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Policy Report Demography & Population Studies

Ethnic Studies in California’s High Schools

This policy brief describes the role of Ethnic Studies curriculum in high school settings, in light of legislative efforts through AB-331 to require Ethnic Studies as a statewide high school graduation requirement.

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Ethnic Studies Brief

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Overview:

This policy brief describes the role of Ethnic Studies curriculum in high school settings, in light of legislative efforts through AB-331 to require Ethnic Studies as a statewide high school graduation requirement. First, it provides a brief history of Ethnic Studies and its development since its birth in California during the 1960’s civil rights movement. Second, it shows the need for Ethnic Studies as California’s increasingly diverse student body – with almost 80 percent of students of color – does not see itself reflected in the current predominantly Eurocentric curriculum. Last, it provides a summary of an extensive body of academic research that shows the benefits of Ethnic Studies courses on student academic achievement, multicultural awareness, and inter-racial relations.

Key Findings:

  • Despite non-white students of color making up almost 80% of California ninth-graders in the 2019-2020 school year, 79% of individuals named in California social science textbooks are white.
  • Since the 2009-2010 academic school year, the share of Latino students among California’s ninth-graders has increased from 50.3% to almost 56% in the 2019-2020 school year and the share of Asian students increased from 10.7% to 11.6% in the same 10-year period.
  • Previous academic studies indicate that the Ethnic Studies curriculum at the high school level has proven to raise GPAs, boost attendance, and increase students’ likelihood of graduating.

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