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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Mexican American courses prove to be beneficial

Recent studies have found that students who take Mexican American studies courses are more likely to do better in their academics.

Research conducted by Nolan Cabrera, an assistant professor in the Center for the Study of Higher Education, has positively linked academic success among the students who took MAS courses.

Cabrera was the lead author of the study of Tucson’s controversial ethnic studies program, and concluded that those who took MAS courses were more likely to graduate from high school as well as score higher on standardized tests.

“We found a consistency of a positive relationship between taking the Mexican American Studies courses and students’ increasing academic performance,” Cabrera said.

Research was done in 2012 regarding the Tucson Unified School District’s school desegregation lawsuit to address the benefit of MAS courses for students.

At the request of Special Master Willis Hawley, the overseer of the TUSD desegregation case, Cabrera conducted these analytical studies.

“The more allowed Mexican American Studies courses took, the greater the likelihood of success,” he said.

MAS courses have come under attack from individuals who believe these types of classes will encourage and promote ethnic solidarity, leading students to resent white people.

House Bill 2281 was passed by Arizona legislation in 2010 and targeted the MAS course curriculum in TUSD.

According to Section 1, lines 4-12 of the law, public schools should treat everyone as individuals and not based on their ethnic background.

The law also stated that a program cannot promote ethnic solidarity or overthrowing the U.S. government, or be geared toward a particular ethnic group.

“There were massive educational inequities in the Tucson Unified School District between white and Latino students,” Cabrera said.

He argued in his research article that the TUSD curriculum, after HB 2281 was passed, was out of compliance with that very law.

“It is a difficult situation, because there is a lot of misinformation put out there,” he said.

Mary Carol Combs, an associate professor in the department of teaching, learning and sociocultural studies at the UA, is among many contributing authors to the book, “Raza Studies: The Public Option for Educational Revolution.”

The novel is a passionate defense leveled to promote MAS programs after Arizona legislators passed legislation with the intent of banning MAS or similar curriculums in schools around the state.

The novel, published by the University of Arizona Press, was a mandate under the No Child Left Behind Act.

“It gave them another vision of what education could be and their own role within it,” Combs said.

Combs is one of many supporters of MAS programs, and said that the courses allowed students who were struggling in school to improve and learn material they could, ideally, relate to.

“It really motivated students to learn the content and dig deeper to explore topics that were relevant to their own lives,” Combs said.

Combs added that she has personal ties to the MAS programs, as her daughter was exposed to the program at Tucson High School and was positively affected.

Combs said she believed MAS did not violate HB 2281 because any student, no matter their ethnicity, could take the courses offered.

“There was never any evidence or desire for this program to promote ethnic solidarity,” she said. “When kids see themselves in the curriculum, they are much more motivated to do well. It provided another future for these kids.”

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Follow Katelyn Caldwell on Twitter.

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