Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger

University of Notre Dame Legend

Hard work pays off in life and in school. No Excuses University Schools teach kids how to establish goals and how to achieve them. College was a life changing experience for me and I know it can be for the thousands of students across the country that attend a No Excuses University School. I am proud of the kids that are working hard at No Excuses Universities and I am proud to support the great work being done by this organization.

John P. Collins, Ed.D.

Superintendent, Poway Unified School District , California

The No Excuses University systems have provided a great framework that several of our principals have used with their site staff to change the culture at their schools, and improve learning for every student. Following the six Exceptional Systems outlined in the NEU model, principals and teachers have worked collaboratively to create cultures of universal achievement that are successfully addressing the needs of every student, and demonstrating increased academic performance.

Andrew Shean, Ed.D.

Executive Dean, College of Education, Ashford University, California

After attending several institutes and collaborating with Damen and Dan Lopez, the College of Education faculty at Ashford University were so inspired, we have committed to creating a Culture of Universal Achievement. We believe that all of our students can, and will, earn a degree that supports preparation for their employment goals and learning potential. This is our moral imperative – our commitment to and belief in our students. The College of Education at Ashford embraces the Six Exceptional Systems and the belief that every student can be successful. Thank you Damen and Dan, your work has cultivated this vision for our academic community.

Lydia O’Rear

8th grade U.S. History Teacher, Travis Middle School , Texas

No Excuses is providing a way for my students to find all avenues to pursue their dreams and hopes for their future. It is evaluating data and providing appropriate interventions to help them succeed. It is using assessments effectively in my classroom to help them become successful in high school and beyond. It is collaborating with colleagues who rally around finding ways to beat poverty and demand results and achievement for all students. It is believing that it isn’t about me, it is about my students. No Excuses is more than hanging college banners and just teaching about college. It is speaking a language of hope and belief. No Excuses is helping my students believe that even if they don’t want to attend college, I can help prepare them for anything in the world they may want to do and never allowing anything to stand in their way.

Anthony Bayro

Third Grade Teacher and a 2013 San Diego County Teacher of the Year, NEU at Los Penasquitos Elementary School , California

In 2004, I was one of the lucky ones to learn firsthand how the No Excuses University model can turnaround a school. The No Excuses University at Los Pen helped shape me into the teacher I am today. My philosophy of teaching is ingrained within the Six Exceptional Systems and is a large reason why I was selected as one of the San Diego County Teachers of the Year. No Excuses University transformed Los Pen into an amazing place for the entire community. It helped ignite the passion for learning in ALL students.

Ivette Diaz-Rubio

Assistant Principal, José Martí MAST 6-12 Academy, Mathematics & Science Technology, Florida

As an Assistant Principal I often have students sent to my office for disrupting the learning environment. In the past I would lecture them, issue a consequence and send them on their way. Ever since I attended my first NEU conference in 2010, that process changed. Once we implemented the NEU strategies we learned at the institute, we all began modifying the conversations we were having with students. We adjusted the focus of simply getting them to high school to ensuring their success in college. Allowing the students to also aim higher and think of all their possibilities beyond high school has made such a positive impact in our school. Now when a student is sent to my office for being disruptive I begin the conversation with, “What do you want to be when you grow up”? This one question then allows me to redirect the student into explaining to me what he/she needs to do to achieve their goal. I still issue a consequence but now when the student leaves my office, he/she also takes with them their plan for a successful future. This is what NEU has done for me and my school.

Bob Harraka

Founder, Professional Tutors of America, Inc.

We are pleased to support the vision of No Excuses University, to revolutionize the public education model to better enrich the lives of children across the nation. With a focus on promoting college readiness for all students at an early age, No Excuses University is an innovative movement that all educators should consider. I have no hesitation in recommending the No Excuses University model to teachers and administrators driven to increase student achievement.

Lorna Manuel

Director, Educational Support Services, Tehama County Department of Education, California

At Tehama County Department of Education in Red Bluff, California, we were sometimes frustrated with having a lack of alignment and connection between our different departments and among our staff. Since we began our pursuit of becoming a NEU organization, we have seen our departments join together through their symbolism (college T-shirt Friday) and building collaboration by joining with other departments to develop and implement college and career readiness goals. In addition, the culture at TCDE has changed to encourage universal achievement through connecting our professional development and stakeholder support resources in ways to foster an encouragement for postsecondary education. NEU has been the “bridge” uniting our collective departments and our community.

Sara Najarro, Ed. D

Principal, NEU at Stanton Elementary , California

In 2009, I was able to attend my first institute and it was none other than life changing!! My leadership style and my school were transformed. Mango Elementary in Fontana Unified was able to become, at that time, one of 50 NEU schools. Not only did our culture and climate change for the better but our test scores increased, our suspensions and referrals decreased, and out attendance moved to number one in the district. Leaving Mango and No Excuses to move to a new district was the hardest decision due to leaving NEU behind.

I am now proud to say that not only has Mango continued as an NEU school but I was able to introduce NEU to a new staff and community. Stanton Elementary in Glendora Unified became an NEU school in 2012. My team of teacher leaders returned from their first institute with a new mission and a new passion for teaching! We decided that we would forge ahead with our goal of becoming a No Excuses school because it is what our students and our school community need.

I have now been able to attend more than 6 institutes and 2 National conventions. Each experience has never failed to impress and brings about a renewed spirit of the cause! This movement has kept our school moving towards the ultimate goal of academic performance for our students when so many other things were causing immense challenges. Our students now know what year they will graduate college and what it will take to get them there. They are proud to be part of a school who believes they all deserve this opportunity. Our adopted classrooms are bursting with spirit. Our test scores have risen and the community has rallied behind us. Once seen as a school on the wrong side of the tracks in a high performing district is now admired and sought out for the great things that are happening. Becoming a No Excuses University school has moved our school to becoming exceptional. Thanks for letting us be a part of this network.

Ana Gomez del Castillo

Principal, Kyrene de los Ninos Elementary School, Arizona

Our attendance at the TurnAround Schools Institute this past summer has changed our school! The transformation has been amazing! I wanted to share letters that I sent to the staff and to our parents before the school year began.

(Following is an excerpt from Ana’s letter to her staff.) “I am just SO excited about what we (grade level teachers and administration) learned at a recent TurnAround Schools Institute. Wait until you hear from the entire group that attended this training! Caution: We are highly contagious!”

(…and an excerpt from Ana’s letter to her parents) “We believe that all students can learn and it is OUR job to make this happen! We are committed to creating a school that knows no limits to the academic success of each student. We want our school to be known as an exemplary school where every student, without exception and without excuse, will be proficient or advanced in reading, language arts and math due to the collaborative efforts of our staff and families!”

Carol McEwen

Teacher, McKinley Elementary, California

We were all so inspired by all of you and your passion for every child to learn and succeed. It truly was the best conference I have ever attended in my entire educational career.

Rob Adams

Staff Development / Technology Coordinator, Redding School District, California

I truly appreciate your hands on approach and passion for your work. During collaboration time with my team, everyone was truly impressed by the handouts and examples of “exceptional systems” that your schools have created. Once again, thank you for sharing your experiences and ideas with us. We came back highly motivated to make specific changes in our programs in order to directly effect student achievement at Redding School District.

Doug Curry

Principal, San Jacinto Elementary, Texas

The sheer audacity of San Jacinto Elementary essentially becoming a college preparatory school was just the radical avenue that I knew we needed. I didn’t even have to present this idea to my teachers. The teachers who attended the institute did this for me… Because of the proven success of Los Peñasquitos [elementary school where Damen Lopez, founder of TurnAround Schools, was principal], we were willing to take a stand and take the risk of saying that our students will be college bound.

Cassandra Willis

Principal, Home Gardens Elementary School, California

The best way to describe my experience at the TurnAround Schools Conference is: ‘Inspiring! Life changing!’… Thanks Damen for not keeping this to yourself, but rather choosing to share it with others. It is a message that we all need to hear over and over again.

Sandra Souza-DeSimone

Teacher, Don Pedro Elementary School, California

The Institute presentations were the most valuable ones I have ever attended. There is so much to be said for good ol’ common sense!

Ed Rafferty

Superintendent, Schaumburg Elementary School District, Illinois

I wanted to take a minute to let you know how much we in Schaumburg, Illinois, value and appreciate the work that Damen Lopez has been doing. Schaumburg District 54 is the largest elementary district in Illinois. We have 27 schools with a wide variety of students who come from families with high incomes to those who are in need of financial assistance. We serve students who speak more than 36 languages, etc. – similar to what most large districts throughout the country are facing.

A powerful movement is taking place across our district that is in large part due to the ideas and support that we have gleaned from Damen and his staff…

My staff wanted me to share with you that they are thrilled to be part of Damen’s growing network of support. We know that this will make a huge difference in the lives of so many students. Thanks again for the standard of excellence that you have established for other districts to emulate.

Tom Ziegler

Principal, Thomas Elementary School, Arizona

You really lit a fire under the 16 folks from Flagstaff’s Thomas Elementary School at the Scottsdale conference!

Bobbie Plough

Superintendent, Romoland School District, California

Just wanted to share our success story with you because I know you’ll be SOOOO happy for us. Our district grew 50 (count ’em, 50!) points in our API this year — we found out that we are 30th in API growth this year out of 1,011 school districts in CA. All of this has been tremendously confirming for staff – and you need to know that many of our lessons learned from you guys have been applied in our schools. Los Peñasquitos is one of those models we often refer to when we’re talking about success with students.