San Francisco ethnic research programs produced main instructional advantages, researchers discover as nation debates anti-racist instructing in colleges

We made it! Grateful to the #CASenat for voting on # AB101 this morning and for the numerous coalitions and factions that have come together to make this bill what it is. #CAleg #ethnicstudies #diversifyournarrative @GENupUS

– Jose Medina (@AsmJoseMedina) September 8, 2021

To arrive at their conclusions in San Francisco, the researchers examined the high school transcripts and college enrollment records of more than 1,400 high school freshmen between 2011 and 2014, including teenagers who were ethnicized because they were in eighth grade struggled academically. The researchers found that students enrolled in the ethnic studies class were 16 to 19 percentage points more likely to graduate from high school than their peers and 10 to 16 percentage points more likely to attend college.

The Anthropology course deals with issues of social justice, stereotypes and social movements in the USA between the 18th century and the 1970s. Many of the lessons are traditionally not covered in typical social science courses, such as the Native American Genocide in California.

While the report has been in the works for years, it doesn’t shrink from the reality that anti-racist doctrines got caught up in the national culture wars this year. It acknowledges that some ethnic studies programs have accused ethnic studies of offering nothing more than “politically charged indoctrination” promoting some form of “reverse racism” against white students.

But the debate over such teaching, loosely characterized under the umbrella of critical racial theory, is “quite dishonest” and politically motivated, Bonilla said. “The agenda that drives them forward” in ethnic college classes, she said, is a real conversation about the historical realities of racism in the United States.

Ethnic studies have been a sensitive issue in California for several years. In March, state education leaders approved a model ethnic study curriculum that had been in development for years and was accused of anti-Semitism, which encouraged the “awakened” left wing propaganda and sewed further racial segregation by teaching white children to feel guilty about past injustices . The curriculum controversy continues unabated. Earlier last month, three San Diego parents sued the state education department, accusing officials of violating the California constitution’s facility clause, which mandates separation of church and state, by including an Aztec prayer in the model curriculum. The model curriculum is not a mandate and only encourages the California counties to offer ethnic studies, but the new legislation may change that.

The latest research is a follow-up to a 2017 report that found positive short-term benefits for freshmen at high schools who enrolled in the city’s ethnic degree program. This report found that 9th grade students had better school attendance, better grades, and more classes than those who hadn’t enrolled on the course. To measure the long-term impact of the course, the latest study examines the educational outcomes of the same group of students during high school and college.

Thomas Dee, professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education and co-author of the study, praised the results of the previous study and said he was “never so surprised by a result” in his career. He quipped that “innovative curricula,” including the San Francisco ethnic studies program, were the “low-hanging fruit of educational reform.” The latest study, he said, further supports that assessment.

“I am still amazed and fascinated that we see the educational power of this type of culturally relevant education,” said Dee. While many historically underserved students “perceive their classrooms as hostile and threatening environments,” a course that enables them to see the world the way they do can change those perceptions with ongoing educational benefits, he said. Emily Penner, Assistant Professor of Education at the University of California, Irvine, also contributed to the report.

“Pedagogy that engages students who can nurture affiliation with school institutions has the ability to unleash their motivation,” said Dee. “And I think the fact that we’re seeing these sustained gains in particular is evidence of that.”

However, the researchers quickly highlighted the limits of their research and discouraged people from falling victim to the “general trope of the wonder weapon”. For one thing, it remains unclear how ethnic courses affect the educational outcomes of high-performing students. In addition, Dee said the ethnic studies teachers in San Francisco are highly qualified and motivated to teach the class.

“I sometimes worry that some kind of useless, inferior introduction to this curriculum isn’t going to produce similar results,” he added.

If California Governor Gavin Newsom, whose education policy is expected to play a key role in a September 14 recall vote, signs law requiring nationwide ethnic studies, it will be important that districts be given adequate time to develop robust programs and ensure that educators are properly trained.

“Teaching ethnic studies requires a particularly high level of professionalism on the part of teachers,” said Dee. “We ask teachers to go into the classroom and have potentially difficult, critical discussions with their students, and I think it takes really careful crafting to do this well.”

This article was written in collaboration with. released The 74. Sign up for The 74 newsletter here.

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