By California State PTA Legislation Team with the Health and Community Concerns and Education Commissions
With the governor’s signing of Assembly Bill (AB) 101 Ethnic Studies (Medina), California is the first state in the country to require that every high school student take an ethnic studies course in order to graduate. This bill, which was supported by California State PTA, requires schools to offer ethnic studies beginning with the 2025-26 school year and makes the one-semester ethnic studies course a graduation requirement beginning with the 2029-30 school year.
Students must take a course that meets one of the following requirements:
- A course based on the model curriculum, which was approved by the State Board of Education (SBE) in March 2021.
- An existing ethnic studies course already offered at their high school.
- A course that has been approved as meeting the A-G requirements for the University of California and the California State University.
- A locally developed ethnic studies course approved by the school board or the governing body of the charter school.
The ethnic studies course requirement is important because it seeks to include voices that have not always been represented in instructional materials – voices of Blacks, Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans. Ethnic-studies advocates cite evidence that the inclusion of voices often omitted from traditional lessons and texts can lead to more student engagement and improved general academic performance.
School districts can use the model curriculum, adopted on March 18, 2021, by the California State Board of Education, as a guide to new instructional materials. AB 101 also enables school districts to create their own lesson plans. As a result, the content of ethnic studies courses may vary from district to district. Many school districts in California such as Los Angeles Unified and Fresno Unified already have ethnic studies courses.
The new high school graduation requirement follows last year’s Assembly Bill 1460 signed by Governor Newsom which requires California State University students to take an ethnic studies course in order to earn their university degree. An ethnic studies course as a graduation requirement has already been vetoed twice: once by Governor Jerry Brown in 2018, who stated in his veto message that he was concerned about overwhelmed students and again in 2020 by Governor Newsom who vetoed the measure since the model ethnic studies curriculum had not yet been adopted.
California State PTA supported this bill in order to provide the most comprehensive and diversified education possible for all children. Specifically, California State PTA supports curricula that develop an awareness and appreciation of cultural diversity designed to help students to develop personal worth and confidence in one’s own abilities.
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The basis for PTA’s support of AB 101 includes:
- Legislative Plank #1 – To provide the most comprehensive and diversified education possible for all children, youth, and adults: education that will achieve quality and excellence encourage maximum individual development and provide an equal educational opportunity for each student, with a particular focus on eliminating the achievement gap.
- Basic Education – Position Statement – http://toolkit.capta.org/advocacy/position-statements/basic-education/
- Education: a 21st Century Vision – http://downloads.capta.org/res/EducationA21stCenturyVision.pdf
Articles that provide more background and perspective:
- Ed100 blog – https://ed100.org/blog/ethnic-studies
- More on the State Board adoption: https://newsroom.ocde.us/5-questions-and-answers-about-ethnic-studies/
- Perspective from a national publication: https://www.educationnext.org/ethnic-studies-california-unsteady-jump-from-college-campuses-to-k-12-classrooms/