What if your history class was all about you? - Albuquerque Journal

What if your history class was all about you?

New Mexico was rated 50th last year in education, and the graduation rate for the state was 12% lower than the national graduation rate (New Mexico Ranks and Facts). What can be done to help improve the educational experience for young New Mexicans in Albuquerque?

It is understood that one teacher can make or break a student’s experience in their education, but one class could do the same for Albuquerque Public School students. This culturally relevant history class is included in the APS curriculum.

Culturally relevant classes meet student needs by directly relating to the culture and history minority students experience and by creating a personal investment in the material being taught. It motivates students to learn and participate because of these factors and fosters a positive relationship with the learning environment and teachers because their culture is represented (Understood, 7).

When looking at the population, Albuquerque Public Schools severs 80% of the population is a minority, with 60% of that group being of Hispanic descent (Albuquerque Public Schools, 12).

Classes such as Chicano studies or other Hispanic-based history classes can be implemented in high school. The best part of implementing these classes is that it’s already been proven in Albuquerque’s Highland high school as effective in improving graduation rates.

Robert Frausto is the Chicano Studies teacher at Highland (as well as a teaching assistant at UNM for the Chicano/ Studies department). His goal is to target at-risk students that were in jeopardy of being unable to graduate.

Frausto built a class designed to reach these students through their shared culture and offer them a space in their education where they were truly represented, and their own and their ancestor’s experience was the topic of the class.

Highland High schools’ total graduation rate, combined with the students who still attended school the first year this class was implemented, was 63% within the population that took this class. The following year it rose to 75%; two years later, it rose again to 90%.

This class positively affects the high school, creating meaningful change by making school more relatable and accessible and inspiring young adults to continue their education journey. One class student wrote in his end-of-year summary, “At the beginning of the school year, I was on the edge of failing… this elective helped me out in my GPA, and (I) had fun in school.” The same student also wrote, “The material we covered helped me realize…we need to start stepping out of the shadows and have a chance in life.”

The student also referred to this history he learned as “ours,” which further shows the connection these students have to the material they are learning. Currently, the course is offered as an elective at the high school. With the change it is creating in graduation statistics and individual lives, implementing culturally relevant courses is necessary for improving experiences in education in New Mexico.

This success can be replicated and improved upon district-wide and help ameliorate the state’s education rating. When students have the opportunity to learn about themselves through their education and can relate to the material being taught in class, it inspires excitement and willingness to learn.

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