SFUSD Adds Ethnic Studies as Graduation Requirement

Posted Date

SFUSD Adds Ethnic Studies as Graduation Requirement

Press Release

San Francisco (March 25, 2021) - The San Francisco Board of Education approved a change to the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD)’s graduation requirements to include at least two semesters or 10 elective credits of Ethnic Studies, beginning with the class of 2028. The change was approved at the March 23, 2021 Board of Education regular meeting. 

“At SFUSD we are committed to teaching the contributions of all people and to ensuring all of our graduates have a strong sense of self. We have worked diligently to create a model curriculum and develop our educators’ capacity to teach a range of Ethnic Studies courses,” said Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews. 

 “Ethnic Studies is an important part of every young person’s education. We are proud to join with other school districts, and even some states across the country, that are requiring every high school student to complete a high quality ethnic studies course,” said Board of Education President Gabriela Lopez. 

SFUSD has long been a leader in teaching Ethnic Studies in high schools and in 2008 the SF Board of Education voted to expand Ethnic Studies offerings and a pilot program was approved to develop the existing Ethnic Studies coursework at five high schools. The Ethnic Studies course expanded to reach all SFUSD high schools as an optional course for students beginning in the 2015-16 school year. With the new graduation requirements, every student will have the opportunity to take a course for at least two semesters.

Through Ethnic Studies in San Francisco, SFUSD educators develop and teach a more robust historical narrative that centers on the perspectives of historically marginalized communities. Ethnic Studies is designed to give high school students an introduction to the experiences of ethnic communities that are rarely represented in textbooks, and offers a compelling way to examine race, ethnicity, nationality and culture in the United States.

Research has shown that Ethnic Studies curriculum in high schools has demonstrated an increase in GPA across disciplines, high school graduation rates, college-going rates, and a sense of belonging. Additional studies show that Ethnic Studies curriculum helps to narrow the opportunity gap for students of color as well as benefit white students.

In order to obtain a high school diploma, a student must complete the credits and courses required by SFUSD. The district adopted a policy that aligns high school graduation and the A-G requirements. A-G are 15 year-long college preparatory courses established by the University of California (UC).  These are the minimum required courses students must take during high school in order to be eligible to apply to UCs/CSUs. To ensure that all students take college preparatory courses and have the option of applying to a wide range of colleges and universities, students must meet these requirements with a D or better in order to earn a high school diploma. To be UC/CSU eligible, students must complete these courses with a C or better.

Over the past decade, SFUSD has developed and implemented systems to better identify and track the progress of students toward graduation including the development of on-track off-track measures for early intervention. The district has also implemented a portfolio of credit-earning options for students so, if a student needs to make up a course, they may do so without falling too far behind. 


SFUSD is the seventh largest school district in California, educating over 56,000 preK-12 students every year. San Francisco is both a city and a county; therefore, SFUSD administers both the school district and the San Francisco County Office of Education (COE). This makes SFUSD a “single district county.”