NYU Steinhardt News

EJ-ROC Presents Our Culture, Nuestras Escuelas: The Battle for Ethnic Studies in Tucson, AZ

In the late 1990s, the Tucson Unified School District created the nation’s most comprehensive Ethnic Studies program. The Tucson Mexican-American Studies Department offered 43 classes to students from K-12, including topics such as Mexican-American History, Latino Literature, Chicano Art and American History from Chicano Perspectives. Students in the program showed large improvements in graduation rates, test scores, engagement and self-concept.

In 2010 the Republican Arizona legislature killed the program, saying it promoted ethnic solidarity, racial resentment and the overthrow of the US government. Banned by the district, the Tucson model spread to other states, and students sued to overturn the law, winning in court in 2017. 

As NYC schools move forward on culturally responsive education, the Tucson experience illuminates what is possible. Join the NYU Metro Center on Saturday, October 5th from 6-8pm to learn from the leaders of the Tucson Mexican-American Studies Department and other Ethnic Studies experts about the transformative power of Ethnic Studies, the attacks these programs face, and the lessons for NYC and other districts looking to build models for excellent education. Featured speakers include Dr. Sean Arce, co-founder and former director of the Tucson Mexican American Studies Department; Dr. Curtis Acosta, founding teacher of the department, and Dr. Christina "V" Villarreal, Director of the Teacher Education Program at Harvard School of Education. Please RSVP here