The Intercultural Development Research Association, a training, technical-assistance, research, development, and advocacy organization focusing primarily on educational equity, was formed by Mexican Americans in the 1970s as a response to the Supreme Court's reversal of Rodríguez v. San Antonio ISD. The association has addressed numerous issues, including school finance, wealth disparities, teachers' salaries, bilingual education, desegregation, curriculum development and evaluation, and the dropout problem. In 1973 José A. Cárdenas, past superintendent of the Edgewood Independent School District in San Antonio, formed Texans for Educational Excellence with a $95,000 grant from the National Urban Coalition. In August 1974, TEE expanded its goals and IDRA came into existence; it published the first issue of its newsletter the next month. IDRA began with three staff members. Fifty-two persons comprised the staff by 1983. In 1993 Cárdenas retired to the position of director emeritus and María "Cuca" Robledo Montecel, an expert on dropout prevention and a longtime IDRA staff member, became executive director. As of 1994, IDRA employed more than forty people, most of whom belonged to minorities and about half of whom held doctorates.
IDRA has hosted a Desegregation Assistance Center funded by the federal government since 1975, the year it opened the Center for the Management of Innovation in Multicultural Education, funded by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to provide technical assistance to Texas schools seeking to comply with the bilingual-education mandates of the Supreme Court in Lau v. Nichols (1972). This was the first contract IDRA received to foster desegregation efforts. In 1978 the association operated the IDRA Center for Equity in Education to promote racial desegregation efforts in Texas. In 1991 IDRA was subcontracted by the University of Washington in Washington, DC, to host the Evaluation Assistance Center-East to provide technical assistance on student testing and program assessment to school districts east of Mississippi, Texas, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. In 1992 IDRA was selected to host the Multifunctional Resource Assistance Center-Service Area 9, a federally funded program to provide bilingual-education training and technical assistance to South Texas schools. In 1976, IDRA set up AMANECER (A Multicultural Action Network for Early Childhood Education Resources), which helped teachers by providing materials to meet the cultural and linguistic needs of bilingual children. In 1980, IDRA formed a Bilingual Training Institute. The association has also monitored Texas Assessment of Basic Skills testing since December 1979. In 1993 it formalized its work on school finance and other policy issues through the foundation of the IDRA Institute for Policy and Leadership.
IDRA has maintained a database on all Texas public schools since the early 1970s. It has provided computer packages to school districts and offered workshops for schools, parents, teachers, and others on a regular basis. In 1991, IDRA published its first annual study on statewide attrition rates by ethnicity, based on its database and other information. This yearly report is part of the monthly IDRA Newsletter that the organization provides at no cost to interested parties. IDRA has addressed the needs of all students, but particularly those that are minority, poor, or limited in English proficiency. In June 1975 the association served as educational research consultant to the plaintiffs in U.S. v. Texas, which dealt with the needs of children with limited English proficiency. IDRA conducted research for Edgewood ISD v. Kirby, which changed the basis of funding public schools in 1989. IDRA has been active in the multiculturalism movement on behalf of African Americans, Vietnamese, and other groups. In 1980 the association sponsored a "commemorative summit conference" on the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. It also co-sponsored "Little Rock Thirty Years Later: A Commitment to Equity" in March 1988 in Arkansas. In April 1990 IDRA presented a workshop at the state League of United Latin American Citizens convention on "Obstacles Women Leaders Face." Since 1990 IDRA has hosted an annual Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program National Training Seminar and Conference, which gathers teachers, administrators, students, parents, and others to discuss such issues as dropout prevention.
IDRA has been funded by both federal and state government, often in order to assist in federal mandates to desegregate. The association has collaborated with federal, national, state, and local agencies and organizations, including the Department of Education, the National Education Association, and the Texas Education Agency. Private foundations such as Carnegie and Ford have also awarded funds to IDRA, and in 1990, Coca-Cola gave the association a $1.3 million grant to implement the Valued Youth Program in schools across the country. IDRA has also helped several groups organize. It provided funds for the initial organizing of the Equity Center in Austin. It also assisted in organizing the Mexican American Superintendents Association, the Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education, the Black Education Coalition, and the Mexican American School Board Members Association. The association has produced numerous publications on bilingual and multicultural education, equal educational opportunity, mental health, teacher-resource guides, and school finance. In 1987 IDRA published a Texas Dropout Survey that it presented to state legislators. In 1988 it developed a television program, "Aprendo/Enseño," which dealt with family English literacy. In 1993 IDRA published Hispanic Families as Valued Partners: An Educators Guide, a handbook for increasing family involvement in schools; a study on the North American Free Trade Agreement for the Texas Education Agency entitled The Projected Impact of the NAFTA on Texas Public Schools; and, through the ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools, Thorough and Fair: Creating Routes to Success for Mexican-American Students.