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Teacher David Ko in his ethnic studies class at Washington High School

Ethnic studies may boost attendance, schoolwork

01/12/16

A high school ethnic studies course examining the role of race, nationality and culture on identity and experience boosted attendance and academic performance of students at risk of dropping out, a new study by scholars at Stanford Graduate School of Education found.

The study looked at ethnic studies classes piloted in several San Francisco high schools and compared academic outcomes for students encouraged to enroll in the course with similar students who did not take it.

The researchers found that students not only made gains in attendance and grades, they also increased the number of course credits they earned to graduate.

"What's so unique about this program is the degree to which it helped the students who took it,” said Emily Penner, co-author of the paper and a post-doctoral researcher at the GSE. "Schools have tried a number of approaches to support struggling students, and few have been this effective. It’s a novel approach that suggests that making school relevant and engaging to struggling students can really pay off.”

As of the 2015-16 school year, all SFUSD high schools offer ethnic studies classes, thanks to a resolution passed by the Board of Education in 2014.

Read more details about the study.