I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Rope that Lynches: More on the AZ Ethnic Studies ban.

This update on the fight in Tuscon's school district over the Ethnic Studies ban comes from the Democrats' Blog for Arizona. It serves as a reminder that the mainstream media doesn't always have their "facts" right.


More on the Star's up-is-down reporting on Ethnic Studies

by David Safier

I posted yesterday about a truly terrible, misleading article in the Star written by Alexis Huicochea about the achievement of students in the Mexican American Studies program. Read the first half, and you would think the MAS people are liars claiming their students achieve and graduate at a higher rates than other students. Read the second half -- the part few people get to -- and you'll find that the TUSD statistician and the Supe, John Pedicone, agree the program raises students achievement scores and graduation rates.

I'm going to go into a longer analysis after the jump, but I want to keep it short here. Here is a summary of the findings put together by the TUSD statistician David Scott.

In February, Scott analyzed the graduation rate of all Hispanic students in TUSD in the 2010 cohort and those in Mexican American Studies. The Mexican American Studies students graduated at an 11% higher rate: 89% compared to 78% for all Hispanics. The AIMS passing rate of Hispanics in Mexican American Studies was 3 to 5% higher than among Hispanics in general.

In March, Scott created a different comparison: every TUSD student who did not participate in Mexican American Studies (took no classes or less than one credit) compared to students who took one credit or more of Mexican American Studies. In 2010, Mexican American Studies students had a 93.6% graduation rate compared to an 82.7% rate for everyone else. Remember, the "everyone else" includes Hispanic and non-Hispanic students, including those at University High and other high performing schools.

Also in March, Scott looked at the percentage of students in and out of the Mexican American Studies program who did not pass AIMS their sophomore year, then passed it their junior year. The junior year passing rate for Mexican American Studies students tended to average more than 10% higher than those not in the program. To understand how significant this is, you have to realize that Mexican American Studies begins at the junior year, so more students passing as juniors can most likely be attributed to their participation in Mexican American Studies.

By any standard I can think of, those are incredibly impressive results.

Read more about the problems with Alexis Huicochea's article after the jump.

Here is the misleading opening paragraph of Alexis Huicochea's article:

TUSD officials have long claimed that Mexican American Studies students graduate at higher rates and achieve better AIMS scores than students not in the program. But an analysis by the district's statistician shows outcomes are roughly the same whether students enroll in those classes or not.

That's an incredibly deceptive opening. First, it contradicts the information I presented above. Second, any program for underperforming students would be delighted to say it has raised those students to the level of other students. If that's all the Mexican Studies program accomplished, it would be more successful that most programs nationwide. But according to the data, in terms of graduation, the program actually raises students higher than the TUSD average.

This is from the third paragraph:

The district's graduation rate of nearly 83 percent holds true for students who took a Mexican American Studies course and for those who did not, Scott found.

Scott's data from February has the Mexican American Studies students graduating at an 89% level, contradicting Huicochea's statement. But once again, even if the Mexican American Studies students simply matched the general graduation rates, that would be a cause for celebration, since it is substantially higher than the rates for the rest of the Hispanic population at TUSD.

Here is a statement so ridiculous on its face, it's hard to believe it made it through the article's first rewrite:

[Scott] also analyzed the program's impact on the AIMS passing rate and found that students who take Mexican American Studies classes are unlikely to pass the high-stakes class the first time.

That sounds like the program is a failure at getting its students to pass the test the first time they take it, doesn't it? The problem is, students originally take the AIMS test their sophomore year, and Mexican American Studies begins their junior year. Short of time travel, there is no way a program can affect the achievement of students a year earlier.

I'm adding the sentence following the one above for the sake of completeness, so it doesn't look like I'm cherry-picking, but for the life of me, I have no idea what it means.

They are likely to pass it after taking it five times, about the same rate as students who didn't take those courses.

The Star has a terrible track record when it comes to reporting on TUSD and the City Council. When it can slant the data to make either look bad . . . well, I guess that sells newspapers. Huicochea's article sounds like she was coached by Rob O'Dell, the king of the slanted City Council article.

It's important to get this stuff right. If Mexican American Studies is successful academically -- and now it looks like there is hard data saying it is successful -- that should override any frivolous, borderline-racist assertions by conservatives about how horribly un-American it is. When the Star clearly distorts the record, that is bad reporting which can have real world consequences.

Sometimes a Star editorial will gently take a "news" article to task for its assertions. I think this is an instance when that would be called for. Get the data, talk to the statistician and the Supe and write a more accurate representation of the study.

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