MN Dept of Education Proposes Ethnic Studies Standards

The proposal adds three ethnic studies standards to ensure college readiness and the inclusion of multiple perspectives. Those standards include greater emphasis on Indigenous history and societal inequities. According to the proposal, the intention is to better reflect the diversity of Minnesota’s student population. 

Feven Gerezgiher reports: 

The Minnesota committee on K-12 Academic Standards in Social Studies is wrapping up its 10 year cycle of review and revisions. New on the agenda is ethnic studies. The draft released last week says the intention is to reflect the diversity of Minnesota’s student population. 

“Every student deserves to see themselves in their learning,” said Bobby Burnham, assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Education. Burnham said the committee added three ethnic studies standards to ensure college readiness and the inclusion of multiple perspectives. Those standards include greater emphasis on Indigenous history and societal inequities.

“A really important point is the academic standards are reviewed by Minnesotans for Minnesotans,” said Burnham. “We know that our students’ education is at its strongest when Minnesotans are engaged in the planning process. So that’s why each time our academic standards are up for review, a committee is formed of Minnesotans with varying perspectives and backgrounds from all across the state.”

Critics of the ethnic studies standards led a tour across the state called Raise Our Standards. On their website, they cite opposition to critical race theory – which the commissioner says is not taught in K-12 education.

In cities like Minneapolis and Saint Paul – where students of color are in the majority – ethnic studies initiatives are already being explored. At a January board meeting launching the pilot courses, Saint Paul superintendent Joe Gothard cited achievement disparities as a motivating factor.

“We all continue to work and lead in a system of education that was not created for all students,” he said. “Our staff have been asking for strategies and supports that stick. Our district is committed to doing just that.”

Education officials are welcoming feedback on the draft standards until August 16. Burnham says community members can submit comments via email or postal mail to Minnesota Department of Education, 1500 Highway 36 West, Roseville, MN 55113.

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