Huppenthal’s actions affirmed by judge in Mexican American Studies case

“Upon taking office on January 3, 2011, I was faced with the immediate circumstance of the Tucson Unified School District being found in violation of A.R.S. §15-112 by the outgoing Superintendent. Instead of making a snap decision on the matter, the Arizona Department of Education, at my direction, conducted an intensive investigation, spanning many months, of TUSD’s Mexican American Studies Department (MASD) and its program,” said in a statement issued today.

Administrative Law Judge Lewis Kowal affirmed the Tucson Unified School District’s (TUSD’s) Mexican American Studies Program was in violation of A.R.S. § 15-112 as per the Superintendent’s ruling from June 15, 2011.

“I was very pleased to receive Judge Kowal’s decision today affirming the ruling that I made on June 15 that TUSD’s Mexican American Studies Program was in violation of A.R.S. § 15-112.

In my role as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, I have a legal responsibility to uphold the law and a professional imperative to ensure that every student has access to an excellent education.

In the end, I made a decision based on the totality of the information and facts gathered during my investigation – a decision that I felt was best for all students in the Tucson Unified School District. The Judge’s decision confirms that it was the right decision.”

The Superintendent was criticized for conducting a parallel investigation with the controversial Cambium audit. However, the judge found that it was only after the district filed their appeal, were course materials available. The failure of the district to cooperate with the auditors, and the audit itself were in large part a focus of the judge’s finding:

The judge found that “Because of the concerns the Department had regarding the conclusions reached in the Cambium Report based upon the data contained therein, as well as the limited information auditors were given access to, the Superintendent decided to conduct an independent review of the MAS curricular materials before making a determination whether the District was operating its MAS program in compliance with A.R.S. § 15-112.”

• Superintendent Huppenthal specifically noted in the June 15, 2011 determination that his findings were limited and that the investigation was hampered by a lack of cooperation from the MAS Director and the District’s failure to provide a written curriculum for each of the classes offered as a part of the MAS program.

• After the filing of its appeal and the commencement of discovery in preparation for the instant hearing, the District produced at least 10,000 pages of written curriculum for all grade levels and sample student work from MAS classes conducted in the spring of 2011.

• District Deputy Superintendent Menconi delegated to MAS Director Arce the responsibility to compile materials requested by the auditors. District Deputy Superintendent Menconi transmitted the materials compiled by MAS Director Arce to the auditors via a flash drive or CD without having reviewed the materials.

• Because the auditors were not provided with lesson plans or sample student work, the scope and sequence of [MAS] lessons could not be determined nor could it be evidenced through student work samples.”

• The auditors observed about 34% of MAS classes or courses.

• The auditors did not observe any MAS classes being taught at the elementary school level by a MAS teacher because none of the elementary MAS teachers were available or teaching MAS classes at the time the auditors visited the elementary schools.

• The audit team attempted to observe three MAS middle school classes. In one of the middle school classes, the teacher was on her “planning time with no students.”

• Auditors only observed one middle school class that actually was engaged in a lesson. The class was about the Mexican American Revolution.

• The auditors observed five Latino Literature classes offered to the District’s high school students. Of those five classes, one had a substitute teacher, who showed a video to the class.

• Another class had a guest speaker who spoke about potential grant and scholarship opportunities for college.

• One class had a writing lesson that the auditors believed had been staged for their review.

• In the remaining two classes, the auditors observed the students interacting with selected literature.

• The auditors observed six of the sixteen MAS history classes offered at the District. The auditors noted that the history lessons for every class covered different subjects.

• The auditors noted that the “content” of students’ Chicano artwork in MAS art classes is “derived from social commentary, political statements, and social justice issues from a multicultural perspective.” Although the auditors did not observe any textbooks, use of magazines and art reference books were “evident.”

• Testimonial evidence presented at the hearing, in conjunction with excerpts from texts, curriculum, assessments, and student work, demonstrates that MAS classes cause students to develop a sense of racial resentment toward the “white oppressor” or “dominant” group. The philosophy of “us against them” is a persistent theme that exists within the MAS program.

At the conclusion of testimony, Judge Kowal advised the attorneys that he would spend considerable time reviewing all evidence carefully before rendering his decision.

Superintendent Huppenthal said that he “will be issuing my final ruling regarding the matter in the near future after a thorough and deliberate review of the Judge’s decision.”

Judge Kowal finding will be effective five days after the Director of the Office of Administrative Hearings certifies the judge’s finding.

Related articles:

TUSD’s Pedicone testifies in “Ethnic Studies” hearing

TUSD’s MAS curriculum for grades K-12 includes Aztec spirituality Part II

America Without Borders: TUSD’s Mexican American Studies elementary lesson

TUSD’s Mexican American Studies appeal hearing concludes

TUSD’s Mexican American Studies educators claim to create resentment, and re-birth