TUSD’s new desegregation plan

by David Safier

TUSD has a new desegregation plan on its plate. It's a continuation of the 30 year old deseg case to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for Hispanic and African American students. The plan is big — 84 pages long — complex and potentially very significant for the District. I've held off writing about it for a few days until I learned more. The Star did some passable reporting on the plan, and Mari Herreras has a very good explanation and analysis in the Weekly. I decided to wait until I had a chance to sit down with Richard Martinez, the lawyer who is representing students in their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of HB2281, the law used to dismantle the Mexican American Studies program, before I wrote anything. I knew Martinez had more knowledge of TUSD history than I ever will and could translate the plan's legalese into something I could understand. He's definitely a partisan in the fight, but he's also an honest, intelligent man who knows how to separate fact from opinion and make it clear which is which.

Having read over the plan and talked with Martinez, here's my quick take on its most important parts, which, by the way, have not yet been approved. Feel free to use the Comments section to discuss the plan further — in a civil manner please (forceful, if you wish, but civil), no matter where you stand on the issue. I'll be happy to join in the discussion.

It's important to understand the implementation of this plan will take place with the same Superintendent, John Pedicone, but a very different Board. Two of the Board members who voted to dismantle the MAS curriculum will be gone at the end of the year, replaced by Kristel Foster and Cam Juarez, both of whom expressed strong support of MAS during their campaigns. The two of them join Adelita Grijalva, the only Board member who voted against dismantling MAS. That means 3 of the 5 Board members are supporters of the program, and Mark Stegeman joins Michael Hicks in the minority on the MAS issue, and probably on other issues as well. The Board's balance of power has shifted dramatically.

The new plan is likely to bring back courses similar to those that made up the dismantled MAS curriculum. Not exactly the same, necessarily, but they must be "culturally relevant courses of instruction designed to reflect the history, experiences and culture of African American and Latino communities." The plan specifies these are to be "core courses" at the high school level — meaning they will fulfill history and literature requirements rather than being electives — and can be electives in middle schools. The curriculum is supposed to make it into elementary classes in some form as well. All this is supposed to happen very quickly: fall term, 2013, for the high schools; 2014 for the middle schools; and 2015 at the elementary grades.

TUSD has objected to the use of the words "core" and "elective" in this part of the plan. Take those words out, and all the classes could be electives, which would effectively gut the program. I'm guessing the words "core" and "elective" will remain in the final version.

The way students are admitted to University High would change under the new plan. Currently admission to UHS is test-driven (I'm not sure if there are other factors). The ethnic makeup of the school is about 60% white, 22% Hispanic, 14% Asian and 4% African American, yet TUSD is over 60% Hispanic. The new admission standards would include multiple measures such as essays, characteristics of the students' schools, and student's background (including race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status) in an effort to make the mix of students more closely resemble the ethnic makeup of the District.

Opportunities for Hispanic and African American students to take advanced courses, including AP courses, would increase. Problems with the current way discipline is administered, where Hispanic and African American students often receive harsher punishments than other students for similar offenses, would be addressed. Students struggling during the early grades and older students in danger of dropping out would be given more attention and assistance. More multicultural material would be incorporated into the standard TUSD curriculum.

This is only a snapshot of the 84 page document, but it gives an indication of how ambitious the new plans are. To assure compliance, TUSD will have to be specific about its budget to implement the plans and must assess its progress at regular intervals.

Richard Martinez believes there will be lots of confrontation along the way to implementation of the deseg plan. Members the Hispanic (and non-Hispanic) community energized by the fight over the MAS program are not likely to allow the District to water down the implementation of the plan. Former MAS teachers are equally unlikely to keep quiet and "play nice" after the program they gave their hearts and souls to was savaged and abandoned.

Expect the battles we've witnessed over the past few years to continue, and hope the resulting programs will be created with the best interests of the students in mind.

9 responses to “TUSD’s new desegregation plan

  1. I posted this morning about the new study. — http://www.blogforarizona.com/blog/2012/11/ua-college-of-ed-study-says-mas-boosted-student-achievement.html.

    I also remember the stats compiled by TUSD’s David Scott. They noted academic improvement by students in MAS, though Scott was careful to say the results weren’t conclusive. An article in the Star got the information completely ass-backwards, as I noted in a post on 3/17/11 — http://www.blogforarizona.com/blog/2011/03/what-the-hell.html.

    Pam, it may be the incredibly faulty reporting by the Star that led you to believe Cabrera’s study conflicted with the TUSD data. I know you’ve looked at this carefully, so maybe you have another reason to believe there’s a contradiction. I didn’t see one.

  2. I just saw Dave’s piece posted today and he also alludes to an earlier study. It may be something not subject to the confidentiality order or something disseminated before the order went into effect. If so, then there is no problem with anyone acting in violation. My comment was only directed to the just-released report, which was subject to the order.

  3. Judge Bury imposed a confidentiality order on the parties to the deseg case, so if Pam had access to the study months ago, it appears that someone may have violated the order. That doesn’t sound good.

    The study was commissioned by Special Master Hawley and the data was provided by TUSD, just like the other studies. I’m not sure what Pam believes “directly conflicted with the published TUSD data.” Until now, the best data was provided by TUSD’s David Scott in January 2011. It shows that MAS students had lower initial AIMS passing rates than non-MAS students, but closed the gap to achieve final passing rates equal to non-MAS TUSD students. This is especially significant because MAS students have a much higher concentration of low-income Hispanic students than does the district’s non-MAS students. Clearly, the demographics of those two groups is very different.

    On the other hand, Cabrera compared MAS students to non-MAS with the same demographics at the same schools where MAS was offered. An apples to apples comparison. He focused on the likelihood of passing AIMS and the likelihood of graduating, which was significantly higher for MAS students. I don’t see a conflict in the results. They measure different things, but are all positive for low-income Hispanic students.

    I’m not too familiar with academia, but when a study is commissioned and paid for, does it usually get subjected to peer review and published in an academic journal? I don’t know the answer.

  4. I looked at the data in the Cabrera study when it came out a few months ago. I don’t remember how the data were collected or what the cohort was. I do remember that the glowing results reported in that study directly conflicted with the published TUSD data. So, yet another conflicting data set.

    Of course, the devil is in the details when it comes to research. Who collected the data? How was it collected? What cohort of students was used? What years were used? What data were excluded from the analysis and why?

    Has Cabrera published the data in an academic journal? If he plans to, the peer reviewers and editors would (hopefully) ask for clarifications. This study was much more sophisticated than previous MAS evaluation attempts, though.

  5. Comments about the last comments:

    Jana, I plan to post about the Cabrera study today. I didn’t want to add more information to my already long and complicated post.

    Bess, Horne was specifically kept at arm’s length from the creation on the new deseg plan, but he will have a chance to comment on it and make suggestions. As I said, the plan has not been formally approved. I’m not sure whether Hupp will be part of the formal process, but you’re right, they’re both sure to weigh in one way or the other. The thing is, according to Richard Martinez, the federal deseg order trumps Horne’s and Hupp’s probable objections, and even trumps HB2281. As I understand it, in theory, TUSD could recreate the MAS program exactly as it was and HB2281 wouldn’t come into play. If I’m right, that means TUSD is beholden to the deseg plan on the items it mandates, not to the lege.

  6. It is expected that John Huppenthal and ADE will weigh in on the plan too. Expect a lot of conflict from them.

  7. One of the most important pieces of the issue is the Cabrera study, found at http://works.bepress.com/nolan_l_cabrera/17/ If there are other programs that increase the achievement of mostly lower-income Hispanic students, no one is talking about them. Strangely, the Cabrera study did not make it into the plan’s appendix and doesn’t appear on the website dedicated to educating the public, tucsonusp.com. It appears that TUSD doesn’t want to talk about it. I’m not sure why a district would achieve these types of results and not crow about it? Oh yeah. They killed the program.

    This board has disgraced itself by objecting to making the classes for core credit, in light of the gains made by students shown in the study. No legitimate educational policy makers would throw away these results for lower-income Hispanic youth. Struggling, disaffected students are highly unlikely to double up on their academic classes to take MAS as an elective.

    Reconstructing these classes from scratch by August, 2013 to be as successful as the former program will be an uphill battle. And these classes must show accountability for improving equity in education, as must the multicultural classes. We’ll see how well they do. The bar is now set high.

    Pam, the plan has separate provisions for the multicultural curriculum and the culturally relevant classes. They will exist side by side. They can both be measured by the standards set by the Cabrera study.

  8. This is going to be about conflicting reports for a long time, I think. Romero may be working on a series of courses that would fulfill the wording of the plan, I don’t know. But if the ex-MAS teachers consider it too watered down, they most likely won’t go along. So will TUSD find a new group of teachers who have to start from scratch? And if there are serious objections from the ex-MAS teachers and the strongest supporters of the dismantled program, how with the community and the newly constituted Board react? That’s not even to mention Huppenthal and other Republicans who will try to play this whole thing like a cheap fiddle to their political advantage.

    There are raw emotions on all sides of this issue, lots of people who are going to find it hard to compromise. There will be Board meetings and speakers from the audience, maybe demonstrations, maybe security people to keep the demonstrators in line. Before that, there will be three community meetings discussing the plan. Those are reasons why Richard Martinez thinks this is going to be a difficult struggle.

  9. “The new plan is likely to bring back courses similar to those that made up the dismantled MAS curriculum. Not exactly the same, necessarily, but they must be ‘culturally relevant courses of instruction designed to reflect the history, experiences and culture of African American and Latino communities.'”

    Dave, how does this relate to the new programs/curricula/services being developed by Auggie Romero and Maria Figueroa? I have read multiple conflicting reports about what is being done.