Identity-focused classes: Experiments in cultural relevance

We speak with Dr. Emily Penner, who studied the impacts of two programs in which students delved into their respective races, ethnicities, and communities. San Francisco’s was designed for academically-struggling students of a range of ethnicities. Oakland’s was designed for young Black men across academic achievement levels, as part of the district’s  “targeted universalism” approach. The results, in both cases, were dramatic. 


00:00-00:30 Intros

00:30-01:32 San Francisco ethnic studies curriculum

01:32-03:01 Student selection

03:01-03:41 Students’ ethnicities and classrooms’ composition

03:41-04:19 Student voice and reflection

04:19-05:02 “Critical pedagogy”

05:02-12:40 Effects on student attendance and achievement

12:40-15:11 Teachers exercising their professional judgment

15:11-15:18 Professional development

15:18-18:01 Differentiating between impact of “great teachers” and the curriculum

18:01-19:49 “High fidelity context”

19:49-23:48 Oakland’s African American Male Achievement program

23:48-25:27 Targeted Universalism & working with a range of  groups of students

25:27-28:57 Outcomes and effects

28:57-29:21 Spillover effect on young Black women

29:21-30:24 Avoiding deficient orientation

30:24-31:42 Relationship to My Brother’s Keeper

31:42-35:19 Developments in ethnic studies in California

35:19-37:15 Qualitative resources about Oakland program

37:15-38:45 Outro


Click here to see the full transcript of this episode.


Photo by JD Doyle

Soundtrack by Podington Bear