By Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction, John Huppenthal
I stand by my decision to hold the Tucson Unified School District in violation of A.R.S. § 15-112.
My finding that TUSD was in violation was drawn after months of careful analysis of substantial information gathered by the state Department of Education’s investigation of TUSD’s Mexican American Studies department (MAS). It should be stressed that due to time and scope limitations of the external audit, it was a limited part of my comprehensive investigation of MAS.
Books, teaching guides, PowerPoint slides, handouts and other classroom and reading materials associated with MAS and its courses were reviewed and held up against the standard: Did the material’s content, in isolation or in aggregate, violate the law?
Books found in MAS classrooms and/or on coursework reading lists were examined. Excerpts from some of these materials on which my determination was based were made readily available in hard copy at the press conference and sent, in digital form, to members of the media.
Much to my frustration the external auditors did not thoroughly analyze the books gathered for evidence. Instead, the auditors chose primarily to focus on their limited classroom observations and on-site interviews as the basis for their overreaching conclusions. Inexplicably, the auditors did not review substantial physical evidence found in the classroom or on coursework syllabi and reading lists made available to them.
Not auditing a substantial portion of information gathered was problematic when trying to reach valid, reasonable, fact-based conclusions. Furthermore, two-thirds of the MAS classes were not even observed, the observations took place during a narrow time window and TUSD was told in advance which week the audit would take place. Most audited classes were observed only once.
TUSD failed to provide any student coursework from the MAS classrooms, 11 MAS teachers were told not to participate in the audit by their lawyers, and administrators from the MAS program refused to be interviewed.
The external audit failed to provide a comprehensive review. Most educational audits are intensive and can last for six months. The auditors only spent one week observing classrooms at TUSD.
Despite the limited usefulness of the external audit, its final report did highlight materials such as textbooks deemed to be questionable, partisan, inflammatory, and age-inappropriate. It also pointed out TUSD’s lack of a comprehensive, transparent and statutorily compliant curriculum development and oversight process in regards to MAS. This lack of oversight of the MAS program ultimately led to its violations of A.R.S. § 15-112.
In my role as state superintendent of public instruction, I have a legal responsibility to uphold the law, a professional imperative to make decisions based on a totality of evidence gathered and an educational obligation to ensure that every student has access to an excellent education.
I made the decision I felt was best for all students in the Tucson Unified School District. For their sake, it is now up to the TUSD governing board to ensure its MAS program comes into compliance.
John Huppenthal is Superintendent of Public Instruction. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
John Huppenthal Official Statement on TUSD MAS Program
Citations from TUSD’s Mexican American Studies Program materials and resources
Kathy Hrabluk Official Statement on TUSD MAS Program
SPI Official Statement of Finding
TUSD Finding Document
TUSD Investigation Citations
Video of State Superintendent Huppenthal’s recent appearance on KAET: