- California is the first state to require a semester-long ethnic studies class for high school graduation, EdSource reports. The requirement takes effect with the class of 2030, but courses must be offered starting in the 2025-26 school year.
- The Los Angeles and Fresno school districts already require these courses to graduate. The classes will focus on the history of Black Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans, in addition to featuring lesson plans on Sikh, Jewish, Arab and Armenian Americans, who were included after voicing objections over being left out.
- Advocates have pushed for the requirement for about a decade. Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed similar legislation, calling that proposal “insufficiently balanced and inconclusive.” Signing this bill, he pointed out that there were safeguards in place to prevent bias and bigotry.
Though California is the first state to mandate ethnic studies for graduation, a number of other states have made progress on related curricula in recent years.
In Indiana, educator Joe Gamble created his own ethnic studies course using a historical approach after seeing a need for these lessons. Since he began teaching the topic, he has been surprised by how little students know about the subject. His goal is to give learners a new perspective and appreciation of the issue. Gamble teaches in a school where the student population is 13% Black, 26% Hispanic and 54% White.
In 2017, Indiana passed a law requiring all high schools to offer a racial and ethnic studies course at least once a year. Advocates for the law cite studies that find improved academic performance by students of color when ethnic studies are offered.
The Texas State Board of Education approved the creation of an African American studies course in April 2020. The curriculum, which is recommended for students in grades 10 to 12, must be approved by school districts. It was the third state to add a statewide course.
It's not the first time the state implemented an ethnic studies course, however. In 2018, the board approved a Mexican American studies class, and there is now discussion of adding Native American studies, as well.
Although supporters of the optional ethnic studies courses in Texas say the approvals are a step in the right direction, there is now concern that debate and controversy over critical race theory could undo the progress. Backlash over perceptions of the topic in states such as Texas and Tennessee has led to concern among teachers that what they are teaching may be incorrect or even against laws restricting what can be taught about race and racial issues.