When Public Schools Require Ethnic Studies

While CRT debates continue to rage, some school systems are quietly – and by many measures successfully – teaching students about race and racism.
(EWA Radio Episode 289)

Photo courtesy of the author

In a handful of states, students are learning about race and racism, and how it impacts their lives, their learning, and their future opportunities through ethnic studies courses. The class, most often found in high schools, is now required for every public school student in California. It’s also an integral part of the curriculum in districts in at least 10 other states, including Austin, Albuquerque, Denver, and Seattle. In a cover story for The Boston Globe Magazine, education journalist Linda K. Wertheimer visited ethnic studies programs at public schools in Holyoke, Mass., and San Francisco. She describes what these courses typically look like and evaluated their impact on student learning and campus communities. Why are some education researchers urging caution about ramping up these kinds of programs too quickly? How did Wertheimer seek to gauge their impact on student outcomes like graduation rates? And what are some story ideas for education journalists covering issues related to race and ethnicity in their own school systems? Wertheimer, the author of Faith Ed: Teaching About Religion in an Age of Intolerance, is an EWA Reporting Fellow and past eduction editor of The Boston Globe.

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