(March 2, 2007) Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA executive director, spoke at a conference in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, entitled "High Poverty Schooling in America: Lessons in Second-Class Citizenship" in October. The event was held by the North Carolina Law Review; the University of North Carolina Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity; the UNC Center for Civil Rights; and the UNC School of Education. Dr. Robledo Montecel sat on the closing panel which focused on: What are the most promising strategies to improving achievement in high poverty schools. Her presentation is framed around the IDRA Quality Schools Action Framework that shows how we can strengthen public education for all students. Cuca is interviewed by Bradley Scott, Ph.D., director of the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity.
3:02 Dr. Montecel says that the promise of equal opportunity in cases like Brown vs. Board of Education more than 50 years ago has still not been met, and is slipping further out of reach. She says that the nation is more "at home" with a system of haves and have-nots, and that the US education system is at a crossroads.
4:20 Dr. Montecel says that achieving good education results for all children means creating a "regularity of success."
4:50 Dr. Montecel presents the Quality Schools Action Framework that IDRA has developed as a model for assessing school outcomes, identifying leverage points for improvement, and focusing and effecting change.
5:14 Dr. Montecel explains the three premises on which the framework is based:
(1) The problem is systemic
(2) Achieving student success requires developing a vision of seeking outcomes for all children, no matter where they come from, the color of their skin, and the language they speak.
(3) Schools are not poor because children in them are poor, black, or brown, but they're poor because schools and school districts have poor policies, poor practices, and inadequate investments.
6:20 Dr. Montecel says that IDRA's framework asks three questions:
6:40 (1) What do we need? Dr. Montecel notes that there has always been a vocal minority that has fought the integration and the diversity that comes with public schools. She says "the public in keeping the public in public education must include people of color, and the poor and must acknowledge the power, the privileges and the prejudices that come with racism in this country." She says that engaged citizens, accountable leadership, and enlightened public policy are needed.
11:32 (2) How do we effect change? Dr. Montecel says that collaboration for the common good across traditional sectors is needed. She notes that IDRA's framework calls for local communities and schools to work together with coalitions to bridge the educational divide.
13:39 (3) What fundamentals must be in place to improve our public schools? Dr. Montecel calls for an investment in the changes that matter most. She says that IDRA's framework includes parent and community engagement, engagement of students, and quality teaching and curriculum quality. Furthermore, Dr. Montecel says, "It is essential that the foundations be in place as well: governance efficacy and funding equity."
15:20 Dr. Montecel closes her speech: "The Quality Schools Action Framework speaks to the need and possibility of engaging citizens, leaders and policymakers around high quality data that call all of us as members of the community to act, to establish common ground, to strengthen education, and finally and most importantly and fundamentally, to align our values with our investments in the school system: fundamentals and features that we know are needed -- from teaching quality, to engaged students, engaged parents and families, and a high quality, authentic curriculum so that students in every neighborhood and of every background can in fact have equal educational opportunities."
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