Ethnic Studies

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Ethnic Studies Community Forum

ES Forum DetailsThank you to everyone who joined us for the Ethnic Studies Community Forum on October 1. Click the link to view the recorded event.

Ethnic Studies Community Forum: Video

Foro Comunitario de Estudios Étnicos: Video en Español



Since 2015, community efforts have been instrumental on our road to an Ethnic Studies graduation requirement for our district. Ethnic Studies Now! Santa Barbara, a community coalition of activists, educators, community leaders, and students worked closely with district representatives to bring this requirement to fruition over the course of several years. This local effort has been part of a larger statewide campaign to make Ethnic Studies a requirement for all school districts. In November 2018, the SB Unified school board approved making Santa Barbara Unified among the earlier districts in California to have an Ethnic Studies a graduation requirement that meets the A-G approved list of classes for the UC system.

Ethnic Studies benefits all students by providing a complex, rich, and critical history of the United States. These classes will help prepare our students to be global citizens with the knowledge of and the appreciation for the contributions of multiple cultures and histories. Research demonstrates that an Ethnic Studies curriculum can help close the education debt owed to students by improving our ability to engage students, which results in improved student outcomes such as increased student attendance, a reduction in push-out rates, and increased graduation rates.*

SB Unified has taken significant steps since the Ethnic Studies requirement was approved including the piloting of two cornerstone classes: English 9 Ethnic Studies and a social studies elective course, Ethnic and Social Justice Studies. We identified teachers to teach the courses, the ES Cadre, and hired expert consultants, ARE/Praxis, to help coordinate, train, and facilitate our efforts moving forward. In the 2020-21 school year, all three large traditional high schools will be offering both courses. Our community will continue to be essential to the monitoring and refinement of its expression in our high schools through the Ethnic Studies Consortium which includes representatives from Ethnic Studies Now! Santa Barbara, the Ethnic Studies Cadre, district representatives, students, ARE/Praxis, and other community partners.

*The Academic and Social Value of Ethnic Studies. A Research Review by Dr. Christine E. Sleeter; The Causal Effects of Cultural Relevance: Evidence from an Ethnic Studies Curriculum, by Thomas Dee, Emily Penner. Missing the (Student Achievement) Forest for All the (Political) Trees: Empiricism and the Mexican American Studies Controversy in Tucson by Nolan L. Cabrera, Jeffrey F. Milem, Ozan Jaquette, Ronald W. Marx.

What is Ethnic Studies in Santa Barbara?

Ethnic Studies is the interdisciplinary study that centers Asian American, Black/African American, and Chicanx/Latinx, and Native American* peoples who have experienced, survived, and resisted hegemonic systems and structures of oppression. Ethnic Studies courses in Santa Barbara Unified School District aim to educate students to be socially, politically, and economically conscious about their personal connections to local and (trans)national histories. Students in these courses will study race through the intersections of social identities such as ethnicity, culture, gender, sexuality, ability, language, immigrant status, and class. They will analyze indigeneity, aspects of (de)colonization, white supremacy, oppression and privilege, and work towards empowering themselves as anti-racist leaders who engage in social justice activism. Dialogue drives the learning and supports the belief that each person has important knowledge, experiences, and voices to share. Students will have the opportunity to cultivate intersectional solidarity with groups of people, locally and (trans)nationally, to foster active social engagement, radical healing, and critical hope.

*These are the groups traditionally included in Ethnic Studies courses at the college level and in the California State Model Curriculum.

English 9 Ethnic Studies

  • Course outline
  • Unit 1 sample
  • Texts: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, Real Women Have Curves by Josefina Lopez, American-Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. English 9 course texts
  • Book group example texts: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi, Frankly in Love by David Yoon, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez, If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo


Ethnic and Social Justice Studies (social studies elective)

  • Course outline
  • Unit 1 sample
  • Texts: A Young People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn and Rebecca Stefoff, A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki and Rebecca Stefoff, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, A Queer History of the United States for Young People by Michael Bronski


English 9 Ethnic Studies podcast (2019-2020)

Community Forum

We plan to hold a virtual community forum this Fall.



Ethnic Studies IconWe are excited to be implementing two new courses which will fulfill the Ethnic Studies graduation requirement established for the Class of 2024 – English 9 Ethnic Studies, and an Ethnic and Social Justice Studies elective. We recognize that these are extraordinary times, and that many students, families, staff and community members may have questions about the courses.

We invite you to submit your questions about Ethnic Studies in SBUnified through this Community Input Form, available in English and Spanish.

While it will not be possible for us to deliver individual responses to your submissions at this time, your questions and comments will shape the on-going development of our Frequently Asked Questions in the short term. Ultimately, we envision your questions will inform future communications and community forums.

What is the Ethnic Studies graduation requirement? Beginning with the Class of 2024, students will complete 5 units (one semester) of Ethnic Studies. This requirement may be completed by taking English 9 Ethnic Studies, Ethnic and Social Justice Studies, Mexican-American Literature, Social Dialogues, or Chicano Studies. In addition, students may fulfill the Ethnic Studies graduation requirement by taking the following dual enrollment courses at SBCC:

  • ETHS 101:  The Immigrant Experience in the U.S.
  • ETHS 103: The American Ethnic Cultural Experience
  • ETHS 120:  Race, Ethnicity, and Social Movements in the United States
  • ETHS 121:  Women of Color in the U.S.
  • ASAM 102: Contemporary Asian-American History
  • BLST 102:  The African-American in U.S. History, from Civil Rights Movement to Present
  • BLST 103:  African-American Culture
  • BLST 111 The African-American Music Experience
  • CHST 101:  Mexican-American (Chicano) History in the U.S.
  • CHST 102:  The Chicano and Latino in U.S. History, From the 1960’s to the Present
  • CHST 103:  Mexican-American (Chicano) Culture
  • CHST 113: Introduction to Chicano/Mexican-American Literature
  • CHST 121:  The Chicana and Other Latina Women
  • CHST 131:  History of Chicano Art
  • NATA 101:  American Indian:  Past and Present*
  • NATA 102:  The Native American in 20th Century Society
  • NATA 103:  Native American Cultural Heritage*
*Indicates a class that was not originally on our list but which would fulfill ES requirement.

Will there ever be other courses that fulfill the graduation requirement? Yes. In the future, we plan to create a number of courses that will fulfill the requirement.