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San Diego Unified To Expand Ethnic Studies In District

Photo by Katie Schoolov

The outside of the Board of Education building for the San Diego Unified School District is shown in this photo, March 24, 2016.

After hearing from numerous teachers and students Tuesday evening, the San Diego Unified School Board voted to ensure resources are in place to expand ethnic studies within the district.

The unanimous vote received applause from many in the gallery. Earlier, board members heard a progress report from an advisory committee that developed an ethnic studies course at Lincoln and Serra high schools for the 2016-17 school year as part of a pilot program.

The committee is also working on teacher training and a curricula review, and will meet on May 4.

Board member Richard Barrera, who made the original motion to expand resources, said ethnic studies "is more than just a course."

An expansion would come at a time when America is growing more racially and ethnically diverse, said board President Michael McQuarry. If students in the San Diego district can connect their personal stories to what they learn in class, it will motivate them, McQuarry added.

In another curriculum matter, the board heard a presentation of the Vision 2020 Quality Schools report, focusing on reading skills.

According to the report, 54 percent of fifth-grade students met standards, while 52 percent of eighth-grade students did. Some suggestions for improving reading levels were better identification of students falling behind, dedicated time for reading and writing, and experts who can better support teachers.

Superintendent Cindy Martin said that while the district was doing well "by some definitions," literacy also means mathematics and science. If students are just reading Twitter or comics, that's not enough, she added.

In other matters, the board:

  • Approved revising district policy to allow for fireworks on school property, including at Mira Mesa High School. For the Mira Mesa and Scripps Ranch communities, firework displays have been set off at the Mira Mesa High stadium. Because the high school's upper field is not for joint usage, staff there told the district this year would be the last time fireworks would be permitted, unless a solution was found.
  • Adopted a resolution exempting school building or modernization projects from the city of San Diego Zoning Code, which is allowed under Government Code section 53094, officials said. The resolution listed dozens of affected projects including demolishing facilities at Wilson Middle and Central Elementary schools, adding carports at various schools, and upgrades for several buildings and the stadium at Point Loma High School.

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