Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

Recommendation One

This document gives background into Assembly Bill 1703 (Ramos) as well as the California Department of Education’s recommendation for approving it, while providing data in support of that recommendation.

The American Indian Education Oversight Committee (AIEOC) supports Tony Thurmond, State Superintendent of Public Instruction’s (SSPI’s) endorsement of this Assembly Bill (AB) 1703 (Ramos).


According to the bill’s author, “California lacks high quality curriculum materials that highlight the history, culture, and government of local tribes. Although California students are instructed in Native American history, grave concerns remain about how this instruction is developed and offered. The existing framework focuses on some major lessons, such as the mission diorama, which is still taught at the teacher’s discretion. However, this ignores and overlooks the experiences of California Indians before, during, and after the mission era and Spanish occupation.”

The report “Becoming Visible” analyzed state efforts to bring high-quality Native American educational content into all kindergarten through grade twelve classrooms across the United States. This report found that transformational efforts through legislative means that require the development and use of Native American curricular materials are necessary to correct false narratives concerning Native Americans.

Improving the quality of and access to Native American curriculum mutually benefits Native American and non-native students. For non-native students, it can lead to greater awareness, understanding, and compassion. For native students, it can teach strength and resiliency, foster positive identity development, and help uphold tribal sovereignty. It can also support academic success and have a ripple effect at both the individual and community levels.

Thirty-thousand California students who reported American Indian as their sole race for 2019–20, which amounts to 0.5 percent of total enrollment. This number does not include the number of students who report Hispanic or select more than one race. If all students reporting American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) were included, the number would be 434,864 (7.2 percent). As of 2016, California had the third largest population of American Indian students in the country.

According to the California Department of Education (CDE) enrollment data, enrollment of American Indian students is more concentrated in rural areas. While the number of American Indian students is highest in large population centers such as Los Angeles and San Diego, some rural areas have higher numbers and percentages of students. For example, in 2020–21, rural and sparsely-populated Humboldt County had Native American enrollment of 1,551, exceeding that of Los Angeles Unified School District—which had 1,149—the second largest school district in the country. These numbers are again limited to counting students who report AI/AN only.

The high dropout rate of Native American students indicates that they have problems in traditional American schools. Researchers often point out that one reason students may encounter difficulties in school has to do with a district’s neglect for the learning style or culture of a given group. Data from the CDE show a significant achievement gap between American Indian students and statewide averages. CDE data show gaps in graduation: the 2020–21 AI/AN graduation rate was 73 percent, compared to the White graduation rate of 82 percent. CDE data for chronic absenteeism shows that for 2020–21, the chronic absenteeism rate for AI/AN students were 26.9 percent compared to their white counterparts’ 10 percent. CDE data found that the 2020–21 suspension rates for AI/AN students were 0.8 percent compared to their white counterparts’ 0.3 percent.

American Indian students have some of the lowest achievement rates in the state, as determined by the 2018–19 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) data. The 2018–19 data for CAASPP English Language Arts scores for grade three shows that 36 percent of AI/AN students who Met or Exceeded Standard, while 63 percent of their white counterparts Met or Exceeded Standard. Grade three was chosen because it is a future indicator of success in later grades. According to findings from a 2012 study, the relative predictive power of grade three reading proficiency for identifying students at risk of not graduating from high school is significant. This study determined that about 16 percent of students who are not reading proficiently by the conclusion of grade three failed to graduate from high school on time: a rate four times greater than that of proficient readers.

This bill is situated to help with the requirement, commencing with the graduating class of 2029–30, to complete a one semester course in ethnic studies that meets specified requirements in order to receive a high school diploma, and requires, commencing with the 2025–26 school year, that local educational agencies (LEAs) and charter schools serving students in grades nine through twelve offer at least a one semester course in ethnic studies. This bill encourages LEAs to build relationships with local tribal nations and engage with tribal leaders on strategies towards quality Native American education to benefit all students. This is an opportune time for tribal nations, tribal citizens, and other stakeholders to work alongside their state legislatures to mandate that quality Native American education curriculum be taught in public schools.

Related Legislation

AB 1554 (Ramos) of this Session states the intent of the Legislature to enact future legislation that supports the academic growth and well-being of Native American students in California by expanding the American Indian Education Centers (AIECs) program, supporting and promoting meaningful and timely consultation between LEAs and tribal governments, and ensuring an adequate level of staffing at the CDE to support LEAs and tribes in supporting Native American students and meeting the requirements of state and federal law. This bill was held in the Assembly Education Committee.

AB 101 (Medina), Chapter 661, Statutes of 2021 requires students, commencing with the graduating class of 2029–30, to complete a one semester course in ethnic studies that meets specified requirements in order to receive a high school diploma, and requires, commencing with the 2025–26 school year, that LEAs and charter schools serving students in grades nine through twelve offers at least a one semester course in ethnic studies.

Senate Bill 911 (Hertzberg), Chapter 490, Statutes of 2016, deleted the January 1, 2017 sunset of the AIEC program.

AB 1055 (Ramos), Chapter 287, Statutes of 2021, revises the definition of students in foster care for purposes of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and for purposes of specified educational rights of students in foster care, to include those students subject to a voluntary placement agreement and by eliminating the requirement that a dependent child of the court of an Indian tribe also meet the definition of a dependent child of a county court.

Assembly Constitutional Amendment 6 (Ramos) of this Session would require that, in all of the public elementary and secondary schools of the state, the social studies curriculum for grades three, four, eight, and eleven include significant material on the history and culture of California Native Americans. This measure would require that the SSPI ensure that appropriate instructional materials are available to LEAs and to private schools that wish to obtain these instructional materials.

AB 1962 (Wood), Chapter 748, Statutes of 2018, amended the definition of foster youth for LCFF purposes to include a dependent child of the court of an Indian tribe, consortium of tribes, or tribal organization who is the subject of a petition filed in the tribal court pursuant to the tribal court’s jurisdiction in accordance with the tribe’s law, provided that the child would also meet one of the descriptions in Section 300 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, describing when a child may be adjudged a dependent child of the juvenile court.

AB 945 (Ramos), Chapter 285, Statutes of 2021, establishes the Task Force to Study and Develop Best Practices to Protect Student Rights to Wear Traditional Tribal Regalia or Recognized Objects of Religious or Cultural Significance as an Adornment at School Graduation Ceremonies.


The AIEOC salutes the SSPI in his support of this bill. The SSPI has a critical role in supporting this effort and mitigating the invisibility and false narratives about Native American people that are propagated in the current education system.

Throughout history, Native American curricula has been nonexistent or authored by non-Native Americans and plagued with serious inaccuracies, negative stereotypes, and toxic misconceptions. Much of the existing curricula was not developed in partnership with the tribal nations. Only by encouraging collaborating opportunities for LEAs and tribes will these past inaccuracies be corrected. The results will benefit both Native American students and well as non-native students.

Questions:   AIEOC Team | | 916-319-0506
Last Reviewed: Monday, October 30, 2023
Recently Posted in American Indian
No items posted in the last 60 days.