LATINO VOICES
10/17/2013 02:38 pm ET

'Culturally Relevant Courses' Finally Approved By Arizona Education Department

AP

The Arizona Department of Education has finally given its consent to allow a substitution for a Mexican-American Studies program that was banned from Tucson public school.

The state’s Education Department sent a team to visit the Tucson’s Cholla and Pueblo high schools on Oct. 1. In a letter addressed to Tucson’s Superintendent H.T. Sanchez, state officials said they did “not find any specific teaching practice or instructional material that would cause the Department to take further action to enforce 15-112,” a reference to the law used to suspend the district’s Mexican-American Studies courses.

But the visitors didn’t like everything they saw.

“We observed three questionable posters in the Senior English class and the Social Studies classroom,” the letter reads, continuing, “references to levels of oppression and liberation were problematic, particularly in light of the feedback we have provided in our previous curriculum review.”

The Arizona Department of Education said in June that the proposed curriculum for the culturally relevant courses might violate Arizona’s ethnic studies law. The state's legislature voted in 2010 to ban classes that promote the overthrow of the government, promote ethnic solidarity, or treat students as part of an ethnicity rather than individuals.

Despite the officials’ concerns, they did not object to the continuation of the courses and they praised some aspects of the classes.

“There was good use of a video documentary which presented students with opposing viewpoints, although we are unsure of the connection between illegal immigration and the African-American perspective of U.S. history,” the letter says.

The letter was first reported by Alexis Huicochea of the Arizona Daily Star.

Conservatives, led by then-Superintendent of Schools Tom Horne and then-State Sen. John Huppenthal, called for the ethnic studies law in response to allegations that Mexican-American Studies teachers in Tucson were politicizing their students.

The teachers deny the allegations and point to independent research showing that the classes improved student achievement. A 2011 state-commissioned audit recommended expanding the courses.

Tucson's culturally relevant courses emerged as a way to provide courses tailored to the experience of Latino students despite the suspension of the controversial Mexican-American Studies program. The district is required to provide culturally relevant course work as part of a decades-long desegregation case.

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