school communities safe and provide critical education services.”

For more information see the amicus briefs by the Council of the Great City Schools in State of Michigan, et al. V. DeVos and the coalition of Texas-focused educational equity advocates in NAACP v. DeVos. At the time of writing, federal judges in Washington and California had issued preliminary injunctions blocking the Department of Education from enforcing its rule in several states.
Instructional Strategies
Using Choice Boards in the Virtual Classroom
Choice boards are instructional tools educators can use in any content area or grade level. Examples vary, but two popular types are Menu and Tic-Tac-Toe boards. These graphic organizers consist of different tasks, activities or projects students can choose to complete to demonstrate their understanding of the learning goal. Teachers typically include brief instructions and deadlines. If a board is project-based, teachers often will include a rubric to communicate the expectations of one or more projects on the board.

Choice boards are easy to implement in virtual learning settings. Teachers can easily create one on a Google Doc with embedded links and posted into their Google Classroom with the deadline and grading scale. Each problem or activity can build in opportunities for students to practice a certain skill or apply what they have learned in a more rigorous activity.
Teachers can purposefully design a choice board to chunk the unit or learning goal into each option. They also can organize their choice board to include non-negotiable tasks to ensure all students are evaluated on a particular skill or content application.

Use of choice boards encourages differentiated learning because the options can be designed for beginning to advanced learners and can include specific learning engagements for English learners and students with accommodations.

Most importantly, choice boards encourage student agency and autonomy in their learning experiences. Although intentionally designed by the educator, students still choose learning experiences based on their own interests. It is important to include varied tasks that excite students and render creative engagements with the content.

See this quick video as Dr. Stephanie Garcia walks through how to use choice boards. (2:00 min)
Explore more ideas...

Interactive Tic-Tac-Toe Menu Choice Board Template in Google Slides,

Meeting the Challenges of Remote Learning, by Debra Shapiro, National Science Teacher Association

Student Team Gathering Community Perspectives on School Reopening
Four high school and college students are leading an IDRA research project to collect community insights as schools reopen.

The project stems from IDRA’s new partnership with Seek Common Ground, which recently launched its COVID-19 Recovery Action Accelerator focused on elevating the voices of the most impacted – families, students and educators – for school reopening planning and ongoing dialogue.

IDRA is excited to announce the student team: Jacqueline Campos, Monica Cruz, Alejo Peña Soto and Fatimah Rasul.

“I am excited to be a part of this initiative, as I believe it will allow for student-led change within our community,” said Jacqueline Campos.

IDRA will train and support these student advocates as they develop, distribute and analyze surveys about the needs of families and students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The surveys will lead to recommendations for school leaders and policymakers, driven by the needs and voices of families, students and educators.

“I believe that, with these surveys, we have the opportunity to gather important data that can hopefully help our communities in San Antonio,” Alejo Peña Alejo said.

This project is part of an initiative of Seek Common Ground, which supports state and community-based organizations pursuing equitable and sustainable education policies and experiences.

“As we advocate for what’s best for students, we must not forget to center student voices in that advocacy,” said Celina Moreno, J.D., IDRA President & CEO. “IDRA proudly partners with Seek Common Ground to highlight the voices of those most impacted by the pandemic’s profound effects on the education system.”

IDRA staff experts in policy, advocacy, community engagement, demography, and qualitative and quantitative research, will lead virtual trainings with the student team on the historical underpinnings of educational and other systemic inequities, advocacy strategies, participatory action research, and survey development. The students will begin distributing their survey this month.
Jacqueline Campos
Senior at Young Women’s Leadership Academy
San Antonio ISD
Monica Cruz
Freshman at Texas State University
Alejo Peña Soto
Senior at Thomas Jefferson High School
San Antonio ISD
Fatimah Rasul
Junior at Byron P. Steele High School 
Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD 
IDRA Partners with UT Austin to Lift Up Latino Experiences During Pandemic
IDRA is partnering with the University of Texas at Austin in the Voces of a Pandemic oral history project to preserve, document and share the unique experiences, struggles and activism of the Latino community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Voces of a Pandemic joins hands with several institutions and organizations, including IDRA, to ensure history hears the intimate stories and distinct voices of the Latino community in the midst of a global pandemic that disproportionately affects their communities. Families and individuals are sharing their stories through virtual interviews this fall and winter. Voces of a Pandemic will publish interviews and stories on the Voces Oral History website for public viewing.

IDRA’s Learning Goes On initiative to provide a resource for education during the COVID-19 crisis has provided space for students, families and educators to share their stories, concerns and innovations during this time. We have shared stories of youth serving as tech mentors, students conducting research, students creating STEM projects virtually, families presenting in bilingual webinars, and families facing the digital divide with IDRA’s donated storybooks for young children. Our role in the Voces of a Pandemic project provides a platform to inventory and safeguard Latino community voices.
Webinars On-Demand
The shift to virtual learning brought on by the pandemic hits families with limited resources particularly hard. At the same time, students miss out on chances to practice leadership when they are schooling from home.

In this webinar, meet teens and college students who have been helping families and their children navigate technology for school. They will share their ideas for how schools and communities can engage youth while also providing much-needed tech support in their family engagement work this year.
This webinar aims to mobilize the education community to complete the census. Due to COVID-19, the U.S. Census Bureau extended operations to October 31, 2020. But the Census Bureau suddenly announced it was rolling back operations to September 30, cutting a month of much-needed time to achieve a complete and accurate census.

In this webinar, we contextualize the 2020 Census and its timeline, discuss efforts over the past year, review completion data, and provide a toolkit for effective census outreach in the last month of operations.

See our Everyone Counts – 2020 Census webpage for resources.
5815 Callaghan Road, Suite 101
San Antonio, Texas 78228
Phone: 210-444-1710
The Intercultural Development Research Association is an independent, non-profit organization. Our mission is to achieve equal educational opportunity for every child through strong public schools that prepare all students to access and succeed in college. 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.