For decades, teachers, parents, counselors, and activists have struggled to figure out how to raise the academic performance of high school students at risk of failing or dropping out, many of whom are Black, Latino, and Hispanic students in inner-city schools across the nation. In many school districts, emphasis has been placed on preparation for standardized tests, tutoring, and on discipline and punishment, but none of these methods seem to work.
A new study by education experts at Stanford University offers a simple solution to this problem: include ethnic studies courses in educational curricula. The study, published by The National Bureau of Economic Research in January, 2016, reports results from research into the effect of ethnic studies courses on student performance in San Francisco schools participating in a pilot ethnic studies program. The researchers, Drs. Thomas Dee and Emily Penner, compared academic performance and engagement between students enrolled in an ethnic studies course and those not, and found a clear and strong causal effect between ethnic studies courses and academic improvement.