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What is ethnic studies?
Ethnic Studies is an elective A-G approved 10-credit course. This course includes a study of the histories, cultures, and communities of racial minorities in the United States. Ethnic studies is the interdisciplinary study of race, ethnicity, and Indigeneity, with an emphasis on the experiences of people of color in the United States. The course outlines the contributions made by people of color in government, politics, arts, medicine, economics, and other sectors. As an interdisciplinary course, it will use a comparative and historical perspective to examine the languages, family structures, spiritual traditions, economic and social issues, political aspirations, and values of diverse groups within the United States of America.

Why ethnic studies?
California is committed to providing excellent educational opportunities to all students. Research shows that a culturally meaningful and relevant curriculum can have a positive impact on all students. Students that become more engaged in school through courses like ethnic studies are more likely to stay engaged in school, feel a sense of belonging,  and feel more personally empowered. A number of California school districts have already adopted local ethnic studies programs, and some have implemented a local graduation requirement in ethnic studies. 

Why did California adopt an ethnic studies model curriculum?
In 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation requiring the State Board of Education to adopt a model curriculum for ethnic studies. The law said the state’s educational standards should be guided by core values of equity, inclusivity, and universally high expectations. It also cited research showing the importance of culturally relevant curriculum.The state board approved California’s ethnic studies model curriculum in March 2021. It 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,” according to the California Department of Education.

What is a model curriculum?
A model curriculum is a guidance document that provides support to teachers and administrators in developing courses and/or instructional content in a specific topic area. It is not a complete classroom curriculum or instructional materials; it is intended as a resource. A model curriculum is a  framework with a specific focus.  

Is ethnic studies required?
The state legislation has officially approved AB 101 with the Governor signing the new bill into law on October 12, 2021.  This makes ethnic studies a graduation requirement in California, where districts are now required to develop and offer an ethnic studies course by 2025-26 and include an ethnic studies course as a graduation requirement by 2029-30.

Opponents of ethnic studies sometimes cite “Critical Race Theory.” Is the ethnic studies model curriculum based on this theory?
Critical race theory is not synonymous with ethnic studies, and a discussion of critical race theory is not included in a district’s ethnic studies courses. Ethnic studies more broadly uses critical thinking to nurture an understanding of how different groups have struggled and worked together in the United States, exploring core concepts such as equality, justice, race, and ethnicity.

What should be the outcome of an ethnic studies course?
The goal of ethnic studies is for students to better appreciate the contributions of people of many different ethnicities to American democracy, to understand better the work and struggle of so many people to put the American principles of equality and freedom into practice, and to better engage in the civic enterprise of ending racism and forging a society true to America’s vision of “liberty and justice for all."

What is the graduation requirement for Ethnic Studies at MVLA?
Beginning with the Class of 2027, all students will take a year-long (two semesters) course in Ethnic Studies in Their 9th-grade year. 10th-grade year students can choose from a year-long course of World Studies, AP European History, AP Human Geography (LAHS), and AP World History (MVHS). All these courses meet the UC requirement for World Studies.11th-grade year students can choose from a year-long course of US History or AP US History.12th-grade year students can choose from Civics/Economics or AP Government/AP Macroeconomics(MV) or AP Microeconomics(LA).

MVLA Graduation Requirements starting 2027:
  • Social Studies: 40 C
    • Ethnic Studies: 10C
    • World Studies: 10 C
    • U.S. History: 10 C
    • Civics: 5 C
    • Economics: 5 C
  • English: 40 C
  • Mathematics: 20 C (Must include Algebra I +)
  • Science 20 C:  (1  year each from life & physical sciences)
  • World Language/VAPA/CTE: 20 C
  • Physical Education: 20 C
  • Health Education: 5 C
  • Electives: 55 C
TOTAL 220 credits 

What topics will be covered in Ethnic Studies?
Ethnic Studies will cover the following units:
  • What is Ethnic Studies?
  • Identity & Narratives 
  • Historical Origins of Systems of Power
  • Immigration & Migration
  • Education & Housing
  • Justice System
  • Social Movements 

Why do topics of identity, bias and social change come up in many parts of the curriculum?
Learning – and unlearning – does not happen with a single lesson or unit and pedagogically, we want students to engage with more complex topics as they mature. Students will encounter these concepts in a variety of classes. English 1 and 1 Honors, for instance, address concepts of identity that provide a helpful platform for the Ethnic Studies course. The foundational class provides common language and understanding that enrich the interdisciplinary courses that students will take after.

When did MVLA adopt an Ethnic Studies requirement?
In March of 2022, the MVLA Board approved support of a small-scale Ethnic Studies course implementation for the 2022-2023 school year. The course will then be brought back to the Board and the public in the Spring for 2023 for review and, per  AB 101, and then approved for full implementation starting in 2023-2024 school year. 

What type of communication have you done around the Ethnic Studies course?
We talked with multiple educational partners and held various presentations to share our progress in developing our Ethnic Studies Framework.

Is Ethnic Studies taught through a constructivist approach?
Ethnic Studies very much supports constructivism, which is a pedagogical approach to support learners to construct knowledge rather than just passively take in information. There may be different interpretations of what this looks like within the high school classroom. Constructivist classrooms focus on student questions and interests, they build on what students already know, they focus on interactive learning and are student-centered, teachers have a dialogue with students to help them construct their own knowledge, they root in negotiation, and students work primarily in groups. Our Ethnic Studies teachers incorporate a constructivist approach to their lesson planning and teaching.  

How is MVLA supporting Ethnic Studies teachers?
MVLA supports and appreciates our teaching staff who developed the Framework, are teaching the small-scale model classes, and who will be teaching the 9th grade sections next year and beyond.With this we also realize the largeness of this task and have provided the following support to our staff.
  • A release period for our Ethnic Studies curriculum lead, so support the extra work and communication she supports
  • Collaborative learning and work days: MVLA offered opportunities for the Ethnic Studies teachers to collaborate and learn from one another. This is  done through working during MVLA professional development allotted time, taking a release day to work together, paid time for working as a time off site, encouraging peer observations, and sharing resources for lesson plans and teaching strategies.
  • Professional Development: MVLA supports and funds our teachers to attend Ethnic Studies conferences and workshops.

How do I get access to the framework for Ethnic Studies course(s)?
You can access the Ethnic Studies Frameworkby clicking on here.  You can also access the LAHS Ethnic Studies course Information Sheet and the MVHS Ethnic Studies course Information Sheet.