Ethnic Studies


Legislation signed by Governor Brown in 2016 required California’s State Board of Education to adopt a model curriculum for Ethnic Studies. Assembly Bill 101, signed by Governor Newsom in 2021 added completion of a one-semester ethnic studies course as a public high school graduation requirement by the 2029-30 school year. To meet this requirement, LEAs serving high school students must develop and implement a course by the 2025-26 school year.

In March of 2021, the State Board of Education approved a model curriculum for high schools which centers on the contributions of historically underrepresented groups, such as Native Americans, African Americans, Latino Americans and Asian Americans. The State Board’s model curriculum itself isn’t required to be adopted by districts. Rather, the board-approved curriculum was created to serve as example coursework for districts to use should they opt to create their own local ethnic studies coursework.

More details from the California Department of Education regarding the State Board’s Ethnic Studies guidance for high schools are available here: CDE News Release.

What is Ethnic Studies?

The History Social-Science Framework for California Schools defines Ethnic Studies as “an interdisciplinary field of study that encompasses many subject areas including history, literature, economics, sociology, anthropology, and political science. It emerged to both address content considered missing from traditional curriculum and to encourage critical engagement.” With this in mind, “central to any Ethnic Studies course is the historic struggle of communities of color, taking into account the intersectionality of identity (gender, class, sexuality, among others), to challenge racism, discrimination, and oppression and interrogate systems that continue to perpetuate inequality.” By affirming the contributions and struggles of all groups, all students can better value themselves and others as part of the rich tapestry and story of our nation.

Model Curriculum

“The Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum serves as a guide to school districts that would like to either develop and implement a stand-alone course or integrate the concepts and principles of ethnic studies into current social science or English Language Arts courses” (Model Curriculum, Chapter 1, p. 20). It was adopted by the State Board of Education on March 18, 2021 and is available to LEAs free of cost.

Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum – Whole Document

Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum – By Chapter

Ethnic Studies Adoption Toolkit

The purpose of the Ethnic Studies Adoption Toolkit is to provide school districts with a process for developing, adopting, and/or integrating high quality ethnic studies programming, based on the guidelines of the state adopted Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum in order to meet the high school graduation requirement now mandated through Assembly Bill 101 and the updated California Education Code. (The Ethnic Studies Adoption Toolkit was created by the Los Angeles County Office of Education.)

Contra Costa County Ethnic Studies Workgroup

The Contra Costa County Office of Education is hosting an ongoing collaborative workgroup to support LEAs as they research, design, and roll out their Ethnic Studies course implementation. These sessions are co-facilitated by CCCOE staff and the UC Berkeley History-Social Science Project. The first three meetings will take place virtually from 9:00 AM – 11:00AM on the following dates:

  • September 26, 2023
  • November 28, 2023
  • February 6, 2024
  • April 23, 2024

The goal for these initial meetings is to develop a clear understanding of the statutory requirements of AB101, explore the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, and create space to collaborate on pathways for course implementation.

This work group is offered free of cost and is open to LEA Ed Services Leadership and High School Administrators in Contra Costa County overseeing AB101 implementation. Tentatively, as the implementation year of 2025-26 draws nearer, the audience of the workgroup will shift closer and closer to the classroom.

Please contact Kristy Warren ([email protected]), Director of Curriculum and Instruction, for more information.

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 Kristy Warren photo

Tiffany McIver

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