Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel

San Antonio

President Emerita

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 Texas Tribune Q&A with Dr. Robledo Montecel View profile by Dr. Robert Leos

View spotlight by Our Lady of the Lake University

View video of 2013 MALDEF Excellence in Community Service Award

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