Superintendent's Column: Stanford study affirms long-term benefits of Ethnic Studies

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As educators, our job in the San Francisco Unified School District is to help students realize their potential and their dreams. 

We are committed to creating a public school experience where each and every student will graduate from high school ready for college and career and equipped with the skills, capacities and dispositions outlined in our graduate profile, which includes every graduate having a strong sense of self and purpose.

That’s why I’m pleased that a new Stanford University study, which was done in collaboration with SFUSD as part of a research-practice partnership with the Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), shows that academically lower-performing students who participate in a ninth grade Ethnic Studies course are more likely to attend and be engaged in school, have a higher probability of graduating from high school, and are more likely to attend college.

SFUSD has long been a leader in teaching Ethnic Studies in high schools with the first classes being offered over a decade ago. An SF Board of Education resolution first called for the expansion of Ethnic Studies in 2008. In 2010 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 beginning in the 2015-16 school year. 

More recently, in March 2021, the Board of Education approved a change to SFUSD’s graduation requirements to include at least two semesters or 10 elective credits of Ethnic Studies, beginning with the class of 2028. 

At SFUSD, we believe in teaching history accurately with multiple representations. We are building an up-to-date educational path that our students deserve and honors the voices of all students.

We seek out diverse literature in our school and classroom libraries to ensure we have diverse representation. No matter the color, background or zip code of our students, we want them to have an education that imparts honesty about who we are, integrity in how we treat others, and courage to do what’s right.

The recent Stanford study is just one great example of how SFUSD is preparing students to thrive in the 21st century.

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