L.A. Unified to require ethnic studies for high school graduation
Students at LAUSD high schools such as Thomas Jefferson High School will be required for the first time to take ethnic studies classes to graduate. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Students in the Los Angeles Unified School District will be required for the first time to take ethnic studies classes as part of an effort to encourage stronger cultural understanding.
The idea, brought forward by Board of Education members Bennett Kayser, George McKenna and Steve Zimmer, is aimed at narrowing the academic gap between minority students and their white and Asian peers by pushing students to achieve through the exploration of different perspectives in literature, history and social justice. More than 90 languages are spoken in the district.
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The school system allowed ethnic studies classes in the 1990s, but let the schools decide whether to offer them. Few provided the courses. This time, they will be a graduation requirement at all high schools.
Jose Lara, a leading advocate of the move and a social studies teacher at Santee Education Complex, said students develop a better sense of self-worth when they learn about themselves and their history.
He said teachers will have the freedom to craft curriculum to suit the needs and interests of their students. "In East L.A., it might be Chicano history. In Koreatown, it might be Asian American courses," he said.