I met with Sean Arce, director of Mexican-American/Raza studies for Tucson Unified School District. Despite the horrendous sound of a generator in the background of the patio where we talked, which spoiled audio quality and my attempt at a video interview, Arce was a great resource and gave me a ton of information to work with.
Arce points to quantitative and qualitative data as evidence for the success of the Mexican-American Raza studies program, which is implemented K-12 in the district. The data includes college matriculation rates, drop-out rates, and grades, all of which point to a national achievement gap for Mexican-American students. Mexican-American students are quickly becoming the majority in urban centers like L.A., New York and Houston, and Arce believes this demographics shift necessitates a cultural and social awareness that is largely overlooked. The result is that Mexican-American students are marginalized by educational institutions, said Arce. However, the La Raza program, somewhat modeled after the U of A’s own Latino Studies department, yields students that score more highly on AIMS, graduate in larger numbers, and are more enthused about their education.
In qualitative terms, Arce also talks about surveys and parent-teacher engagement. He says that Raza classes provide a safe space for Mexican-Americans to learn and to feel accepted, but emphasizes that the classes in no way promote any kind of racial superiority.