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California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #20-68
August 13, 2020
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond and Civil Rights Leaders Propose Recommendations to Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum

Student, lawmakers, and ethnic studies leader call for model that promotes racial justice

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond presented Thursday—alongside a coalition of civil rights icons, lawmakers, and student and ethnic studies leaders—the California Department of Education’s (CDE) recommendations to the draft Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, a guide that will give educators the tools they need to advance racial and social justice in the classroom and beyond.

Thursday’s presentation before the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) was the first in a series of opportunities for public input on the CDE’s recommendations before final adoption next year.

“Ethnic studies has the power to provide a path to healing and justice in a state and nation reeling from racial unrest. Today we are proud to put forward recommendations that our educators and our students say they need in order to move us closer to a more just society,” said Thurmond. “We believe these recommendations lift up the voices of those whose contributions have for too long been overshadowed in education. We look forward to continued dialogue as we collaborate to finish this critical resource at this critical time.”

The CDE recommends that the model curriculum remain rooted in four foundational disciplines of ethnic studies—African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Chicano Latino Studies, and Native American Studies. The CDE also recommends the draft include educator resources for engaging in expanded, critical conversations that can be customized to reflect a school community’s diversity and engage in broader social justice issues.

The CDE’s recommendations and proposed edits were informed after reviewing tens of thousands of public comments, learning from ethnic studies subject matter experts and thought leaders, listening to educators, and engaging with students across the state.

Based on stakeholder feedback, the CDE has recommended removing all language or content that can be perceived as anti-Semitic—a commitment the State Superintendent said should not be broken as recommendations continue to be revised.

Based on continued and robust dialogue with ethnic studies experts, advocates and other stakeholders, the State Superintendent also announced the CDE’s intent to provide additional recommendations for consideration in November, including:

  • Adding a sample lesson on the Pacific Islander experience
  • Developing a sample lesson on Arab American Studies that focuses on the Arab American experience in the United States.

Both recommendations fall under the Asian American Studies discipline within ethnic studies. CDE announced its intent to add these sample lessons to its recommendations in an effort to provide frequent, transparent, and real-time updates to all stakeholders. Thurmond said the CDE will need more time to work with ethnic studies experts and instructors to finalize a sample Arab American Studies lesson before it can be submitted for public review.

Joining State Superintendent Thurmond who spoke in support of CDE’s recommendations Thursday were:

  • Former Assemblymember Luis Alejo, a former high school ethnic studies teacher who authored the bill to establish a model curriculum
  • Dr. Shawn Ginwright, a professor of Africana Studies at San Francisco State University, where the ethnic studies movement launched decades ago
  • Dolores Huerta, the labor leader and civil rights activist who, along with Cesar Chavez, co-founded the National Farmworkers Association
  • Dr. Karen Korematsu, daughter of the late civil rights activist Fred Korematsu, whose fight against imprisonment during World War II would in part lead to the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which included a formal apology as well as reparations to Japanese Americans imprisoned during the war
  • Assemblymember James C. Ramos, co-founder of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians’ Cultural Awareness Program and director of the California Indian Cultural Awareness Conference at California State University, San Bernardino
  • Student Alvin Lee, a member of Thurmond’s Youth Advisory Commission who participated in the State Superintendent’s virtual classroom series on ethnic studies last month

California is required by law to develop a model curriculum in ethnic studies to be utilized as a guide and outline for schools as they consider implementing ethnic studies courses. This guide will help districts and schools as they begin to develop their own ethnic studies curriculum reflecting their student demographics and community.

More information on the CDE recommendations and the draft Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum can be found on the IQC Agenda for August 13. CDE’s recommendations to the draft Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum are in alignment with state law and the State Board of Education-adopted (SBE) guidelines, which can be found on the CDE Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Guidelines web page.

The IQC is currently reviewing the CDE recommendations at its August 13 meeting and will take action to post a revised draft of the model curriculum for a 30-day period of public review prior to taking action later this year to recommend the model curriculum to the SBE. State law requires the SBE to take final action on the model curriculum by March 31, 2021.

More information on the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum can be found on the CDE Model Curriculum Projects web page. Individuals and groups will have the opportunity to submit public comment on the draft Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum during the 30-day review period. The IQC will review and consider those public comments at its November meeting. Comments can also be submitted at any time to

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Tony Thurmond — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Tuesday, June 06, 2023
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