ADE appeals to TUSD to provide quality education to all students

tusd-150x150The members of the Tucson Unified School District appeared to be determined to keep children segregated despite efforts through the desegregation lawsuit which has spanned 30 years, to end the practice. At Tuesday night’s Governing Board meeting, Board members continually challenged evidence that the schools which were designed to desegregate the district are actually very segregated as well as failing students.

The Governing Board heard from District employee, Sam Brown, and the Special Master, Willis Hawley, assigned to the case by a federal judge about the District’s magnet schools. Both advised the Board that schools such as Davis Bilingual are almost completely segregated contrary to it designed purpose, and fails to educate students in either Spanish or English.

Magnet schools are designed to draw students from across socio-economic and geographic lines to schools that they might not otherwise attend if not for the “attractive” programs. A report, completed two years ago showed that the District’s magnet schools do not attract students, but schools that are not magnets, such as Dodge Middle School, which offers and back-to-basics program do. The study concluded that while the back-to-basics model was not a traditional one, parents and children seemed to prefer it.

Board members Adelita Grijalva, Cam Juarez, and Kristel Foster argued on behalf of keeping Davis open, which had received failing grades from the state based on AIMS testing. Foster said that while she was “not married to the word “magnet” she was “married to the magnet money.” TUSD’s magnet schools receive more money than others from both the desegregation budget and federal programs.

Hawley told the Board that it was “not his job to make decisions. It is my job to make suggestions.” He then told the Board that when there is an issue with his suggestions, he then acts as an arbitrator. This statement amused one African American plaintiff representative who said that Hawley has never been open to their suggestions.”

It was clear from last night’s meeting that the plaintiff representatives were not welcome nor considered needed at the desegregation study session held in the Boardroom. The District did not live stream the meeting to the public either.

According to those in attendance, that was a good thing for the new superintendent, H.T. Sanchez, who appeared to barely follow along with the discussion. Sanchez was an assistant superintendent of a middle-sized district in Texas prior to being named head of TUSD, Arizona state’s second largest school district.

“First of all, there are some programs that have no magnetism,” Hawley told the Board, “and the District has to weigh the value of those magnets to see if they really make a difference. We have to ask what is it about the magnet money that makes the difference, to make a magnet work it has to be unique and different. They have to be organic and connected to the community. Dual language programs are a good example, if in fact, they are integrated. We have to ask of they will be integrated. My instinct is to say to use the magnet system to innovate, to draw people into the District and it is clear that there are many magnets that are less integrated than if they were neighborhood schools.”

Hawley recommended developing magnet schools that “use the resources in the community” such as the University of Arizona and other entities that might provide learning opportunities.

Hawley agreed with board member Hicks who pointed out that very few students who attend Tucson High School know that it is a fine arts magnet program. Hawley concluded that it is important to know why students are attending the schools they are attending.

The District is trying to keep quiet a letter of concern it received just last week from the Arizona Department of Education about the District’s race to implement Culturally Relevant classes. The District is racing to get Board approval before the end of August for the classes, which most educators recognize have an incomplete curriculum and do not appear to meet State or Common Core standards.

In that letter to Hawley, Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, John Huppenthal, wrote of his serious concerns about the District’s failures in the curriculum development and adoption process and advised Hawley that the “Arizona Department of Education (the Department) is committed to working with the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) to implement culturally relevant courses as you have instructed.”

Huppenthal urged Hawley to use his “authority to ensure that the minority students of TUSD have an opportunity to receive the same quality education as all students in our State by requiring that all of TUSD’s classes, including those created to satisfy the requirements of the USP (Unitary Status Plan), align to Arizona’s academic standards and none violate State law.”

“As you undoubtedly know, Arizona gives school districts, such as TUSD, the responsibility to develop and adopt curricula that meet state standards for all required subject areas. A.R.S. §§ 15-701(C)(1), -701.01(C)(1), -341(A)(5),” Huppenthal wrote in the letter dated July 24. “Those standards were developed and adopted by the State Board of Education, which has mandated the list of required and optional subjects to be taught in the schools. A.R.S. §§ 15-701(A)(1), -701.01(A)(1). In addition to ensuring that their schools meet Arizona’s state curricular standards, the courses offered by TUSD must also comply with Arizona law in other respects, including A.R.S. § 15-112, which prohibits any courses or classes that promote the overthrow of the United States government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”

Huppenthal noted that after TUSD appealed the decision to the Office of Administrative Hearings, and the Administrative Law Judge found TUSD to be in clear violation of the law. “TUSD then entered into a settlement agreement and suspended the classes. The settlement required TUSD to submit a comprehensive social studies core curriculum review timeline to the Department in 2012. The settlement agreement also required TUSD to share the work of the social studies curriculum review team during the 2012•2013 school year with the Department’s standards specialists and to engage the public in the curriculum development and adoption process. The Department offered to help TUSD develop these curricula,” according to Huppenthal.

“Although obligated to work with the Department and community members during the past school year to develop a social studies curriculum for Mexican American students that meets state standards, TUSD failed to do so,” wrote Huppenthal. “While the Department offered to assist TUSD with support and guidance during the design process, TUSD chose not to use the resources of the Department. Instead, it waited until May 23, 2013, to submit curricula for the culturally relevant and multicultural courses to the Department.”

Despite all the staff time trying to accommodate TUSD and bring the curriculum up to standards, Huppenthal wrote, “Based on the work we have done to date, it appears that these curricula continue to suffer from the same, serious deficiencies as the previous drafts. In fact, I was disappointed to see that the most recent drafts are nothing more than a rearrangement of the information previously identified as deficient. Frankly, the deficiencies in these curricula are puzzling, given that TUSD already has basic curricula for these classes that could be modified to meet the requirements of the USP.”

Huppenthal concluded that he was “concerned that TUSD intends to implement courses that do not meet state curricular standards and that may violate A.R.S. § 15-112. The draft curricula suffer from many serious deficiencies, including, for example:

• failure to align with state standards;

• failure to provide access to multiple viewpoints that provide a balanced approach to the course of study;

• presentation of a narrow curriculum with limited topics, viewpoints and perspectives as reflected by the use of such descriptive terms as: “oppressed”, “assumed superiority of whiteness”, “Mexican people disenfranchised”, “violated”, “exploited”, “historically underserved populations;” and

• presentation of an unnecessarily narrow, and improperly biased, viewpoint based on the use of “critical praxis” methodology, a methodology that is not “aligned to the rigorous expectations of the Arizona Social Studies and Common Core standards that all students are provided a balanced, objective approach to the process of inquiry” because its basic tenet is that there is “an unequal social stratification in our society based on class, race and gender.”

In short, classes based on the draft curricula will not provide students with the basic education that all other pupils in this State receive.”

TUSD Governing Board member and members of the community asked the District administration to delay the start of the classes until the spring, but Sanchez refused the request.

Attorney’s are meeting on Friday to discuss how to handle the latest development and according to District insiders, the Grijalva Board will tell the ADE that they will proceed without the State’s blessing. The federal judge in the desegregation case had ordered that the classes must comply with state law which prohibits any courses or classes that promote the overthrow of the United States government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals, and must meet state standards. The District spent nearly $1 million challenging the State’s finding that the Mexican American Studies classes violated state law, upon which the new classes are based.

Retired educator Rich Kronberg, who taught for 39 years, said, “While TUSD would deny that the new classes are based on the old MAS classes it is 100% true is that the new classes use the same flawed teaching model…Critical Race Pedagogy…as the old MAS classes. The model itself leads to indoctrination, just as it does in all the third world countries where Critical Race Pedagogy is used to openly indoctrinate students in radical ideology. Unless students have the full context to understand how the historical facts used in their courses are being cherry-picked to achieve a political/ideological goal they are likely to fall victim to this indoctrination. The result will be a belief that our economic and political systems are oppressing them because of their race or ethnicity. Instead of learning skills that will allow them to become successful adults they are learning to become part of the culture of victimhood that poisons Southern Arizona and keeps Pima County on the list of poorest areas in the country. It is no coincidence that Tucson/Pima County is also ranked as one of the 10 worst run metro areas in our country. With a Governing Board that is more interested in furthering political agendas than in educating students and a superintendent who refuses to learn from the mistakes of the past, TUSD continues to be a big reason Tucson/Pima County is on both of these lists.”

Sanchez declined to answer questions, and his office has still not turned over a list of names of the “experts” Auggie Romero claims he worked with on the development of the Critical Race pedagogy classes he created.

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TUSD’s magnets are attracting criticism not students