TUSD’s Mexican American Studies appeal hearing concludes

The fourth and final day of hearings in the appeal of the Tucson Unified School District on the ruling by the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction that the district’s Mexican American Studies classes violate state law featured state’s expert Dr. Sandra Stotsky and the district’s expert Dr. Jeffrey Milem. The hearing lasted a little more than an hour.

Immediately prior to the final testimony, Judge Lewis Kowal ordered both sides to present their closing arguments and proposed rulings to the court by November 18. According to the administrative law judge he will spend a substantial amount of time reviewing the curriculum, student work product, and testimony entered as evidence, and then issue his decision.

Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal will then take that under advisement and issue his ruling on the matter. If the district is found guilty of violating state law, the district will lose 10 percent of their funding provided by the state. The district may pursue the matter in Superior Court.

The state’s last witness was education expert; Dr. Sandra Stotsky. Dr. Stotsky graduated from the University of Michigan and received her doctorate from Harvard University. She worked for the Massachusetts Department of Education, the United States State Department, and Harvard University. She has taught at every level, primarily at the university and graduate level, however she did have briefly experience teaching at the lower grades. She is currently a professor at the University of Arkansas.

Dr. Stotsky worked for the state of Massachusetts incorporating multi-cultural education into the state’s curriculum. Her work with the United State Department of State included working with Eastern Bloc countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall. She assisted educators in “filling holes” left by the removal of Marxist-Leninist materials from their curriculum.

Milem testified on the second day of hearings and was brought back to offer rebuttal to Stotsky’s testimony. Professor Jeffrey F. Milem is the department head of Policy Studies and Practice in the College of Education at the University of Arizona. In earlier testimony, Milem stated that some might consider him to be an expert in Critical Race Theory (CRT).

Milem testified that while he has not visited a TUSD class, based on what he knows about the program he does not believe that it is in violation of the law. Instead, he believes the courses lead to enhanced critical thinking by students of all ethnicities. Milem testified that his only exposure to the TUSD curriculum and classes were a few students he met while participating in morning sessions at the TUSD/UofA Transformative Education Institute.

Stotsky addressed Milem’s earlier testimony that the classes cause students to experience what he termed “disequilibrium.” He testified that often times students must experience “disequilibrium” in order to learn new information. He proceeded to testify that he did not know what anecdote the MAS classes provided to students experiencing “disequilibrium.”

Stotsky testified that creating “disequilibrium” is not and should not be used as a pedagogical practice. Instead educators should use “scaffolding” to introduce new information that “may jar” students.