On May 24, 2017, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signed Senate Bill 107, which amended Chapter 389 of the Nevada Revised Statutes. The new section of NRS 389 charges the Nevada Council to Establish Academic Standards for Public Schools to establish standards of content and performance for ethnic and diversity studies in high school. Further, the legislation stipulates that the Council develops the standards in consultation with faculty of ethnic or diversity studies at universities and colleges, representatives of school districts who have experience of educational background in ethnic and diversity studies, and qualified persons who represent the diverse communities of the state.
The standards established by The Council must examine the culture, history, and contribution of diverse American communities, including, but not limited to, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, European Americans, and Basque Americans. Additionally, the standards should emphasize human relations, sensitivity towards all races and diverse populations, and work-related cultural competency skills.
This decision aligns with NCTE’s Position Statement in Support of Ethnic Studies Initiatives in K-12 Curricula (2015). NCTE recognizes the importance of ethic studies programs and points to research-based benefits of ethic studies for students: increased enrollment, reduced truancy and dropout rates, critical thinking and self-empowerment, higher test scores and great self-esteem for student. Implementing ethnic studies in schools further addresses “Students Right to Read” (NCTE, 2012) by calling attention to the diverse literature and cultural landscapes of our country.
NCTE makes the following suggestions as possible approaches to ethnic studies:
• Provide students with texts that reflect their own cultural backgrounds and histories.
• Help students understand how different histories, languages, and cultural practices promote unique approaches to problem solving.
• Engage in cross-cultural comparisons of multicultural texts so that students can become more effective writers in multiple contexts, including their home communities.
• Give students opportunities to write in their own languages so they can critique ideas from perspectives relevant to their lives.
While it is commendable that the state of Nevada passed legislation to create standards for ethnic and diversity studies in a time when these course are under attack, it is unclear, at this point in time, the progress of these standards or if English teachers have been invited to the table. Although, “NCTE seeks to play an instrumental role in the developmental needs of ethnic studies teachers and institutional curricular development (NCTE, 2015), no English teachers from Northern Nevada are part of committees to develop standards for ethnic and diversity studies.