• by Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed. • IDRA Newsletter • September 2019 •
The effort in Texas to establish the new Mexican American Studies (MAS) course generated a flurry of activity that goes beyond a single school course offering. Innovative educators are looking for ways to infuse MAS into all content areas and in multiple grade levels – both a challenge and an opportunity for school administrators.
MAS is a multidisciplinary academic field of study that examines many facets of the Mexican American/Chicanx people, including their contributions to history, language, literature, sociology, math, science and fine arts.
Since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, MAS Chicanx programs were offered primarily at colleges and universities across the nation. Within the last five years, there has been a more intensive effort to implement MAS courses and lessons from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
IDRA assists by providing policy advocacy, planning, training, technical assistance and networking for MAS implementation. In our work with states and school districts to carefully analyze their curricula and programs to eliminate bias, we emphasize culturally-sustaining instruction that can act as a gateway to a more inclusive, challenging educational experience for students of all backgrounds.
Why MAS for K-12 Schools?
Research shows that MAS courses lead to improved standardized test scores, graduation rates, college attendance rates and academic mindsets (Maxwell, 2014). MAS courses help students succeed in school (Cabrera, et al., 2014). Students who took MAS courses, regardless of their ethnicity, scored higher on standardized tests, graduated at higher rates, increased their attendance, and were more academically engaged and did better in their other courses as well.
“Administrators who implement Mexican American Studies and culturally-sustaining pedagogy show the community, through concrete action, that they believe all students are valuable,” said Celina Moreno, J.D., IDRA President & CEO, at a recent MAS Summit at the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley. “That is critical, especially in a time of unprecedented attacks on the Mexican American, immigrant and other underrepresented communities.”
MAS brings ideas to education that provide students rich and layered opportunities to learn and give new motivation because these opportunities connect to their culture. MAS encourages students who are not Mexican American to acknowledge the dignity, richness and value of this identifiable group with much to offer and provides a more complete perspective of the relevant content area.
IDRA Resources for Educators and Community Advocates
MAS Course Locator Map – Visit the IDRA MAS Map to search MAS courses by teacher, topic, district or city.
Online Community of Practice – IDRA’s Community of Practice is a place where members can share lesson plans, resources, events, and ideas. To request access, visit:
Professional Development – IDRA provides training and customized technical assistance that supports educators in offering Mexican American Studies coursework.
Community of Teachers
The approved State Board of Education course in Texas is a high school elective, but the MAS community works to expand and extend learning of Mexican American contributions and culture in other classrooms as well. It is already happening among a growing community of teachers, from kindergarten through 12th grade, who implement some form of MAS in their teaching. MAS teachers and professors in Texas have participated in convenings held by the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) and professional development sessions hosted by Somos MAS SATX, IDRA and the University of Texas at San Antonio. Educators created curriculum and pedagogy that inform, inspire and fill a long-felt void in education.
IDRA also facilitates a MAS online Community of Practice; leads professional development events for educators, students and the community; and maintains a website with a Texas crowd-map that pinpoints where MAS is being taught in Texas schools (see box at right).
A critical element for MAS success is administrator participation, modeling and support. For example, principals can lead critical dialogue with teachers on the content and process of instruction. And they can bring MAS experts and content to the school. Principal support includes facilitating communication and sharing among teachers to create a schoolwide MAS community of practice where they share their knowledge about a set of goals and strategies and help each other to solve problems.
Even though the field has had decades of development in colleges through Chicano studies programs, there is a dearth of material available in lesson-plan form for elementary and secondary teachers. IDRA connects teachers and administrators to the broader MAS-focused community of practice to help teachers attempting to teach MAS with minimal curricular resources.
Importantly, administrators can create an atmosphere of collegiality and peer-support by connecting teachers with MAS resources and strengthening the mutual bonds of their teachers in this new content. IDRA helps administrators connect to available MAS resources. IDRA’s MAS locator dashboard, for example, is searchable by grade level, city, district and subject to help other MAS educators and community advocates (see https://idra.news/MASmap). We also offer training and technical assistance in lesson planning, best practices, coaching and mentoring, and family engagement (see https://idra.news/MASservices).
MAS integration is a great way for educators to instill culturally-sustaining pedagogy across content areas and grades. We support school principals to reduce MAS teacher isolation and foster peer connections.
Cabrera, N.L., Milem, J.F., Jaquette, O., & Marx, R.W. (2014). Missing the (Student Achievement) Forest for All the (Political) Trees: Empiricism and the Mexican American Studies Controversy in Tucson. American Educational Research Journal.
Maxwell, L.A. (November 14, 2014). Academic Benefits of Mexican-American Studies Reaffirmed in New Analysis, Education Week Learning the Language Blog.
[©2019, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the September 2019 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]