Resolution of Intent to Establish an Ethnic Studies Washington State Graduation Requirement
WHEREAS, All students deserve to experience an anti-racist learning environment and equitable education that includes recognition and value of their cultural background, the assets they bring, and the knowledge their various communities have created and formed as part of our society; and
WHEREAS, The dual pandemics of COVID-19 and the structural racism that has been ignored for too long in our education system and larger society have highlighted inequities impacting our students and educators who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), including those who identify as American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian, Black, Latinx, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, North African, or more than one race;1 and
WHEREAS, Students around the state have demanded that diverse perspectives be incorporated in all subjects and grades and expressed the need for courses devoted to exploring ethnic studies in a deep way; and
WHEREAS, The State Board of Education formally requested the State Superintendent of Public Instruction update all content area learning standards across K-12 to explicitly recognize issues of race and culture, as well as recognize the contributions of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color; and
WHEREAS, Washington’s student population is made up of 48.9% Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, who deserve to have their full selves, including their culture and ethnic identities, valued and appreciated during the learning process; and
WHEREAS, a foundational understanding of ethnic studies would benefit all students and contribute to equipping them to become anti-racist participants in a multicultural society, and provide an important step towards a curriculum that better reflects our population; and
WHEREAS, The State Board of Education has committed to listening and acting on student voice, and during the Modern Day Racism in Education student panel SBE hosted recently, it was shared that, “our curriculum and the stories we tell through them should be both a mirror and a window. We should be able to see our own experiences mirrored in our education, but also have a window into the experiences of other students unlike ourselves;" and
WHEREAS, The 2009 Legislature created the Educational Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee (EOGOAC), and their 2021 report recommends that ethnic studies be embedded in all academic content courses in all levels of K-12, and that implementation of culturally competent ethnic studies will require training for new and current educators. The EOGOAC also finds that “when created and implemented in consultation with communities of color, ethnic studies can help students and families see themselves reflected and valued in the school community, increasing family engagement and addressing the roots of racism;” and
WHEREAS, The 2015 Legislature established the requirement for the Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State curriculum to be taught in schools, the 2019 Legislature created the Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee (ESAC) which will conclude its work by September 2021, and the 2020 Legislature created the African American Studies Workgroup (AASW) which recently submitted its recommendations; and
WHEREAS, the State Board of Education supports learning environments where students can thrive and ethnic studies in the classroom is an integral part of this; and
WHEREAS, Ethnic studies has several primary goals, including: anti-racism, linking movements to end all forms of oppression, and curating spaces where communities of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color thrive and exist in all their fullness through the “interdisciplinary and comparative study of the social, cultural, political, and economic expression and experience of ethnic groups.2” Ethnic studies must be taught through an explicit anti-racist lens, equip students to explore their own identity and challenge systemic racism, and establish an entry point to decolonizing the education system by examining power dynamics in the school and larger community through the use of counter-narratives to the dominant culture; and
WHEREAS, The State Board of Education recognizes that educators must have the opportunity to engage in personal growth and professional learning before being appropriately equipped to teach an ethnic studies course. SBE will work with the Professional Educator Standards Board and community organizations rooted in K-12 Ethnic Studies on the most suitable method for educators to become qualified to teach an ethnic studies course; and
WHEREAS, The State Board of Education acknowledges its authority in this matter is limited to establishing graduation requirements. However, implementing this requirement has implications for the education system, and implementation will not be successful without funding for continuous and consistent anti-racist professional learning for all educators at all levels of our education system.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT The State Board of Education is providing notice of its intent to establish an ethnic studies graduation requirement within the existing credit framework. The form this requirement takes will be developed by December 2021 in consultation with stakeholders, particularly students, their families, and educators who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Once implemented, the requirement will provide students the opportunity to receive their required academic content through an ethnic studies lens, while allowing for local flexibility.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT An ethnic studies graduation requirement is necessary, but not sufficient to address the equity concerns outlined in this resolution; it is an entry point to completely reimagining curriculum that is more socially just and responsive to the needs of the most underserved in our public schools and in society at large. Students, families, and community members who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color shall be involved in developing the local district’s curriculum and implementation plan for the ethnic studies content, to ensure the content reflects the local community’s history.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT It is the Board's intent to incorporate this work into revised graduation requirements. Any changes to graduation requirements will allow ample time for planning and implementation details as well as required rules to be developed with stakeholder input and discussed in a public meeting; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT The State Board of Education acknowledges the ongoing work of the ESAC and AASW as a critical first step toward this goal and will build upon their recommendations to establish the ethnic studies graduation requirement. Likewise, in developing the requirement, the Board will follow the leadership of the EOGOAC and seek the guidance of non-governmental organizations around the state with expertise in ethnic studies and anti-racism work.
1 Per the Race and Ethnicity Student Data Task Force Guidance on race and ethnicity categories as well as subracial and sub-ethnic categories
2 Tintiangco-Cubales, A., Kohli, R., Sacramento, J., Henning, N., Agarwal-Rangnath, R., & Sleeter, C. (2015). Toward an ethnic studies pedagogy: Implications for K-12 schools from the research. The Urban Review, 47(1), 104-125.