September 2016 IDRA Newsletter
This month's focus: Accountability and Civic Engagement

Schools belong to their neighborhoods. Civic engagement leads to community- and school-based leadership and action to secure equality of educational opportunity for every child.  This issue of the IDRA Newsletter provides stories about ESSA potential impact on communities of color, project based learning, and connections between school administrators and family leaders in education.
Accountability and Civic Engagement
Will States Use ESSA to Undermine Communities of Color as Some Have for Voting Rights?
by David G. Hinojosa, J.D., and Jerry Wilson, M.A.
David G. Hinojosa and Jerry Wilson
More than 50 years ago, Congress passed two landmark pieces of civil rights legislation aimed at tackling systemic inequalities in the states. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prompted federal intervention to overcome state and local barriers in accessing the voting booth for racial minorities. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) used federal funds as an incentive to urge states to desegregate their public schools and to provide more equitable funding for educating poor and minority schoolchildren.

Fifty years later, control has returned to the states both in the voting booth through a 2013 Supreme Court ruling and in the schoolhouse through the Every Student Succeeds Act passed in 2015.

The Voting Rights Act and Shelby
The Voting Rights Act sought to restore the right to vote for people of color whose rights had been stifled through various state and local measures, including literacy tests, poll taxes and grandfather clauses (Coleman, 2016). Section V of the Act restricted the power of local authorities to discriminate against Black and other minority voters by requiring certain states, counties and cities with histories of chronic racial discrimination to obtain permission from the Justice Department or a federal court before altering voting regulations (known as "preclearance") (Thurgood Marshall Institute, 2016).

The Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder in 2013, however, struck down the Section V preclearance requirement, thus returning extensive control to the states and localities. No longer required to obtain preclearance from the federal branches, many state and local officials across the country sought to enact laws that would suppress minority turnout, including redistricting and photo identification laws, decreasing the number of polling places, switching from single-member to at-large voting districts, and reducing the number of early voting days and/or hours (Thurgood Marshall Institute, 2016).  Keep reading

Project Based Learning - Changing Learning Paradigms One Lesson at a Time
by Nilka Avil├ęs, Ed.D., and Nadiah Al-Gasem, Ph.D.
Nilka Avil_s_ and Nadiah Al-Gasem
Students present their projects to administrators and community experts.
Project-based learning (PBL) engages students! At one particular middle school in an urban city district in San Antonio for example, the results were creative thinking, high student involvement and improvement in 21st century skills. When teachers authentically engage students in content, att endance increases and behavior improves, as does student confidence and communication.
 
PBL creates dynamic  classrooms in ways that grow cognitive and non-cognitive skills simultaneously. At
 this  sample school, the projects had real-world impact t apping s tudents' empathy through collaboration beyond the walls of the classroom and the school. Students deserve to continue these types of learning experiences.
 
Research shows that schools benefit from PBL when school and district administrators are committed to the process and facilitate the time for teachers to collaborate, provide professional development and offer other financial resources (Toolin, 2004; Larmer, et al., 2015).
 
For example, beyond the collaboration, teachers in this middle school were supported by principal Greg Rivers, M.A., in developing hands-on activities requiring authentic problem solving that challenged the students while aligning assignments to the core subjects' learning goals. Their PBL work immersed the students in creative lessons that fostered inspiration and a thirst for learning and cultivating their knowledge base.
 
"I love PBL, it was hard when we first started, it didn't make sense. But now, it's a great way to really engage my students and boost their thinking skills and creativity," stated an ESL middle school teacher . -  Keep reading


Co-Leading and Co-Transforming Schools - School Administrators and Family Leaders in Education 
by Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed.
Aurelio Montemayor
School administrators and parents discuss graduation requirements at the Mesa Comunitaria event held by community organizations in the Texas Rio Grande Valley
As our neighborhood public schools in the poorest areas of the country face the challenges of staying open, an opportunity to transform presents itself: Family leadership in education flowing from community-based organizations. Even though the traditional notion is still the norm where, at best, families are seen solely as volunteers and fundraisers, there are clear signs that families organized through community organizations are engines of change for the better.
 
Even among those who are from the community surrounding the school, it is not uncommon for school personnel to have inherited deficit views of the community. Coupled with scarce information taught about the value of authentic family engagement in educator preparation programs, the net result is ongoing prejudice against poor, minority, recent immigrant and English learning families. This bias is a barrier to authentic family engagement, but it is not insurmountable.
 
In the IDRA Quality Schools Action Framework, we define community involvement as the "creation of a partnership based on respect and the shared goals of academic success and integration of the community into decision-making processes of the school." In IDRA's framework, the strong family involvement includes the following elements.. . -  Keep reading

Design a Project-Based Learning Implementation Plan
Project-based learning is a student-centered pedagogy that involves a dynamic classroom approach in which students acquire a deeper knowledge through active exploration of real-world challenges and problems. It provides context to learning and offers students opportunities to grow noncognitive abilities as well as academic abilities.

Set Up a Makerspace at Your School
Makerspaces have been popping up in community centers, schools and public libraries all over the world with the goal of providing the space and tools for people to be creative while learning new skills. Schools are taking advantage of makerspaces to increase efficacy in the STEM disciplines for more students.  Let IDRA makerspace expert, Mark Barnett, guide you through the process from ideation to implementation. 

Support English learners through Engagement Based Sheltered Instruction
Have your English language learners been meeting state standards and passing required tests? IDRA's research-based sheltered instruction model can assist you in improving the academic success of your English language learners.  This dynamic professional development series focuses on extending the teacher's knowledge of ESL strategies and sheltered instruction to ensure that the English language learner is engaged in learning the academic content. 

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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.