State board mulls integrating ethnic studies in high school curriculum


A State Board of Education member has proposed integrating ethnic studies into high school English class.

The class would be optional but could fulfill the English 3 or 4 requirement.

In what could be the first step in integrating ethnic studies into Texas high school curriculum, the State Board of Education is considering a new English class that examines works of authors from different ethnic backgrounds.

Board member Georgina C. Pérez, D-El Paso, has proposed a comparative literature class for juniors or seniors that would include works by authors from diverse backgrounds.

The optional course would fulfill students’ English 3 or 4 requirement and would follow established curriculum, so the board wouldn’t have to take on the complicated and lengthy process of creating new curriculum standards.

“The definition of comparative literature is not exclusive of one ethnic group or one cultural group,” Pérez said. “It’s comparative literature of a variety of ethnicities and cultures and historical periods, but the most important thing for a successful comparative literature course is that it is responsive and reflective of the students in the classroom as well as the community.”

A committee of the board started discussing Thursday the possibility of creating a comparative ethnic studies literature course with hopes that the full board would consider it as early as its June meeting.

The board in the past hasn’t been amenable to ethnic studies courses. In 2014, the board rejected a push to create an elective Mexican-American studies course, fearing that it would teach divisiveness. The board offered instead to approve textbooks for districts who want to offer African-American studies, Native American studies and Asian-American studies courses.

READ: Proposed Mexican-American studies textbook decried as ‘racist’ scrapped

Three lawmakers have proposed bills this session that would allow ethnic studies English and social studies elective courses to be taught in middle and high school. The bills, sponsored by Democrats, haven’t gained traction.

Pérez said that more students would take ethnic studies if it is offered as an English or history class rather than an elective. She is hopeful that the course will win board approval because it doesn’t require new curriculum standards and is inclusive. She envisions the course as the first step to integrating more ethnic studies into other core courses in lower grades.

“This sounds like something that even in the elementary years would be something to get started … and start working the way up. I think that would be excellent,” board member Sue Melton-Malone, R-Robinson, said during Thursday’s meeting.

According to a study by the University of Arizona, Tucson students who took Mexican-American studies courses were more likely to pass all state standardized tests, including math. Students started performing better because they saw their cultural background reflected positively in the material that they were learning, Angela Valenzuela, a University of Texas education professor, told the committee.

“A positive social identity, a positive sense of self, a positive sense of society, so it’s really these pro-social values that are so important,” Valenzuela said. “What they did in Tucson is that they really promoted a sense of ‘we-ness’ and not this othering of people who are different.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Texas News & Politics

California man stabbed to death while dining with daughter on lap
California man stabbed to death while dining with daughter on lap

A California man eating at a steakhouse with his daughter on his lap was stabbed to death Wednesday when a homeless man allegedly walked up and attacked him, CNN reported. Anthony Mele Jr. 35, died Thursday, but his 5-year-old daughter was not hurt, the Ventura Police Department said. Mele was dining at the Aloha Steakhouse, a beachside restaurant...
FORECAST: Breezy Sunday, with temps to hit 76
FORECAST: Breezy Sunday, with temps to hit 76

Sunday forecast for Austin: Plan for a sunny end to the weekend, with a high of 76 and north winds moving 10 to 15 mph during the day, then mostly clear skies and a low of 54 at night, with north winds moving 5 to 10 mph before becoming light northwest winds after midnight. Monday: Sunny, with a high of 82 and north northwest winds moving 5 to 10 mph...
COMMUNITY NEWS: A&M extension holds food preservation workshop

TRAVIS COUNTY LAKEWAY Sing Along to present vaudeville theater Lakeway Sing Along will present its 18th annual spring show, “Vaudeville & Beyond,” at 6 p.m. April 26-28 at the Lakeway Activity Center, 105 Cross Creek. The shows will include dinner with music by the Lohman’s Crossing Band. Tickets are $30 and available at the activity...
Federal money to connect Texas schools to fiber at risk, officials say
Federal money to connect Texas schools to fiber at risk, officials say

Delays and denials by the federal government are putting Texas schools at risk of losing millions of dollars in potential subsidies that would help pay for installing high-speed fiber internet in classrooms, according to state officials. Last year, state lawmakers approved $25 million to help school districts over the 2018-19 budget period replace...
In gentrifying East Austin, are dogs replacing children?
In gentrifying East Austin, are dogs replacing children?

Olga Hernandez sat on the porch of her East Eighth Street house on a warm April afternoon, offering a few minutes to the latest reporter to come through asking about gentrification in her quickly changing neighborhood. Between pointing out rental units, she called hello to a young man and woman walking dogs down the sidewalk. Hernandez, 67, recently...
More Stories