Will Tucson’s Desegregation Plan Bring Ethnic Studies Back?

Plaintiffs in a decades-long federal desegregation case against the Tucson Unified School District have filed a plan with the court calling for a culturally relevant curriculum for Latino and black students, among other requests. While it does not mention it in name, the proposal could mean a push to resurrect the district’s controversial Mexican American Studies program, which was dismantled last school year. The plaintiffs want to see courses that reflect the history and culture of Mexican Americans.

“The restoration and expansion of literature and social studies courses that focus on Mexican American experiences recognizes the important role these courses play in engaging students and improving their academic achievement and graduation rates and is a critical strategy for closing the achievement gap for Latino students,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney Nancy Ramirez, with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in a news release.

The school district has been overseen for more than 30 years under the desegregation case.

The “Unitary Status Plan” proposal also calls for integrating magnet programs and schools, increasing diversity among administrators, and setting goals for increasing Latino and black student enrollment in gifted programs, reports the Arizona Daily Star.

Further bolstering the plan, a new study by the University of Arizona concludes that the MAS courses positively affected student achievement.

The Daily Star reported that school board members had a mixed reaction to the proposal, but overall called it an improvement over previous plans.

Board member Adelita Grijalva expressed hopes that the plan would give “specific direction” for the return of the MAS program. Board member Michael Hicks took the opposing view and disagreed with the proposal calling for culturally relevant courses. He thought such courses could segregate students. But he didn’t entirely reject it.

“Although the board had reservations with some of the requests, it’s a good plan,” he told the newspaper. “Let’s see what the judge does.”

Related Links:

– “Latinos support latest plan for TUSD balance.” Arizona Daily Star. 

– Mexican American Studies: Tucson Courses Improved Achievement, New Report Says.” The Huffington Post. 

“MALDEF joins in filing draft plan to desegregate and improve educational achievement for Latino students in Tucson Unified School District.” MALDEF.

– “Ethnic Studies Could Return to Tucson in Desegregation Plan.” Learning the Language Blog. Education Week. 

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