The Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) was charged with developing an Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum that shall be a guide to allow school districts to adapt their courses to better reflect the pupil demographics in their communities. Last week at the IQC meeting, California Department of Education (CDE) staff presented a brief update on the status of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum. CDE recommended that revisions to the draft follow the State Board of Education guidelines and follow Assembly Bill 2016, the legislation that directed the state to create a model curriculum. This will ensure that the curriculum is written to encourage cultural understanding of how different groups have struggled and worked together, as well as highlight core ethnic studies concepts such as equality, justice, race, ethnicity, and indigeneity. CDE also recommended that it be written in language that is inclusive and supportive of multiple users.
Since the last IQC meeting in November, much work and outreach has been done by CDE after receiving thousands of public comments about the draft released in summer 2019. In October, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond hosted a panel discussion that included subject matter experts as well as legislators. The panel provided different perspectives on ethnic studies implementation at the K–12 level. CDE staff have also used this time to review, analyze, and synthesize the more than 20,000 public comments to make recommendations to the IQC in spring 2020. WestEd is currently conducting focus groups for CDE that are comprised of teachers with ethnic studies experience as well as teachers who have not taught ethnic studies but may in the future. CDE is also working with districts that have implemented ethnic studies to utilize their learnings in our recommendations.
Keeping in mind that ethnic studies has traditionally been a higher education course, the model curriculum that the IQC is charged with developing will serve as a guidance document to schools that choose to implement ethnic studies in the K–12 system. Over the course of history, both in our state and nationally, specific ethnic groups have had unjust treatment even from respected institutions of authority. The curriculum taught in our schools has not done enough to highlight and preserve the contributions of people of color and has actually minimized the importance of their role. A movement to create a better model of inclusion to be taught in our K–12 system was established in the hopes of teaching a history that is more representative of what actually occurred. Ethnic studies as a whole should represent a broad range of topics, but it must devote a special emphasis to people of color, including their experiences and their important role in our state and national history.
Therefore, our recommendations will acknowledge and honor the four foundational groups: African American, Asian American, Chicana/o/x and Latina/o/x, and Native American. By providing guidance to teachers on how to make connections to student population demographics utilizing various resources, including the History and Social Science Framework, we must also honor the human experience and the intersectionality of all students that we serve.
We are proud of the efforts that have been made since our last update, and we look forward to providing our recommended revisions to the IQC in spring/summer 2020. As of now, the legislation allows that a final draft will go to the State Board of Education for adoption in March 2021.