Monday, April 29th 2024 Announcements, Equity in Learning

Stanford Accelerator for Learning awards funding to faculty, staff, and students to envision new models for ethnic studies

The eight projects will explore approaches to implementing a new California law requiring ethnic studies to be taught in high schools.

by Isabel Sacks

Photo: iStock


The Equity in Learning initiative of the Stanford Accelerator for Learning has awarded $300,000 to eight research teams to co-create new approaches to ethnic studies curriculum with community and school partners.

Stanford studies have shown both short and long-term academic benefits from a high school ethnic studies course in San Francisco. The studies’ co-author, Professor Thomas Dee of the Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), describes ethnic studies as “an intensive and sustained social psychology intervention” with the potential to reshape and greatly improve students' sense of belonging and school engagement. 

This landmark research inspired Assembly Bill 101, a California law signed in October 2021 that requires students to take ethnic studies to graduate high school, starting with the class of 2030. Schools must start offering ethnic studies courses by the 2025-26 school year. California was the first state to enact such a policy.

Having driven the research that inspired the policy, Stanford now seeks to support schools in implementing ethnic studies effectively and meaningfully. Dee highlights that his original study had limitations relevant to California’s state-wide scale-up. These include that the study focused only on educationally vulnerable students in San Francisco and did not compel students to take ethnic studies. In a state as large and diverse as California, he stresses that additional research is needed to understand how to replicate and scale effective practices for ethnic studies across demographics, location, teacher training, and other variables. 

Dee also emphasizes that the education community must think beyond required ethnic studies courses. “Our studies of San Francisco's pilot course provide a genuinely exciting proof point for culturally relevant pedagogy more broadly,” he says. “We need to invest in a broad array of school and teacher practices to support student belonging.”

The seed grant, which supports research and development of a range of ethnic studies approaches, is the first funding opportunity of the Equity in Learning initiative, developed by a team of scholars at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and launched with community partners last year.

Proposals were required to be collaborative in nature and name a partnering organization, school district, or community group. Funded projects include infusing ethnic studies into world language teaching, exploring the impact of ethnic studies for newcomer immigrant youth, and engaging high school students in building ethnic studies curriculum. 

“Ethnic studies scholars are adamant that it is not just about content,” said grant recipient Eujin Park, assistant professor at the GSE and a faculty affiliate of the Stanford Accelerator for Learning. “It’s about a set of values and a way of relating to your students and their community.” She emphasizes that many districts already partner with community organizations as a way of ensuring curriculum and pedagogy are responsive to their students’ lives and identities.

“A statewide curriculum may not reflect every student’s lived experiences or history,” explains Antero Garcia, associate professor at the GSE and the organizer of the seed grant. “One of the goals of the seed grant is to develop nuanced, local understandings of ethnic studies.”


Whose expertise matters? Centering Youth Voice to (Re)Conceptualize and Expand Accessibility in Ethnic Studies

Faculty lead: Subini Annamma

This multiphase empirical work centers those most impacted by disproportionality, Students of Color who have been suspended and/or labeled disabled and their educators, positioning them as knowledge generators in co-designing, implementing, and evaluating Accessible Ethnic Studies (AES). The study aims are to 1) re-design ethnic studies, so it is accessible to all students; 2) implement AES as a means of reconnecting Students of Color who have been suspended to education; and 3) evaluate the impacts of AES to reflect on its limitations and potential.

​​Disseminating WISE Ethnic Studies to Sustain Students’ Sense of Belonging and Academic Achievement

Research team: Geoffrey Cohen, Steve Juárez

This research addresses enduring educational and psychological disparities, particularly affecting minority youth due to social identity threats. While ethnic studies programs show promise in improving educational outcomes, a gap remains in understanding how to facilitate the impact of this knowledge on the key psychological outcomes known to drive student success: school belonging, positive self, and cultural identity. We propose a novel approach blending ethnic studies with social psychological interventions to address these challenges. Drawing on reflective writing prompts, goal-setting practices, and senior students’ stories, the intervention aims to fortify students’ psychological resilience by cultivating a positive social identity and mitigating threats to their sense of belonging and self-worth. Partnering with a San Francisco middle school in a randomized control trial study, we will evaluate the intervention’s impact on 950 students’ well-being and academic achievement.

Intersection of Ethnic Studies and World Languages: Measuring Learning Impact of Integrated Instructional Units in High School

Research team: Amado Padilla, Margaret Peterson

This project addresses the problem of practice posed by the implementation of recent legislation in California requiring ethnic studies as a graduation requirement. This research will explore student performance gains derived from infusing ethnic studies content into World Language curriculum, as well as address the issue of ensuring success for ethnic studies as a core subject by developing ways for world language instruction to maximize the areas of intersection between the two (identity, group, language, and cultural variation, community lived experiences) and link world language with the four pivotal themes within ethnic studies (identity, history and movement, systems of power, and social movements and equity). This project will see through the creation of instructional units, their implementation in action-research partnership with a local high school district, and the analysis of resulting data (student academic outcomes, teacher and student experiences) to determine the benefits of such cross-curricular intersection. The plan includes a strategy for dissemination of the units as well as the research outcomes in conferences and publications.

Freedom Dreaming in California Ethnic Studies Classrooms

Research team: Ramón Martínez, Darion Wallace, Ayan Ali, Gabriela Lopez

This project is a collaboration with three middle school teachers in San Francisco Unified School District to co-create a culturally and historically responsive 8-week ethnic studies curriculum in social studies that creates conditions for youth to Freedom Dream across the historical record, their lived realities, and a future arc towards justice. Employing social design-based methodology to evaluate the merits of the intervention and other emergent insights from the social world of the classroom, this study illuminates new lines of thought on how to 1) build liberatory ethnic studies curriculum in middle schools, 2) conceptualize students as critical public historians, and 3) envision teachers as community archivists.

Developing and Piloting Model Ethnic Studies Curriculum Units, a partnership between STEP and the Sunnyvale School District

Faculty lead: Ira Lit

This pilot study draws upon a strong and mutual partnership between the Sunnyvale School District and the Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP): (1) developing a set of ethnic studies curricular units, drawing on core disciplines and themes in the field; (2) supporting the professional learning of practicing teachers and teacher candidates to effectively instruct those units; (3) pilot testing those units over the course of the month-long Summer Explorations summer school program, a partnership between the Sunnyvale School District and STEP; (4) evaluate the efficacy of the pilot; and (5) utilize learnings from the pilot to design future professional development and dissemination efforts to additional educators. Lit will collaborate with educators Irene Castillon and Julie Yick and doctoral student Kevin Anderson, with consulting from Professor Emeritus Albert Camarillo.

Ethnic Studies Praxis and Pedagogies with Recently Arrived Im/migrant Youth Across the Bay Area

Research team: Eujin Park, Rita Kamani-Renedo

This collaborative project examines what it means to enact ethnic studies pedagogies with racialized, multilingual recently-arrived im/migrant youth from diverse ethno-racial and linguistic backgrounds. While the benefits of ethnic studies for racially and linguistically minoritized youth are well documented, its impact on racialized im/migrant youth who have recently arrived to the United States remains underexplored. Through collaborative inquiry, curriculum development, implementation, and reflection, this project will support teachers in engaging ethnic studies pedagogies that are relevant to their newcomer im/migrant youth population, accessible to their needs as multilingual learners from diverse educational backgrounds, and responsive to their localized communities. As schools in California and across the nation are increasingly called to respond to the needs of newcomer im/migrant youth, this research is timely and necessary.

Belonging, Diverse Literature, and African American Girls Educational Experiences and Outcomes

Research lead: Ramon Stephens

This project explores the impact of implementing culturally responsive and affirming instructional practices in an after school setting by engaging elementary school Black girls with critical forms of African American literature by African American authors. This study also highlights the impact on Black girls’ cultural heritage identity development and academic achievement while amplifying the voices of Black elementary school girls in a suburban public elementary school setting. This qualitative study will be able to inform researchers and education practitioners of methods that can support Black girls academic achievement because Black girls must be able to see positive self- images reflected in their academic experience.

Centering Students in Ethnic Studies: Student-Led Curriculum Development and Teacher Partnerships in California Districts

Research team: Katelin Zhou, Jasmine Nguyen

This project will involve students in the creation of a student-centric ethnic studies framework and curriculum. Since the passage of Bill AB101, substantial debates have emerged regarding the most effective implementation of ethnic studies curriculum. Given the socially transformative nature of ethnic studies, educators must consider student-centered education as the foundation of a successful ethnic studies education, rejecting hierarchical learning structures. This student-centered framework will be developed as a pedagogical model for a larger ethnic studies curriculum, a six-week unit for 9-12th grade students on identity. Students from varying backgrounds and grade levels within a community partner, Diversify Our Narrative, will support the construction of the framework and supplement the curriculum through research. Following that, the team will conduct faculty consultations to revise the framework and curriculum. Finally, they will collaborate with school districts in California to pilot the student-centric model for teaching ethnic studies.