Study: Now-banned Mexican-American courses improved student performance
Arizona students who took Mexican-American courses were more likely than others to graduate from high school and pass standardized tests, according to an updated University of Arizona study of the Tucson Unified School District published in the December issue of the American Educational Research Journal.
The study had to analyze student achievement before Arizona’s 2010 law banned Mexican-American studies (MAS) in school curricula. A previous study of the district did not look at student profiles before MAS courses. With 26,000 students across three graduating classes from 2008 to 2010, researchers found that the students who eventually enrolled in MAS were more disadvantaged and performed at a lower rate than students who did not elect into MAS courses. The students who elected MAS were more likely to qualify for reduced-price lunch, more likely to be an English-language learner and had a lower grade point average. After the course(s), MAS students earned higher grades on tests than their counterparts. The more classes they took, the greater their performance rose. MAS students graduated at a higher rate than non-MAS students.
"The estimated relationship between MAS participation and student educational attainment was surprisingly strong," the study’s authors wrote. "Taking MAS classes is consistently, significantly, and positively related to increased student academic achievement, and this relationship grows stronger the more classes students take."
The ban on MAS courses, H.B. 2281, is still being challenged in the courts after a federal judge upheld the law in 2013. The case is set to appear before a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals early next year. The study is part of a larger movement in education to teach more culturally relevant curriculum to students.