- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Los Angeles Unified will require students to take ethnic studies classes as part of an effort to promote stronger cultural understanding within the nation’s second-largest school district.

Officials say the new rules are aimed at pushing students to achieve through the exploration of different perspectives in literature, history and social justice. LA Unified students are largely Latino, but more than 90 languages are spoken within the district.

By the 2017-18 school year, every high school must offer at least one semester of ethnic studies, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday (https://lat.ms/1uf9FOJ ). The graduation requirement takes effect for the 2018-19 school year.

The effort was largely driven by students, who wrote letters, led petition drives that gathered thousands of signatures and met with educators and elected officials to build support, the newspaper said.

“This is a reform that came from the bottom up,” said Jose Lara, a social studies teacher at Santee Education Complex. “It’s students demanding more from their education.”

Lara, a leading advocate of the move, said teachers will have the freedom to craft curriculum to suit the needs and interests of their students.

“In East LA, it might be Chicano history. In Koreatown, it might be Asian American courses,” he said.

A task force of students, parents, district officials, experts and teachers will determine how much curriculum will be developed and how much will be adapted from other districts, Board of Education member Steve Zimmer said.

Supporters of the measure succeeded in Los Angeles despite the failure of similar efforts elsewhere, the Times said. This year, California lawmakers proposed legislation to look into providing an ethnic studies curriculum statewide, but the effort stalled for lack of funds.

In Southern California, supporters gained momentum after El Rancho Unified School District in Pico Rivera passed a measure in June requiring ethnic studies course work. The class of 2016 at El Rancho High School is believed to be the first in California with such a graduation requirement.


Information from: Los Angeles Times, https://www.latimes.com

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