Key vote on TUSD curricula delayed

Decision on culturally relevant gov't, history classes to be Aug. 13
2013-07-23T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T08:49:04Z Key vote on TUSD curricula delayedAlexis Huicochea Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 23, 2013 12:00 am  • 

TUSD is delaying approval of its controversial culturally relevant government and history courses, but still plans to offer the classes to students in the fall.

The Governing Board was to have considered the new curricula tonight, but the matter is now slated to be voted on Aug. 13. If given the green light, the classes will start two days later, on Aug. 15.

Because school starts Aug. 1, students who have expressed an interest in the culturally relevant classes will start out in traditional government and history courses, which would then convert to the new board-approved curriculum.

The classes will be taught by teachers who have already received training on how to appropriately teach culturally relevant curricula. These would be the same teachers leading the traditional classes at the beginning of the school year.

Should the Governing Board reject the curricula, the students will continue on in the traditional classes without interruption.

The Arizona Department of Education took longer than expected to review the curricula, which will be taught from the Mexican- American and African-American perspectives, and that resulted in the delay.

The Tucson Unified School District is now working to incorporate the department's feedback before presenting it to the public for review.

The government-course curriculum will be posted online for the public at tusd1.org starting Friday through Aug. 8. The history curriculum will be posted a day earlier - Thursday - but will remain online for the same period of time.

While the state has been involved in the curricula review, the TUSD Governing Board has the ultimate say.

The state's involvement is the result of an agreement made following the elimination of Mexican American Studies classes. The classes were said to be in violation of a law prohibiting courses that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals and are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.

Facing a threat of losing millions in state aid, TUSD eliminated the classes. But the district is now under criticism again for the culturally relevant courses, which are mandated by a federal desegregation order.

In addition to the culturally relevant government and history classes, TUSD has approved and will offer culturally relevant literature classes on the first day of school, also taught from Mexican-American and African-American perspectives. The culturally relevant classes will first be offered to high school juniors and seniors at three pilot campuses - Tucson, Pueblo and Cholla highs.

The Arizona Department of Education also reviewed the literature courses and provided feedback. But TUSD did not run the final version by the state before adopting it earlier this month. That raised concerns from the state, which had criticized the draft curriculum, saying it was not rigorous enough, did not align with state and common core standards and may be in violation of the law. The same issues were brought up regarding the government and history classes.

New TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez voiced frustration over the review process with the state, saying the department has been unwilling to provide specific direction on how the district can address its concerns.

"One of the key challenges that remain is the lack of model curricula in literature, government or social studies that incorporates the rigor of the common core standards," Sanchez said. "Without model curricula in these areas, there is no standard by which to judge our CRC (culturally relevant) curricula. …"

Nonetheless, Sanchez said he is proud of the work that has been done thus far in a short amount of time.

"You can't kill it before it even starts," Sanchez said. "I acknowledge that it's not perfect - no curriculum is - but I'm confident we will come out with a good product for students. It will just take time and likely some revision once we know what works and what doesn't."

On StarNet: Follow Star reporter Alexis Huicochea as she tweets from the TUSD meeting at 7 p.m. at live.azstarnet.com

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea atahuicochea@azstarnet.com or 573-4175. On Twitter @AlexisHuicochea

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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