Oct 9, 2021 - Politics & Policy

California students required to take ethnic studies course to graduate

Gov. Newsom in a classroom with students.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Friday to require all students to complete an ethnic studies course in order to graduate from high school.

Why it matters: Ethnic studies programs encourage a more expansive recounting of history to include Native Americans, Latino and Black experiences. The legislation comes as more states are starting to offer such courses.

  • Schools that offer such programs have seen a decline in dropout rates, a study suggests, as well as a rise in college acceptances.

The big picture: The requirement won't take effect until 2029, but schools are required to offer ethnic studies courses starting in 2025 in order to give schools time to develop curriculum.

  • In March, the California State Board of Education unanimously approved a model ethnic studies curriculum for its K-12 students, which focuses on "illuminating the often-untold struggles and contributions of Native Americans, African Americans, Latino/a/x Americans, and Asian Americans in California."

What they're saying: Newsom said that the legislation will help "expand educational opportunities in schools, teach students about the diverse communities that comprise California and boost academic engagement and attainment."

  • "The bill also provides a number of safeguards to ensure that courses will be free from bias or bigotry and appropriate for all students," Newsom said in a statement.
  • "The signing of AB 101 today is one step in the long struggle for equal education for all students," said Assemblymember Jose Medina.
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