• by María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • August 2003

Dear friends,

Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Ph.D.In the early 1970s, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a series of reports summarizing the dismal state of education provided to minority students in the Southwest. One report stated, “…Mexican Americans, Blacks and American Indians – do not obtain the benefits of public education at a rate equal to their Anglo classmates.” The commission found that school systems had not recognized the rich culture and traditions of students and had not adopted policies and programs that would enable students to participate fully in the benefits of the educational process. Instead, schools used a variety of “exclusionary practices” that denied students the use of their home language, a pride in their heritage and the support of the community.

Today, these problems continue. For example, a new 50-state report by Education Week found that students in high-poverty, high-minority, and low-performing schools are less likely than other students to be taught by teachers trained in their subjects, and few states and school districts have designed specific policy strategies to close the gap. The report, Quality Counts 2003, states that “for states to end the achievement gap between minority and nonminority students and those from rich and poor families, they must first end the teacher gap, the dearth of well-qualified teachers for those who need them most.”

IDRA is in classrooms every day working hand-in-hand with teachers and administrators to improve teaching strategies and school programs, making a difference for children. We know the challenges. We also have seen the excitement and pride of teachers, school personnel, parents and students when they work together and are successful. In April, IDRA began celebrating its 30th year of working for excellence in education for all children. We are taking a little time to reflect on relationships we have built and on some of the changes we have seen since 1973 when a small group of concerned citizens set out to change the world.

Thousands of classroom teachers, school principals, other educators, families, policymakers, community leaders, researchers and, of course, students themselves, have been a part of the IDRA story. As a result, millions of student lives have been powerfully affected by dramatically raising educational opportunities for all children. Today, we celebrate the progress we are achieving by working together and by taking a stand when no one else will.

Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel
IDRA Executive Director

Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2003, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the August 2003 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]