Sunday, December 11, 2016

AISD Board Session on Ethnic Studies Tomorrow 12-12-16

Dear Blog Readers:

I write to invite you to tomorrow’s AISD Board working session that includes secondary,

ethnic studies for the district as a topic.  This is happening largely because of AISD Board Member Paul Saldaña’s leadership—but others, as well, including Board Member Ted Gordon, Superintendent Paul Cruz, and Associate Superintendent Edmund Oropez.  Board meetings are held at the Carruth Administration Complex (CAC) located at 1111 West 6th Street, Room B-100, Austin, Texas, 78703.  I plan to get there at 7PM. You can park for free in the district’s underground parking garage off of 6th St. and Baylor St.

Some background context is the UT Professor and Curriculum and Instruction Department Chair Dr. Cinthia Salinas and I sit currently on the AISD Ethnic Studies Curriculum committee.  Our team has worked hard over the last 6 weeks to draft specific, research-based recommendations for an Ethnic Studies course that will be made public tomorrow.

I will also be given a few minutes to share what we are doing locally in the context of Academia Cuauhtli, our Saturday Academy that you can learn about in greater detail from the following publication titled, Academia Cuauhtli and the Eagle: "Danza Mexica" and the Epistemology of the Circle, as well as from this two-minute, KLRU-PBS documentary titled, Academia Cuauhtli Works to Bridge History with LanguageI also plan to address the research evidence related to Ethnic Studies.

The board will not take testimony.  It will only hear from our committee.  

Texas State Board of Education Member Georgina Cecilia Pérez plans to be present.

Here are the specifics:

9. ETHNIC STUDIES (Discussion) - 7:25 PM (60 Minutes)

9.1 Ethnic Studies (Discussion)

Agenda Item Details

Meeting   Dec 12, 2016 - Board Work Session   Category   ETHNIC STUDIES (Discussion) - 7:25 PM (60 Minutes)   Subject   Ethnic Studies (Discussion)   Access   Public   Type   Work Session Presentation/Discussion  


None, this item is for discussion only.


Austin ISD will pilot the Ethnic Studies course at Anderson, Akins, Austin, LBJ Early College, Reagan Early College, and Travis High Schools during school year 2017-2018 and may implement the course at all high school campuses during school year 2018-2019. The course will be a weighted credit under Special Topics in Social Studies. The course is divided into parts 1A and 1B. Students can earn 0.5 credit for each part. Students must take course 1A to take course 1B.

An Ethnic Studies course uses critical historical inquiry to examine the languages, family structures, spiritual traditions, economic and social issues, political aspirations, and values of diverse groups within the United States. The course has the potential to reduce drop-out rates and provide a more inclusive and engaging academic experience for students, especially those who are at-risk.  An Ethnic Studies course can also influence college enrollment as increasing numbers of students experience academic success derived from an authentic connection to the curriculum.

The following commitment, strategy and key action of the AISD 2015-2020 Strategic Plan are being addressed:

Commitment 1: Achieve excellence by delivering a high-quality education to every student

Strategy 1.3: We will provide services and supports for every student on every campus.

Key Action Step a: Each student will be actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.


Austin ISD convened an innovation design team of AISD staff and external partners to develop recommendations to prepare and launch an Ethnic Studies course. The team identified key content and instructional components, drafted a course description, and proposed coding and credit recommendations.  

Other large districts in Texas, like Houston ISD, offer some type of Cultural Studies course such as Mexican American History or African American History. Additionally, large urban districts in California, such as San Francisco Unified, offer an Ethnic Studies class as an elective.

Austin ISD considers cultural proficiency as one of the six “power skills” necessary for student success. The District currently provides cultural specific opportunities for elementary and secondary students. The Social Studies curriculum team worked with partners to develop Tejano Monument lessons for grades K-12. Additionally, the district partnered with a with professors from the University of Texas and the Mexican American Cultural Center to launch the Cuauhtli Academy/Academia Cuauhtli language and revitalization project in 2015 for grade 4 students from Metz, Sanchez, and Zavala elementary schools. Five courses are currently being offered at the secondary level including Social Justice at Anderson High School, African American History, Asian Studies, and Latin American Studies at Austin High School, and Holocaust and Humanity at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy.


Dr. Lisa Goodnow, Executive Director for Academics and Social Emotional Learning  E-mail:  Dr. Lisa Goodnow

Very exciting, of course!  A great showing would help convince the AISD Board Members that this is something valued by our community. 

If you are unable to attend, the session will be broadcast live on AISD Ch. 22 and online at

Angela Valenzuela

1 comment:

  1. Victor Obaseki2:12 PM

    Angela, I have been following this closely. I am excited about this finally looking as if it is about to happen. I think they should call it critical studies, instead of ethnic studies, and I told Cruz and Oropez as much during the Northeast Austin Planning Team process. Anyhow, happy holidays. -Victor