After eight hours of testimony and discussion in March, the State Board of Education (SBE) approved the first Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) in the nation despite concerns of educators that left CTA unable to support the curriculum’s approval.
The approval caps a four-year process that saw multiple drafts and revisions of the curriculum, resulting in guidance that practitioners say is insufficient for educators to develop an ethnic studies curriculum, especially if they have never taught an ethnic studies course.
“The ESMC needs to be one that teachers can use meaningfully, intentionally and effectively,” CTA’s SBE liaison Angela Der Ramos
said at the meeting. “There are still many gaps in the document including dilution of content, limited portrayal of events in history, inequitable representation of the four ethnic groups, and lack of coherence for a TK-12 curriculum.”
According to the California Department of Education, the ESMC is aimed at empowering students by illuminating the often-untold struggles and contributions of Native Americans, African Americans, Latino/a/x Americans and Asian Americans in California. The document includes University of California and California State University-approved ethnic studies course outlines and lessons to help school districts build courses to meet local student needs. The adopted ESMC is a sample curriculum and does not change curriculum currently being taught.
“We have a duty to teach our students about their ancestral legacies and to celebrate them every day.”
—CTA President E. Toby Boyd
Although unable to endorse the ESMC, CTA strongly supports ethnic studies and is co-sponsoring a current bill, AB 101, authored by Assembly Member Jose Medina (D-Riverside), that would make completion of an ethnic studies course mandatory for high school graduation (see box).
Medina, a former Chicano studies teacher, says it has been more than 50 years since ethnic studies was established as an academic discipline, and that despite decades of scholarship and activism, ethnic studies has not been integrated into K-12 classrooms. As a result, many students graduate high school without exposure to a culturally comprehensive education and lack understanding of our country’s diverse and complex history. CTA believes participation in ethnic studies has positive effects for all students. Providing these learning opportunities and engagement with the study of race and equity benefits achievement in other academic areas and promotes a positive identity.
“We have a duty to teach our students about their ancestral legacies and to celebrate them every day,” says CTA President E. Toby Boyd. “Culture is essential in the fight for racial justice and equity, and it is the right of our students to have access to a quality ethnic studies curriculum.”
Ethnic studies supporters are hoping this is finally the year the high school requirement becomes a reality after numerous disappointments, including Medina’s AB 331, which passed the Legislature last year but was vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Assembly Bill 101
CTA-co-sponsored AB 101 would go into effect for students graduating in the 2029-30 school year and require each high school to offer an ethnic studies course beginning in 2025‑26. As of press time, the bill was awaiting a hearing by the Assembly Education Committee.