NCTE Position Statement in Support of Ethnic Studies Initiatives in K-12 Curricula


Developed by the CCCC Latin@ Caucus in collaboration with members of the American Indian Caucus and the Translingual SIG.

Approved by the NCTE Executive Committee, October 2015

Since 1968, ethnic studies curricula have become more mainstream. Before this, minority students could learn about their histories and literatures only in public and independent schools geared to African American students, tribal schools, and schools focused on language immersion (Sleeter 5). Today, schools across the country are beginning to recognize the importance of making ethnic studies courses part of their main curricula. However, more work remains to be done if both teachers and students are to recognize the beneficial contributions of various ethnic backgrounds to crucial curricular components of K–12 institutions nationwide. Therefore,

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and its members support the implementation of K–12 ethnic studies curricula nationwide. As a professional organization committed to professional development and the creation of innovative curricula, NCTE seeks to play an instrumental role in the developmental needs of ethnic studies teachers and institutional curricular development.

NCTE also recognizes ethnic studies as a scholarly field that has always been invested in providing equal access to literacy, encouraging democratic principles, and promoting different ways of knowing—of producing and disseminating knowledge.

NCTE acknowledges that California is seeking to implement ethnic studies course offerings for various school districts and even the entire state (AB 101), and in Nevada a bill has been proposed requiring ethnic studies courses statewide. In contrast, ethnic studies curricula are under attack in Texas and Arizona. Supporters of HB 2281, for example, have tried to ban ethnic studies courses, denouncing them as divisive and racist. Despite such opposition, ethnic studies initiatives have been shown to yield positive educational results. Illustrative of these positive results, students in the Tucson High Mexican American Studies Program (Modern Language Association) achieved higher test scores, decreased truancy rates, and exhibited higher self-esteem. Perhaps most important, among students enrolled in ethnics studies courses, graduation rates increased.

Thus, NCTE supports ethnic studies programs at the K–12 grade levels because they bring the following benefits:


  • Ethnic and cultural studies can help create diverse and inclusive classroom environments that promote learning and activism.
  • Ethnic studies curricula increase enrollment, reduce truancy and dropout rates, and prepare youth to be college- and career-ready by promoting critical thinking and self-empowerment (Sleeter; Tintiangco-Cubales et al.).
  • Studies have shown that ethnic studies can result in higher test scores and greater self-esteem for students (Modern Language Association; Sleeter).
  • Ethnic and cultural studies teach students of all races and ethnicities about their home cultures in the context of a more inclusive history. Students come to understand themselves in relation to other cultural groups, developing a cross-cultural understanding that encourages respect for other people.
  • Attention to ethnic studies reflects the growing diversity of student populations in our schools. In 2014 the US Department of Education projected that for the first time in the country’s history, students of color will outnumber white students at public schools in 2015 (Strauss). In addition, ethnic minorities account for 73 percent of first-year student growth and about 77 percent of overall growth at four-year colleges and universities (Fry).
  • Implementing ethnic studies would address “Students’ Right to Read,” which NCTE reaffirmed in 2012, by highlighting the nation’s diverse storehouses of knowledge, literature, culture, and landscapes.


NCTE makes the following suggestions as possible approaches to ethnic studies:


  • Provide students with texts that reflect their own cultural backgrounds and histories. In this way, educators can move beyond token multiculturalism to foster intercultural awareness and respect. These opportunities prove especially critical because implementation of the Common Core curriculum has led to a decline in representative diversity in classroom texts (Morrell and Morrell; Lafferty).
  • Help students understand how different histories, languages, and cultural practices promote unique approaches to problem solving. For example, students can draw from non-Western and indigenous ways of knowing to examine major cultural concerns.    
  • Engage in cross-cultural comparisons of multicultural texts so that students can become more effective writers in multiple contexts, including their home communities. Intercultural communication and sharing can teach students to recognize different forms of privilege that affect and marginalize members of ethnic communities.
  • Give students opportunities to write in their own languages so they can critique ideas from perspectives relevant to their lives. These experiences help build multilingual abilities, which studies show increase success in other areas of learning and socialization, and illustrate the cultural diversity of the United States (Costa et al.; Celic and Seltzer). Teachers can assess writing based on effective use of multiple voices (Brown, Freeman, and Gallagher; Inoue and Poe).
  • Organize faculty workshops by educators and researchers trained in ethnic and cultural studies. These workshops can discuss relevant pedagogical strategies, assignments, texts, and assessment practices.

Works Cited


Brown, Kara Mae, Kim Freeman, and Chris W. Gallagher. “Regarding the ‘E’ in E-portfolios for Teacher Assessment.” Assessing the Teaching of Writing. Ed. Amy E. Dayton. Boulder: Utah State UP, 2015. 80–98. Print.


Celic, Christina, and Kate Seltzer. Translanguaging: A CUNY-NYSIEB Guide for Educators. New York: CUNY-NYSIEB, 2011. Web.


Costa, Albert, Mireia Hernández, Jordi Costa-Faidella, and Núria Sebastián-Gallés. "On the Bilingual Advantage in Conflict Processing: Now You See It, Now You Don’t." Cognition 113.2 (2009): 135–149. Web.


Fry, Richard. “Growth in Freshmen by Race/Ethnicity.” Social & Demographic Trends. Pew Research Center. 16 June 2010. Web.


Inoue, Asao B., and Mya Poe, eds. Race and Writing Assessment. New York: Peter Lang, 2012. Print.


Lafferty, Karen Elizabeth. "'What Are You Reading?' How School Libraries Can Promote Racial Diversity in Multicultural Literature." Multicultural Perspectives 16.4 (2014). Web.


Modern Language Association. Statement on Tucson Mexican American Studies Program. Feb. 2012. Web.


Morrell, Ernest, and Jodene Morrell. “Multicultural Readings of Multicultural Literature and the Promotion of Social Awareness in ELA Classrooms.” New England Reading Association Journal 47.2 (2012): 10-16, 81. Web.

Sleeter, Christine E. The Academic and Social Value of Ethnic Studies: A Research Review. National Education Association Research Department. Dir. Ronald D. Henderson. Web.


Strauss,Valerie. "For First Time, Minority Students Expected to Be Majority in U.S. Public Schools This Fall." The Washington Post. 21 Aug 2014. Web.


Tintiangco-Cubales, Allyson, et al. “Toward an Ethnic Studies Pedagogy: Implications for K–12 Schools from the Research.” The Urban Review 47.1 (2015): 104–125. Web.



Resources and Further Reading: University Level


Absolon, Kathleen. Kaandossiwin: How We Come to Know. Black Point: Fernwood, 2012. Print.


Acuña, Rudy. Occupied America. 7th ed. Boston: Longman, 2011. Print.


Asante, Molefi Kete. The African American People: A Global History. New York: Routledge, 2012. Print.


Cintron, Ralph. Angels' Town : Chero Ways, Gang Life, and Rhetorics of the Everyday. Boston: Beacon, 1997. Print.


Crenshaw, Kimberlé, Neil T. Gotanda, Gary Peller, and Kendall Thomas, eds. Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement. New York: New, 1996. Print.


Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne. An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. Boston: Beacon, 2014. Print.


Franklin, John Hope. Racial Equality in America. 1976. Brick Lecture Series. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1993.


Gilyard, Keith, ed.  Race, Rhetoric, and Composition. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1999. Print.


González, Juan. Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America. New York: Penguin, 2011. Print.


Grande, Sandy. Red Pedagogy: Native American Social and Political Thought. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004. Print.


Jones Royster, Jacqueline. “When the First Voice You Hear Is Not Your Own.” College Composition and Communication 47.1 (1996): 29–40. Web.


King, Lisa, Rose Gubele, and Joyce Rain Anderson. Survivance, Sovereignty, and Story: Teaching American Indian Rhetorics. Logan: Utah State UP, 2015. Print.


Kirkness, Verna J. Creating Space: My Life and Work in Indigenous Education. East Lansing: Michigan State UP, 2014.


Lunsford, Andrea, and Ouzgane Lahoucine, eds. Crossing Borderlands: Composition and Postcolonial Studies. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 2011. Print.


Mao, LuMing. Reading Chinese Fortune Cookie: The Making of Chinese American Rhetoric. Logan: Utah State UP, 2006. Print.


Mao, LuMing and Morris Young. Representations: Doing Asian American Rhetoric. Logan: Utah State UP, 2008. Print.


Marable, Manning. Beyond Black and White: Transforming African-American Politics. New York: Verso, 1995. Print.


Monroe, Barbara. Plateau Indian Ways with Words: The Rhetorical Tradition of the Tribes of the Inland Pacific Northwest. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 2014. Print.



Murkutu (an open source platform for sharing indigenous digital cultural heritage content). Web.


Richardson, Elaine. African American Literacies. New York: Routledge, 2012. Print.


Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. “Land as Pedagogy: Nishnaabeg Intelligence and Rebellious Transformation.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, and Society 3.3 (2014):1–25. Web.


Smitherman, Geneva. Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black America. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1986. Print.


Special Issue: Comparative Rhetoric. Rhetoric Society Quarterly 43.3 (2013). Print.



Special Issue on Indigenous and Ethnic Rhetorics. College Composition and Communication 63.1 (2011). Print.



Special Issue on Latina/o Studies. College English 71.6 (2009). Print.


Tuhiwai Smith, Linda. Decolonizing Methodologies—Research and Indigenous Peoples. 2nd ed. London: Zed Books, 2012. Print.


Villanueva, Victor. “Memoria Is a Friend of Ours: On the Discourse of Color.” College English 67.1 (2004): 9–19. Print.


Wilson, Shawn. Research Is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods. 1st ed. Black Point: Fernwood, 2009. Print.



Resources for Further Reading: K-12 Levels



#BlkTwitterstorians. Web.


Chavez-Garcia, Miroslava. “Intelligence Testing at Whittier School, 1890–1920.” Pacific Historical Review 76.2 (2007): 193–228. Web.


Christensen, Linda, Dyan Watson, and Renée Watson. Rhythm and Resistance: Teaching Poetry for Social Justice. Milwaukee: Rethinking Schools, 2015. Print.


Collins, Daniel. “Audience in Afrocentric Rhetoric: Promoting Human Agency and Social Change.” Alternative Rhetorics: Challenges to the Rhetorical Tradition. Ed. Laura Gray-Rosendale and Sibylle Gruber. Albany: SUNY, 2001. Print.


De los Ríos, Cati V., Jorge López, and Ernest Morrell. “Toward a Critical Pedagogy of Race: Ethnic Studies and Literacies of Power in High School Classrooms.” Race and Social Problems 7.1 (2015): 84–96. Web.


Four Arrows (Don Trent Jacobs). Teaching Truly: A Curriculum to Indigenize Mainstream Education. New York: Peter Lang, 2013. Print.


Kirklighter, Cristina, ed. “Latin@s in Public Rhetoric, Civic Writing, and Service-Learning.” Reflections: Public Rhetoric, Civic Writing, and Service Learning 13.1 (2013). Print.


Klug, Beverly J., ed. Standing Together: American Indian Education as Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2012. Print.



Latin@s in Kid Lit: Exploring the World of Latino/a YA, MG, and Children’s Literature. Web.


Lee, Stacey J. Unraveling the ''Model Minority'' Stereotype: Listening to Asian American Youth. 2nd ed. New York: Teachers College P, 2009. Print.


Lomawaima, K. Tsianina, and Teresa L. McCarty. “To Remain an Indian”: Lessons in Democracy from a Century of Native American Education. New York: Teachers College P, 2006. Print.


Mahiri, Jabari, and Soraya Sablo. “Writing for Their Lives: The Non-School Literacy of California's Urban African American Youth.” The Journal of Negro Education 65.2 (1996): 164–180. Web.


Nakanishi, Don T., and Tina Yamano Nishida, eds. The Asian American Educational Experience: A Sourcebook for Teachers and Students. New York: Routledge, 1995. Print.


Perry, Theresa, Claude Steele, and Asa Hilliard III. Young, Gifted, and Black: Promoting High Achievement among African-American Students. Boston: Beacon, 2003. Print.



Vamos a leer: Teaching Latin American through Literacy. Latin American & Iberian Institute, University of New Mexico. Web.


Note: This statement was written by members of the CCCC Latin@ Caucus in collaboration with members of the American Indian Caucus and the Translingual SIG.

Prepared by the Ethnic Studies Task Force members:


Christina Cedillo

Alexandra Hidalgo

Iris Ruiz

Dale Allender.

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  • John Kawakami
    commented 2015-11-11 03:02:15 -0800
    While I support the ES requirement, after reading this, I am leaning toward Brown’s decision. This article is both specific and vague, and it feels like “let’s make a curriculum for the students to engage them.”

    I think ES in a US context has to be grounded in some Native American history and African American history, no matter what the population being educated is. Even if the room is mostly Asian or Latino, you have to start with the origins of racial division here, and that’s Black, White, and Red.