• Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel • IDRA Newsletter • November-December 2018 •

“Our future depends on us having an excellent public educational system, where all students graduate from high school prepared for college or the world of work, no matter what the color of their skin, the language they speak, or where they happen to be born. And this is a goal I believe we can achieve.”

“Our families and communities don’t need ‘rescuing’ by lottery. They demand strong neighborhood public schools.”

“Don’t take this on by yourself. Work with others. Work with people who agree with you. Cause others to agree with you. Work with people who are like you and with those who are unlike you. This could be in terms of race and ethnicity, age, social class, another part of town, etc. There is a great deal you can learn from each other, and you will have a much more powerful effect together.”

“The United States is still uniquely committed to one system that prepares us all for living in a great democracy – we should preserve this commitment. It is not ok to turn our public schools into poorly-funded government schools; public schools belong to all of us. It is not ok to turn our public schools into private schools, accountable to private boards; public schools are accountable to all of us. It is not ok turn to our public schools into charity schools; public schools are civic institutions, a central part of our social contract. Keeping the public in public schools is essential.”

“By 2005, we had lost close to 2 million students. That is like losing Austin or Dallas in a decade and a half. The important point is not if our data is better than the agency’s, but that we are losing children from our school system and that loss is persistent and unacknowledged.”

“The bottom line is: schools are responsible for the education of children – for all children, be they Black, Brown, White, poor, rich, female, male, disabled, non-disabled, English-speaking or not.”

“This problem of blaming the students – because their soul, their mind, their heart, or their community environment is unhealthy – is perhaps the main reason we have failed to reduce dropout rates. If we say that we are going to do business differently for young people but continue to use inadequate assumptions that shortchange the potential and possibilities of our youth, then our efforts will be in vain.”

“The only thing we have to change is the belief that some students deserve success and others do not. The new rule is: All students stay in. The new promise is: All students succeed. Failure is not an option.”

“Our dream and our work at IDRA is for a future in which the color of a child’s skin, the language a child speaks and the side of town that a child comes from are no longer considered barriers to a great education and a good life.”

“See yourself in the eyes of a child, remain hopeful and speak loudly and clearly. Children are not the enemy; they are, all of them, our future. Children are not the problem; they are in fact the solution. Children are not helpless victims; they are contributions waiting to happen.”

“Hope without action is completely useless.”

“I believe it is time to dream together – to dream about education not for a lucky few but for all. And it is time to make the dream of education for all become fact.”

“The greatest ‘at-risk’ circumstance students face may be the school’s low, and self-fulfilling, expectations.”

“Children need places that are safe, that are nurturing, that welcome their families, that welcome their culture, their language and have them really be able to learn and prepare themselves for life.”

“Make no mistake about it. Giving up on our neighborhood public schools means giving up on our communities. Justice, not charity; education for all, not for the few. Los Vales No Valen.”

“School accountability should not and need not mean that high-stakes decisions in children’s lives are made on the basis of tests nor that tests dictate what children learn.”

“A teacher who is caring, skilled, well-prepared, able to build on the strengths that children bring, and partners with families to co-create a challenging learning environment is a treasure.”

“We live to some purpose: Helping schools work for all children and valuing children, educators, families and communities. We care deeply about children and believe that the lives and choices of many hang in the balance of what you and I as educators are able to provide today.”

“Being poor doesn’t affect your brain. It’s what society does to you when you are poor that affects your brain.”

“When a school struggles with diverse children to make them easier to teach, it is not serving the best interests of the children. The emphasis should not be on making children ready to learn but on making schools ready to teach.”

“There can be no doubt: we need an excellent education for all our children. And where there is no equity, there can be no excellence.”

“Many feel that the ‘big’ fights are behind us: but it is now that our children need us most. Today, let us make good on the promise we have all made, in our hearts, to kids. Let us not look away, or look on and do nothing but transform our caring, our willingness to serve, into action.”

“I believe that so much is riding on the success of our public schools: democracy, overall economic strength, opportunity for all. I also believe that when we look at education from the perspective of a human right, we are talking about the powerful future not only of society but of each person and in each group in our society. This is a great promise.”

“The challenge before us is not that the faces of our nation’s children are changing. Our challenge is not our children at all, but rather our capacity, commitment and will as adults to achieve excellence in education for all students – every one.”

“The truth is that children do not fail because they are bad children. They do not fail because of the language they speak or the color of their skin. They do not fail because they are from poor families. They do not fail because they are not motivated, not determined, not focused, or not persistent enough. Children fail in school because we let them down. We, as a community, let them down.”

“By understanding how the school environment contributes to a student’s success or failure, we can change. We can create a future different from our past. As a foundation, we need fair funding for the common good, we need to keep the public in public education, and we need accountability systems that do not hurt kids.”

“We need a new national commitment to high school graduation for all – and ‘all’ must mean ‘all’ – high school with a path to higher education. Investment in change clearly must go beyond discrete dropout prevention programs. It must reflect our full commitment to quality public schools in all neighborhoods for children of all backgrounds.”

“At the end of this day, I am left with deep gratitude for two facts: (1) we are alive, and (2) we are held up by a love all around us.”

“Real, lasting change in schools comes when people are engaged at all levels, from state capitols to board rooms, from classrooms to community centers and kitchen tables, and where people have the knowledge they need to take the right steps on behalf of all children.”

“Our families contribute much. The day-to-day activities that families do with their children – storytelling, singing, playing games, reading, talking and listening – all these have intellectual, emotional and physical benefits that enhance the child’s development and are strengths that the school can use.”

“Students are far more likely to succeed and graduate when they have the chance to work with highly qualified, committed teachers, using effective, accessible curricula, when their parents and communities are engaged in their schools and learning, and when they themselves feel engaged. We know that this becomes possible when schools and school policy reflects good governance and the funding to provide excellent education for all students. To strengthen holding power, then, is to undertake actions that strengthen – not discrete areas – but schools as systems.”

“Many so-called solutions end up blaming the child for their poverty rather than looking at the poverty of the school.”

“Do not give up. Hay un dicho que dice: Mirate en la mirada de un niño, mirate en la esperanza. See yourself in the eyes of a child, see yourself in hope.”

“I ask you to imagine. Imagine a school, a city, a state, a country in which the amazing gifts of our young people are acknowledged, built on and celebrated. Imagine schools where every child really counts. As leaders in this community, we can make it happen. It’s up to us. But first, we have to believe it, truly believe that what we’ve imagined can be real.”

[©2018, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the November-December 2018 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.]