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    Ethnic Studies Task Force

    In response to a resolution by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in January 2017, Seattle Public Schools began work to expand and improve ethnic studies in the curriculum of its schools.

    In June 2017, a combined citizen and staff task force began work to develop recommendations and form a working group to begin to develop curriculum. In the June 2 and June 17 task force meetings, work to define what ethnic studies in Seattle Public Schools, as well as drafting of recommendations took place. The Seattle School Board unanimously passed a resolution in support of ethnic studies on its June 28, 2017 meeting.


    January 2017: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) proposes an ethnic studies resolution to the Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors.

    June 2017: A combined citizen and staff task force begins work to:

    1. Develop recommendations for ethnic studies in Seattle Public Schools
    2. Evaluate the status of ethnic studies currently being taught in its schools
    3. Form a working group to begin to develop ethnic studies curriculum.

    The Seattle School Board unanimously passes a resolution in support of ethnic studies at its June 28 meeting.

    May-August 2017: The Ethnic Studies Task Force sets a definition and guiding principles, including foundational reference documents for all Ethnic Studies work.

    November 2017-June 2018: An Ethnic Studies Working Group is formed. They utilize the Ethnic Studies Task Force recommendations, develop frameworks and work toward creating outlines for secondary courses and elementary-grade levels.

    March 2018: A group of about 40 teachers from across the district pilot draft ethnic studies core content developed by the Ethnic Studies Working Group. Ethnic studies is piloted in the second semester in six schools:

    • The Center School
    • Cleveland High School
    • Denny International Middle School
    • Garfield High School
    • John Muir Elementary School
    • Orca K-8 School

    April 2018: Ethnic studies piloting teachers attend three-day professional development after-school sessions sponsored by Dr. Wayne Au of the University of Washington Bothell.

    June 2018 – August 2020: The Ethnic Studies Working Group begins the process of commissioning educators to write curriculum for secondary social studies in collaboration with work that the Ethnic Studies Task Force and Working group have developed thus far. Small teams write and complete content for existing courses and grade levels. Plans for a quality review of written curriculum, professional development, implementation and potential adoption are developed.

    Teaching Ethnic Studies in Seattle Public Schools

    Seattle Public Schools strongly believes that its curriculum must represent ALL the peoples of the United States, especially those who have been historically marginalized. Our firm conviction is that students whose history and heritage is respected, appreciated and celebrated will learn better and attain positive outcomes. Whether incorporated into general coursework or taught as the exploration of individual communities, ethnic studies have positive benefits to every Seattle student.

    Our district recognizes that the past omission of perspectives of groups who have faced bias and discrimination is one significant factor contributing to opportunity gaps impacting students of color. The teaching of ethnic studies contributes to the development of a sense of belongingness and security that is essential to full engagement in learning. Further, all students, regardless of their background, need to understand the history of injustices as well as current inequities in the U.S. in order to contribute as future citizens to a stronger democracy. Rather than being divisive, ethnic studies helps students to bridge differences that currently exist, build critical thinking skills and leads to stronger achievement.

    For these reasons, our district continually seeks opportunities to strengthen instructional content to ensure that it reflects the true diversity of our communities. A curriculum incorporating the history, culture and literary experience of broad sections of our society enriches student knowledge and understanding of race, class, language, ethnicity and other differences that contribute to the richness of our society.