Huppenthal: Determination that MAS violates law rests on far more than audit

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

Supporting Documentation:

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:

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  1. wanumba says:

    This is an interesting tactic, or a gross laziness: don’t do the job they were tasked to do. Huppenthal is right to not accept sub-standard evaluation.

    It has been our dismal experience with American schools that teachers will present a perfectly suitable textbook that the parents peruse and determine is a very good resource, only to discover the students never use it – reading photocopied handouts instead, which the parents are not aware of.and which are loaded with all sorts of questionable assertations. One AP American History class had to read Howard Zinn’s noxious anti-American screed, even though it was not on the syllabus or the Advanced Placement Exam. It was forced on them by the teacher who then also hid the school’s mediocre track record on the AP US History exam results. The school did nothing to enable parents, rather it covered for the teacher. It’s peculiar and mysterious that the teachers order big, heavy, expensive books that the schools purchase which apparently the teachers have no intention of using in favor of photocopied material from some other source.

    Thus, BOTH classroom observations AND ALL material used MUST be reviewed, PLUS interviews with the students and inspections of their work and notes and papers to confirm what is emphasized. The teachers will say one thing, show all sorts of whatever, but the students will produce what they actually had to do for their grades. Not ONE claim should be taken at face value. ALL must be cross-verified.

    Now this duplicitous pattern was discovered repeated through numerous unrelated schools over numerous states for ostensibly non-controversial subjects, so how much more diligent does one have to be to verify the TRUTH in hotly political subjects and special interests agendas such as MAS?

    It has also been our experience that teachers who have had a habit of running a con on parents will get physically hostile the second they discover the observer is on to them, so physical intimidation is a reality in such an environment. Being naive about the goodness of human nature is NOT advisable.

    If a contractor fails to do the contracted job, they don’t get paid. It’s not even clear at this point whether those tasked with the evaluations can be trusted to do the job or provide trustworthy results even with a second chance.

  2. I think people are a little miffed because he appears to have ignored an audit that didnt tell him what he wanted to hear.

    As for his reasoning that he based this decision on a lot more than the audit and that the audit was only a small part of his review, I would say that $170,000 is a lot of money to pay for something that only plays a small roll and is discounted entirely in the end.

    Regardless of how you feel about MAS, shouldn’t the fiscally responsible Republican party be a little peeved that Hupp hand picked an allegedly sub-standard company to create an allegedly incomplete report for which he chose to pay one hundred and seventy thousand dollars? Would this not count as frivolous waste of taxpayer dollars, not to mention a pretty spectacular example of incompetence attributable only to the Hupp?

    Just for fun, I shall provide the link for a video in which the Huppster gets schooled by a minor in a high school interview. I have trouble believing that the guy in this video, who knew less about his own voting history than a child, even read the entire report before issuing his decision. Please enjoy.

  3. ……………………………..
    Regardless of how you feel about MAS,…

    Well that’s the problem isn’t it? It’s not “feel” is it’s what’s the reality. And the reality of school today is they do not cooperate with outside inspections, lying and cover-up are extensive practices – a soberiing thought that our society has thoughtlessly left kids in the clutches of liars and cheats for the good part of the week, and then can’t understand why same youth can’t find Egypt on a map and have honesty and work ethics issues with our youth. Who taught ‘em that?
    Who coaches kids with talking points and chains to disrupt public meetings – the adults hiding behind chidlren so the adults won’t get arrested, but don’t care if the kids get blots on their juvenile records?

    After a year of MAS, these students would still be hard-pressed to find Mexico City on the map, either and if they ever managed to land an exchange student semester in Mexico City, they’d be the laughing stock of their Mexican WELL-EDUCATED peers once they open their mouths and start pontificating on ATZLAN, and that’s before they opened their textbooks they can’t read and sit there helpless and stunned in math class as Mexican classmates turn on them and say, “What do you mean, you can’t do this?”
    Pathetic. And to watch people defend this atrocity is even more pathetic.


  4. Tucson vice says:

    Hmm. Well, aside from the baseless speculation which seems to form most of your argument, I would say that the hand picked, republcan commisioned audit completelty disagrees with you.

    Anywho, any thoughts about the waste of $170,000 of taxpayer money by a Ree-pub? Any admonishment at all for your man, El Huppo?

  5. wanumba says:

    I do not care if they were all Republicans or Democarts or Martians. If they did not do the necessary research that I have detailed is required due to the atrocious duplicity of the schools, then officials are hampered in their ability to make informed decisions.

    Why are you talking like a 13 year old in this discussion, with childish retorts like “your man El Huppo?”

    My “man” goes beyond just one man. It’s an agenda of an actual education for students, an internationally competitive one that will get ALL students a real shot at high-skilled, well-paid work.

    Coaching kids in chaos tactics and disobedience instead of math, science and rhetoric skills is destroying their advancement, schooling and jobs chances by telling them to do things that will land them in juvi with BLOTS on their records and is DESPICABLE.

    The MAS agitators are doing that – and proving they are willing to take innocent kids away from their useful studies that will get them college and jobs and USE them like slaves. Those kids were NOT PAID, to throw a fit at the meeting, were they? Were their parents afraid to tell the big MAS bullies they didn’t want their kids USED like that? Afraid of retribution if they didn’t go along? THe MAS adult agitators do not want to be seen or arrested, they hang back and order kids around, their human shields.

    Huppenthal is actually trying to address this abuse, but you are defending child abuse and trying to make his job harder.

  6. Etravis says:

    Those who continue going after Huppenthal are, in fact, supporting child abuse – not an education!

    The TUSD governing board looked the other way and did not provide the oversight REQUIRED of the curriculum and materials. Some on the board even encouraged faculty and district personnel not to cooperate with the investigation – yet, it is Huppenthal’s findings being criticized as a result of the TUSD obstructionists’ actions.

    Huppenthal did something far too many have not had the courage to do: he held TUSD accountable. It’s about time someone did! He has my full support.

  7. Perhaps some of us should volunteer to sit in on the classes (unannounced) and interview some students chosen at random. Folks in Tucson could volunteer in the classes on a regular basis. It would be a lot harder to pull the wool over their eyes than the eyes of those carrying out a quickly done audit.

    For the MAS folks, I have some questions — are they willing to support the right of any Central American with a drop of indigenous blood to live and work legally anywhere in Mexico they like and to engage in political activity there as well? Are they equally incensed at the discrimination that white Mexicans and light-skinned Mexican mestizos show against native-American Mexicans and darker mestizos? Have they asked the Native Americans in Arizona whether they think that Mexican mestizos have an ancestral right to live here? Discrimination against Mexicans and Mexican-Americans has been and is a blot on our state’s history and present. Building bridges (and encouraging — oh, the horror! — assimilation) is going to be far more effective than throwing metaphorical firebombs.

  8. wanumba says:

    There is one approach. The “educators” claim MAS, but one good comprehensive exam covering actual geographical and historical facts administered by a truly outside team, supervised and collected immediately and removed off-site and graded would show very quickly if students could 1) read the test 2) answer questions in a sentence format – NO multiple choice or true false.

    Don’t even have to re-invent the wheel – just mosey on south and get the exams Mexico uses.

    If they can’t answer questions that the typical Mexican kid is expected to know about history and geography in long preparation for eventual university entry, then what’s going on?

  9. I feel that Mr. Huppenthal has not did his job. Here it is the end of June where he could have started the monetary process with the TUSD back in Feb. 2011. By what I have seen, the previous Super. of Public Inst. has issued his finding and gave the TUSD 60 days from that date (12-30-2010) to comply which they did not do. What do we have to do, re-invent the wheel each time we elect someone else into the out going persons elected office – Hog Wash! Know that Huppenthal has given TUSD another 60 days, that means TUSD will have already started into another school year teaching children hate and discort.
    Well, we Tea Party people are going to hold Mr. Huppenthal to his campaign promise where he had said that “being your Superintendent of Public Instructions he would get these studies eliminated”. This is America, not Mexico and this hate and discort must stop.

  10. A valid audit, worthy of the money spent on it, is not made on 1/3 the info and refusal of participation.

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