Looking at the Effects of Ethnic Studies Curriculum

School districts across the country are scrambling to adapt to the growing number of Latino students by hiring more Latino teachers and incorporating more culturally appropriate material into the curriculum. In Arizona, however, a recently passed state law is designed to get rid of ethnic studies classes, which opponents say are divisive.

According to this Los Angeles Times story, Arizona schools chief John Huppenthal will soon decide whether a Mexican American studies program in the Tuscon school district violates that law.

Huppenthal believes that the classes have “a very toxic effect, and we think it’s just not tolerable in an educational setting.” Proponents, on the other hand, say such programs encourage Latino students to succeed and include perspectives normally left out of the mainstream curriculum.

The controversy highlights an interesting angle for education reporters covering school districts with shifting demographics: What happens when schools revamp the curriculum to include Latino — or other ethnic-studies — material? Do student scores improve? (In the Tuscon school district, 89 percent of students in the program graduated from high school). Is there resistance from school officials or negative impact on non-Latino students?

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