Friday, March 30, 2012

TUSD Announces New English/Language Arts Curriculum

 [Editor's Note: Are you looking for information about the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies classes at Tucson Unified School District? A chronological list of links to AICL's coverage of the shut-down is here.]

On its homepage, Tucson Unified School District posts 'Announcements' on the lower right side of the page. Yesterday, I saw "TUSD Adopts New Curriculum" and clicked on the link. I wonder if TUSD admin realizes that the new curriculum includes "I Am Offering this Poem to You" by Jimmy Santiago Baca? The poem is in his Immigrants in Our Own Land & Selected Early Poems.

The announcement itself doesn't have a date. The only date for the page is a "last updated" notice at the bottom indicating the page was last updated on March 28th, 2012 at 11:53 AM. Here's the introductory paragraph:
The TUSD Governing Board has adopted new mathematics and English language arts curriculum for the district. The new curriculum is based on the Arizona Common Core State Standards and is designed to assist teachers in teaching those standards. The curriculum is in a rollout phase and will be fully implemented in the 2013-2014 school year. 
Beneath it are links to the curriculum at each grade level.  I downloaded "Grade 11-12 English Language Arts Curriculum" and started reading. On page five:
Competent readers recognize that:
  • Effective authors make specific language choices (emotive, evocative, formal, impersonal) and use specific organizational strategies to position readers to accept representations of people, events, ideas and information in particular ways.
  • An author's perspective and global cultural experiences impact choices made about the text, such as what to include or not include as well as considering the point of view from which the narrative is told.
  • Reflection on the nuanced meanings of words and phrases in texts is a tool by which readers discover the meaning, tone and theme of a text.
That is precisely what the Mexican American Studies program was doing! The MAS teachers designed a curriculum that taught readers to recognize that an author's perspective impacts choices made. And, they taught students to recognize point of view!

According to Horne (he wrote the bill to ban ethnic studies) and Huppenthal (he enforced the bill) and Stegeman (he is the president of the governing board and voted to shut down the classes), however, there are limits on point of view. To them, thinking critically about the Founding Fathers is not ok.

On the first page of the document, there are pdfs teachers can go to for further information. Among them is "Appendix B: Text Exemplars and Sample Performance Tasks."  Exemplary texts. Ok... what constitutes exemplary? I clicked on the link and started reading Appendix B. I learned that the list of items (books, essays, speeches) are guideposts and "expressly do not represent a partial or complete reading list" (p. 2).

There's a lot to say about the Common Core Standards and the idea of a "Common Core" list of books, but for now, I wonder if TUSD administrators are aware that Appendix B has books on it by Latino/a authors? Several of them wrote books or stories that are on the list of over 50 books that can no longer be taught by teachers who taught courses in the Mexican American Studies department, and some of them were purchased by the MAS department and are in resource rooms in TUSD.

Here's books from Appendix B:

Family Pictures by Carmen Lomas Garza
Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora

Grades 2-3
Eating While Reading by Gary Soto

Grades 4-5
Words Free as Confetti by Pat Mora

Grades 6-8
"Eleven" by Sandra Cisneros

Grades 9-10
"I am Offering this Poem to You" by Jimmy Santiago Baca

Grade 11
"The Latin Dell: An Ars Poetica" by Judith Ortiz Cofer
"Take the Tortillas Out of Your Poetry" by Rudolfo Anaya

Curtis Acosta taught "Eleven" in his Social Justice/Latino Literature course. But, because he was a Mexican American Studies teacher, that course doesn't exist anymore, and he's not supposed to teach the way he used to. What will he do? What can he do?

Note: I don't think this "new curriculum" is related to the district's claims that they're going to rewrite their core curriculum so that it is more inclusive. According to Stegeman, that work won't begin until summer 2012.