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Intentional Excellence

The Pedagogy, Power, and Politics of Excellence in Latina/o Schools and Communities


Louie F. Rodríguez

Are we bold enough to recognize our own excellence in our schools and communities? This question drives Intentional Excellence, an audacious attempt at developing a Pedagogy of Excellence in Latina/o schools and communities as a result of observations, insights, and lessons learned from work with schools and communities across the United States. Louie F. Rodríguez argues that while there is no shortage of excellence in some of the schools and communities that struggle the most, there is a pedagogical void, or an Excellence Paradox, that has disallowed excellence from being used as a potential tool to transform the culture of education. This book offers an additive framework for committed stakeholders and outlines six key observations including the contagious nature of excellence, excellence as a responsibility, the political viability of excellence, the additive possibilities of excellence, the role of excellence as a curricular and pedagogical tool, and the role of excellence in working toward equity and social justice in education. Rodríguez discusses a series of case studies that have used Excellence Campaigns to organize, define, and recognize their own excellence. The book also discusses the possibilities of excellence beyond education and proposes a new role in education to make excellence happen: Excellence Engineers. The book concludes with a theory of action that is necessary for excellence to thrive in the twenty-first century. Our children and communities deserve to see themselves as «models of excellence» and this book proposes a pedagogy to help get us there.


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The impetus for this book was truly inspired by my work in schools and com- munities across the U.S. I have been privileged to live in and work with three similar, and at the same time distinct, school systems and communities in the Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest. In every region, I have been able to learn from and observe the conditions facing Latina/o students and commu- nities. Aside from this work, I have also encountered educators, leaders, and policymakers from every other corner of the country who serve our communi- ties, and who are committed to improving the conditions facing our commu- nities. However, it wasn’t until I began my work in Southern California that I started to see the politics and significance of excellence emerge. I am grateful to the students, educators, parents, and educational leaders who have afforded me access to the realities facing our students and communities, and I applaud their commitment to service as a “model of excellence” in and of itself. I am also grateful to the growing number of mentors and scholars who are continuing to push an additive agenda to shape and reshape, invent and rein- vent, and create and recreate the conditions in our schools and communities so our children, families, and educators that serve them operate in conditions characterized by dignity, respect, equity, hope, and possibility. Such mentors and scholars include Angela Valenzuela, Pedro Noguera, Gil Conchas, Gary xiv intentional excellence Orfield, Daniel Solorzano, Rebeca Burciaga, Maria Ledesma, Tara Brown, Dorinda...

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