Monday, September 17, 2012

New York Times Profiles TUSD's Attempt To Rebuild Trust With Hispanic Students

Posted By on Mon, Sep 17, 2012 at 4:36 PM

The New York Times popped in this weekend to give a national focus on the Tucson Unified School District's attempts to rebuild and refocus the resources that were scattered about when it dropped the Mexican-American studies program last year.

From the New York Times:

Meanwhile, at the district’s central offices, Maria Figueroa was busy sifting through résumés and rearranging her calendar to squeeze in one more interview. As the director of a new program intended to help the district’s perennially struggling Hispanic students, by far the majority of the enrollment, Ms. Figueroa enjoys a rare distinction: she has jobs to fill and money to hire.

She also has a big task — mending the fences broken by the dismantling of the Mexican-American studies department last school year after an acrimonious debate over the politics of its curriculum and the type of activism it had promoted. A 2010 law banning lessons that fostered racial resentment and solidarity among members of a single ethnic group, drafted as legislators worked to frame the state’s controversial immigration bill, eventually killed the program. Facing persistent financial problems, the school district buckled under the threat of millions of dollars in fines.

Instead of classes about historical realities and the everyday experiences of Mexican-Americans, once a hallmark of the department, Ms. Figueroa’s program will offer tutoring to Hispanic students who are teetering on the edge of failure. In place of discussions about race and identity, it will recruit mentors from among Hispanic business leaders and college graduates to talk to students.

The overarching goal is as basic as it is fundamental. “We’re going to teach the kids that they need to stay in school, that school is important,” Ms. Figueroa said.

When looking at the story, one can't help but feel that TUSD has put itself (and Figueroa) into an unenviable position of trying to repair something that wasn't broken until they took a hammer to it, if only because of this passage:

About 800 students were enrolled in the Mexican-American studies department at last count, district officials said. They outperformed their peers on Arizona’s state standardized tests in reading (by 45 percentage points), writing (by 59 percentage points) and math (by 33 percentage points). If it is improving achievement the district was looking for, its proponents have argued, the department should have been expanded.

For the rest of the story, head to the New York Times.

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