“Ethnic Studies” appeal reveals audit flaws

Courtesy TU4SD

Testimony began yesterday in the Tucson Unified School District’s appeal of the finding of noncompliance with Arizona law 15-112, by the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, John Huppenthal. The district is appealing the finding that TUSD’s Mexican American Studies classes are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, promote resentment towards a race or class of people, and advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals in violation of the law.

The first witness was John Stollar, Chief of Programs and Policy for the Arizona Department of Education. Stollar, a long time educator offered testimony as to the specifics of the controversial Cambium “audit” and his review of the department’s evidence. John Stollar took the stand to address the Cambium “audit,” the obstruction of the investigation by district officials, and the parallel investigation conducted by the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SOPI).

The highly irregular audit commissioned by the SOPI, found little wrong with the classes and has served to justify the district’s appeal and MAS proponents’ support. According to testimony, auditors only reviewed 9 out of 180 possible lesson units. This 5% of the curriculum could not be a representative sample from which to draw any conclusions, however 3 of the 9 units contained “an overabundance” of political material.”

Stollar agreed with other education auditors who have reviewed Cambium’s work that the audit could not be considered an audit by most standards, “I don’t believe that they had sufficient information.” He told Administrative Law Judge Lewis Kowal , that the auditors could not draw any conclusions as to whether the curriculum provided a balanced view of the issues it covered.

Stollar discussed Cambium’s effort to quit midway through the project, and the SOPI’s demand that the audit contract be fulfilled. The district had blocked efforts to conduct a complete audit. Contrary to instructions, TUSD administrators gave Mexican American Studies teachers a heads up on the timing of classroom observation. At the time, Assistant Superintendent Maria Menconi discussed her concerns about this in an email to Superintendent Pedicone’s assistant Karen Bynum. Superintendent Pedicone allowed the MAS Director and MAS teachers to refuse to cooperate with auditors and ADE investigators.

Abel Morado of Tucson High School went so far as to allow the teachers themselves to hand pick students for the focus group portion of the audit. The ideal focus group was to be comprised of past and present MAS students randomly selected by principals. Yet, THS Principal Abel Morado emailed Mexican American Studies Director Sean Arce, and MAS teachers Curtis Acosta and Maria Frederico Brummer, asking them to “select students for focus groups.”

Just recently a staffer at THS complained that a scheduled meeting with Morado was delayed due to a telephone call between Morado and radical activist Delores Huerta. Huerta was the source of the first national attention brought to the Mexican American studies classes when she declared in a speech to students at Tucson High School, “Republicans hate Latinos.”