Dr. Maria “Cuca” Robledo Montecel is president emerita of the Intercultural Development Research Association in San Antonio, an independent non-profit organization dedicated to equity and excellence in education. IDRA works with school systems, institutions of higher education, and communities across the country to create education that works for all children, particularly those who are minority, poor or limited-English-proficient. Dr. Robledo Montecel was IDRA’s president & CEO until her retirement in January 2019.
Dr. Robledo Montecel’s lifetime concern with youth has provided inspiration and vision for many communities across the country. Going against the current deficit model approaches in schools, she champions the value, integrity and possibilities of all children.
Dr. Robledo Montecel holds a bachelor of social work degree from Our Lady of the Lake University and a master’s degree in educational evaluation from Antioch College. She earned a doctorate in research and evaluation from the Urban Education program at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. Her dissertation topic was “Utilization of Research in Education: Theories in Use Among University Faculty and Local Education Agency Personnel.” Dr. Robledo Montecel was named a Women and Minorities Research Fellow by the National Institute of Education.
A nationally-recognized expert on the prevention and recovery of dropouts, Dr. Robledo Montecel pioneered research on school dropouts in Texas. She was principal investigator and project director of the Texas School Dropout Survey Project, the first statewide study of dropouts in Texas. The research examined the scope and economic impact of the dropout problem. The results of the study informed the development of dropout prevention policy and practice in the state. She was a Visiting Scholar at the University of Houston where she studied differences in campus dropout rates with the Houston Independent School District, and was project director of the JTPA-funded evaluation of model programs for young adults without a high school diploma.
Under her leadership, IDRA’s innovative dropout prevention program, the Valued Youth Partnership* program, has made a visible difference in the lives of more than 795,000 children, families and educators. The program was validated under the U.S. Department of Education’s National Diffusion Network as a program that works. It was also identified as a Program of Academic Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs and was selected as a 1992 Star of Texas program and 1993 Best of Texas program. In addition, The Peter F. Drucker Foundation recognized the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program for excellence in non-profit management.
In the 1990s, she served as principle investigator in an OBEMLA national study of effective programs serving English language learner (ELL) students around the United States, and identification of the critical program elements determined to be essential to delivery of effective instructional services to ELL students. This research produced the Good Schools and Classrooms for Children Learning English rubric now used by schools around the country to help guide development or refinement of instructional programs for ELL students in a variety of settings. She also has served as principal investigator for landmark research studies, such as IDRA’s seminal bilingual education cost studies in the states of Colorado and Utah in the 1980s, which assessed cost factors involved in delivering bilingual instructional services to ELL students.
Dr. Robledo Montecel led IDRA’s role as managing partner in building the ENgaging LAtino Communities for Education (ENLACE) initiative, which was designed to strengthen the educational pipeline and increase opportunities for Latino students to enter and complete college. ENLACE was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Houston Endowment, Inc.
Dr. Robledo Montecel served on the policy committee of the Public Education Network and currently serves on the advisory board for the Univision Education Campaign. She also has served as an invited expert on the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans and was invited to present testimony before the federal Committee on Education and Labor, U.S. House of Representatives.
She served as a member of the Texas Task Force on Dropout Prevention and as a consultant on the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Program in Immigrant Education. Dr. Robledo Montecel is an associate member of Hispanics in Philanthropy, a founding member of CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, a three-term trustee of Our Lady of the Lake University, and served on the founding board of directors of the Mexican and American Solidarity Foundation, an organization created to strengthen ties between Mexican citizens and the Mexican American community. She served as co-chair of the San Antonio 2000 Lifelong Learning Council. Dr. Robledo Montecel chaired the San Antonio Community Education Leadership Program and served as board member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She served as an elected trustee of the San Antonio-Mexico Foundation for education.
Dr. Robledo Montecel has authored and co-authored a number of publications focusing on effective bilingual education, school holding power and parent leadership. These include: The Undereducation of American Youth, a study of the 16- to 24-year-old population in the 50 states; The Answer: Valuing Youth in Schools and Families, which presents strategies for communities, educators and parents working to keep young people in school and to educate those who have dropped out; and Hispanic Families as Valued Partners: An Educator’s Guide, which provides background information about minority families and recommendations for involving them in their children’s schools. In 2009, she published, Continuities – Lessons for the Future of Education from the IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, which vividly captures seven key lessons for improving the quality of education for all students. It presents the voices of youth, teachers, family members and program leaders and the reasons valuing youth is at the heart of school transformation.
IDRA’s new book, Courage to Connect: A Quality Schools Action Framework, edited by Dr. Robledo Montecel and Christie Goodman, shows how communities and schools can work together to strengthen their capacity to be successful with all of their students using the Quality Schools Action Framework™ developed by Dr. Robledo Montecel.
Dr. Robledo Montecel was named among the top 100 Hispanic influentials by Hispanic Business magazine and was inducted into the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame. Her planned retirement will took place in January of 2019.
Unmet Promises in Texas Education, Chapter by David Hinojosa, Maria “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, and Aurelio M. Montemayor. In Martínez, R., Brischetto, R., & Avena, J.R. (eds), Mexican American Civil Rights in Texas: 1968 – 2018, 2021.
Journal article, A Unique Blend of Research, Policy, Practice and Engagement to Impact Public Education for All Students, by Celina Moreno, María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Aurelio Montemayor, Association of Mexican American Educators (AMAE) Journal, Vol. 13, No. 3, 2019
Op-Ed: No place for complacency in educating poor children, Maria “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, for the San Antonio Express-News, January 27, 2019
Op-Ed: Texas Does Not Have to Stay Stuck at Losing One in Four High Schoolers, Dr. Robledo Montecel for the San Antonio Express-News, January 15, 2017
See Corazón, A Poem for María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, by Laurie Posner, MPA
View Commemorative IDRA Newsletter (pdf)
View video slideshow from Commemorative IDRA Newsletter (YouTube)
View bio in Spanish
View video Lady Bird Johnson and the Legacy of Head Start Download photos of Dr. Robledo Montecel
*formerly named the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program
- Commencement Address – Our Lady of the Lake University, May 7, 2015, December 11, 2018
- The Quotable Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, December 11, 2018
- Dear colleagues, partners and friends: Greetings and abrazos – A letter from Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, December 11, 2018
- Dear Children – A Letter, December 11, 2018
- Beginning with the End in Mind to Establish Equitable, Excellent Education, July 31, 2018
- Valuing Youth and Assuring that All Youth Count, July 31, 2018
- InterAction with the Ecosystem – The IDRA Quality Schools Action Framework, July 31, 2018
- Texas Charter School System Suffers Low Graduation Rates, January 31, 2018
- America Does Not Have to Stay Stuck at Losing One in Four High Schoolers, January 31, 2017
- Grit and Non-Cognitive Skills – Framing the Narrative, January 26, 2015
- The Right to Inclusion and Success in Education is Reaffirmed, August 14, 2014
- HB5 Does Not Have to Block Students from College – San Antonio City Council Encourages College Preparation for All Students, May 09, 2014
- Affirming the Right to Inclusion and Success in Education, August 12, 2013
- Court Rules: Texas School Funding Must Serve All Students Equitably, March 01, 2013
- Education as Pathway Out of Poverty, January 17, 2013
- An “Until Next Time” from San Antonio – On the Occasion of Celebrating 13 Years of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program in Brazil, October 22, 2012
- Can’t Wait to Celebrate 100% Graduation in Texas, September 18, 2012
- Higher Education Success – Key System Strategies, May 17, 2012
- Fair Funding is Essential to Having Excellent Schools for All Texas Students, December 15, 2011
- Time to Make High School Graduation the New Minimum, November 15, 2011
- Honoring the Life of Dr. José Angel Cárdenas, October 11, 2011
- IDRA Calls for Greater Federal Role in Education to Increase Excellence and Equity, August 22, 2011
- Don’t Repeat Past Wrongs- Insufficient Attention and Lack of Investment in Education Helped Put Texas Where it Is, February 22, 2011
- ¡YA! Es Tiempo – The Courage to Connect, September 20, 2010
- At a Time When We Most Need Strength, Texas Education is At-Risk of Being Weakened, June 11, 2010
- IDRA Rejects Appeals Court Conclusions and Texas’ Education of English Language Learner Students, April 12, 2010
- Supreme Court Ruling in Horne vs. Flores is a Missed Opportunity, January 30, 2010
- Holding On to the Goal of Quality Education for Every Child, September 22, 2009
- Presenting IDRA’s Framework for Effective Instruction of Secondary English Language Learners, December 08, 2008
- Ten Percent Plan in Texas- IDRA Releases Policy Brief, June 08, 2007
- Graduation for All Students- Dropout Prevention and Student Engagement Strategies and the Reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, June 08, 2007
- Framing Systems Change for Student Success, January 04, 2007
- Knowledge and Action – From Dropping Out to Holding On, November 20, 2006
- Time to Make High School Graduation the New Minimum, October 29, 2006
- Texas Supreme Court Misses the Point – Texas Must Provide Equity and Excellence for All Students, April 06, 2006
- For Things to Change, We Must “Interact” – Improving Access and Success of Latinos in Higher Education, March 08, 2006
- “InterAction” Needed from All Sectors to Support College Access and Success, December 09, 2005
- A Quality Schools Action Framework- Framing Systems Change for Student Success, November 06, 2005
- Communities Can Influence the Impact of NCLB, January 06, 2005
- District Court Demands Increased State Investment – All Our Children Deserve an Excellent, Equity Education, November 30, 2004
- From Dropping Out to Holding On – Seven Lessons from Texas, April 04, 2004
- Texas at a Crossroads Excellent and Equitable Schools – or Merely Adequate, February 20, 2004
- Successful Bilingual Education Programs, January 30, 2004
- College Success, January 30, 2004
- Fulfilling the Promise of Brown vs. Board of Education, November 01, 2003
- IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program- Model Dropout Prevention Program, October 02, 2003
- Legislative Session Falls Short in Texas, September 01, 2003
- IDRA Marks 30th Anniversary, August 01, 2003
- Texas Needs Diplomas Not Delusions, June 03, 2003
- Public Education Reform Priorities in Texas: IDRA Perspectives, March 01, 2003
- Texas Needs Diplomas Not Delusions, September 11, 2002
- Supreme Court Ruling Bad for Neighborhood Public Schools, June 30, 2002
- Successful Bilingual Education Programs – Indicators of Success at the School Level, Part Three, February 20, 2002
- Successful Bilingual Education Programs – Indicators of Success at the School Level, Part Two, January 20, 2002
- Indicators of Success at the School Level – Indicators of Success at the School Level, November 30, 2001
- Every Student Counts, October 05, 2001
- Successful Bilingual Education Programs – Student Assessment and Outcomes, October 03, 2001
- Successful Bilingual Education Programs – 10 Schools Serve as Models, September 07, 2001
- High Expectations, Substandard Results- The 2001 Texas Legislative Session, September 01, 2001
- Successful Bilingual Education Programs – Criteria for Exemplary Practices in Bilingual Education, August 25, 2001
- Nine Priorities for Public Education Policy Reforms in Texas, November 30, 2000
- TAAS Ruling Troubling, February 01, 2000
- Musical Chairs and Unkept Promises, January 30, 2000
- Lost: $319 Billion and 1.2 Million Students, January 01, 1999
- 1999 Texas Legislative Session – End of an Era?, November 30, 1998
- Using Public Money for Private Schooling: A Bad Idea for Children, October 30, 1998
- Hispanic Dropouts: Addressing the Leak in the Pipeline to Higher Education, August 03, 1997
- Analysis of Educational Equity: Community Seeks Direction for Diversity, March 07, 1997
- Bilingual Education is About Bridging and Building, November 30, 1996
- School Finance Inequities Mean Schools Are Not Ready to Teach, October 30, 1996
- Improving Student Performance: Study Identifies Better Approach, October 30, 1994
- Ethnicity and School Performance in Bexar County, August 30, 1994
- School Choice: Choices for Whom? Promises and Panaceas, August 30, 1994
- Rio Grande City: A Case Study in TAAS Performance, August 05, 1994
- The Civil Rights Issue of Our Generation – Podcast Episode 88, April 29, 2011
- Continuities with Lessons in Dropout Prevention – Podcast Episode 63, December 17, 2009
- School Change Strategies – Podcast Episode 53, April 27, 2009
- Fundamentals for School Change – Podcast Episode 52, April 07, 2009
- Action for School Change – Podcast Episode 42, October 21, 2008
- Framing Systems Change for Student Success – Podcast Episode 8, March 02, 2007
- School Holding Power for Every Child – Podcast Episode 5, January 04, 2007
- Increasing School Holding Power for All Students – Podcast Episodes, April 11, 2006