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California District Adopts Ethnic-Studies Requirement

Students in a small district near Los Angeles will soon be required to take an ethnic studies course in order to graduate—a requirement some California legislators are hoping districts will adopt statewide. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, the 9,400-student El Rancho school district is thought to be the first in the state to adopt the requirement, which will begin with the class of 2016. The course will replace a current geography requirement. 

The state Senate in California is considering a bill that would have the education department study how to best implement a standardized curriculum for ethnic studies across the state.

However, in Arizona, ethnic studies have been the source of an ongoing scuffle. That state adopted a law in 2011 banning public schools from offering ethnic-studies courses that are designed for a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity. That effectively dismantled a popular Mexican-American studies program in the Tucson school district. A federal court recently upheld the ban.

In California's El Rancho district, where 98 percent of students are Latino, educators will spend the next year developing their own curricula for ethnic studies. Jose Lara, vice president of the El Rancho board of education and co-sponsor of the proposal, told the Times that he envisions "a variety of courses, such as an art class that focuses on Chicano work, or an English class that includes African American literature."

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