Ethnic studies claim in question

TUSD study: Outcomes for Mexican-American program are indistinct
2011-03-15T14:00:00Z 2014-07-02T08:35:18Z Ethnic studies claim in questionAlexis Huicochea Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 15, 2011 2:00 pm  • 

Editor's note: This story first appeared Sunday as an exclusive for our print readers.

TUSD officials have long claimed that Mexican American Studies students graduate at higher rates and achieve better AIMS scores than students not in the program. But an analysis by the district's statistician shows outcomes are roughly the same whether students enroll in those classes or not.

The analysis by Accountability and Research Director David Scott was conducted at the request of a Governing Board member. It yielded different results from what the district's Mexican American Studies Department has long claimed.

The district's graduation rate of nearly 83 percent holds true for students who took a Mexican American Studies course and for those who did not, Scott found.

He also analyzed the program's impact on the AIMS passing rate and found that students who take Mexican American Studies classes are unlikely to pass the high-stakes test the first time. They are likely to pass it after taking it five times, about the same rate as students who didn't take those courses.

Additionally, Scott found that the percentage of students who planned to continue their education after graduation was about the same as those not in the program.

TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone said he recognizes that the lack of common data may result in a public perception that some statements were misleading, but there was no such intent. Scott agrees, saying it's a matter of methodology and looking at data in different ways.

For his analysis, Scott looked at the graduation rate of the group of students who started high school four years ago as the class of 2010.

Mexican American Studies Director Sean Arce said he has been making his statements based on year-by-year student results, not for one particular grouping.

Indeed, Scott replicated Arce's analysis and was able to produce results that showed higher graduation outcomes for seniors year by year for those who took a Mexican American Studies course when compared with those who didn't.

But regardless of how the data were analyzed, there does appear to be value in the program, and Scott's analysis proved that, Pedicone said.

The data revealed that Mexican American Studies courses have benefited the district's financially poorest students, who graduated at higher rates than students in similar economic situations who didn't enroll in them.

Additionally, the program's literature and social-studies classes have helped students improve AIMS reading and writing scores.

"What I do believe about the Mexican American Studies program is that the most powerful part appears to be the people who demonstrate such a strong, deep concern for the students they teach," Pedicone said. "So you do see some improvement in the way in which students progress through the educational process - I don't think there's any question about that."

"What I do believe about the Mexican American Studies program is that the most powerful part appears to be the people who demonstrate such a strong, deep concern for the students they teach."

John Pedicone, TUSD superintendent

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at ahuicochea@azstarnet.com or 573-4175.

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