Capistrano Unified Adopts Curriculum to Comply With California’s ‘Inclusive’ Education Law

By Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
May 24, 2022 Updated: May 31, 2022

The Capistrano Unified School District—the largest in Orange County, California, serving 14 cities and unincorporated areas—is adopting a history and social studies curriculum for kindergarten and elementary school students that includes “inclusive” material in order to comply with state education laws.

The state’s Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act, passed in 2012, requires schools to include historical contributions by people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community in their history and social studies curriculum.

Capistrano Unified’s Board of Education on May 18 unanimously voted to adopt the new history and social studies curriculum—known as “California Studies Weekly”—for grades K–5 after piloting it in classrooms for the past two years.

“I am very taken with this product,” Board Member Amy Hanacek said ahead of the vote. “I think it’s excellent. It’s engaging. It is modern. It’s how young people are learning, and I just like how fluid it is as well.”

The district’s previous K–5 history and social studies curriculum was adopted by the board in 2007; however, last week’s board report stated that these materials are outdated and not aligned with the FAIR Act.

Some sample materials of Studies Weekly’s workbooks for different grade levels are accessible on its website, which states that the curriculum can “engage all K–6 students in social studies, science, and social emotional learning” in a way that’s “aligned to state standards and frameworks” and “culturally relevant, post-2020 equity lens.”

Epoch Times Photo
Elementary aged students work on their math homework in Laguna Niguel, Calif., on May 12, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A social studies sample for kindergarten introduces concepts such as “equality,” “fairness,” “voting,” and the “common good.”

The third-grade sample offers lessons on communities, identity, and perspective.

The fourth-grade sample includes lessons highlighting civil rights activists, including labor union leaders Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and Larry Itliong.

According to the board report, the Studies Weekly curriculum “has been developed with increased diversity represented [and] … more California specific content, including local tribes by region, additional primary sources, and increased use of inquiry, critical thinking, and research skills,” and “integrated supportive lessons” for English language learners.

The district’s Elementary History and Social Studies Steering Committee initially recommended the Studies Weekly material to the district during the 2019–20 school year.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the district was unable to pilot the material in classrooms until 2021.

During the 2020–21 school year, the curriculum was tested in 60 elementary classrooms for 35 full instructional days, according to Peggy Baerst, the district’s executive director for Curriculum and Instruction. In the following school year, it was piloted in all district classrooms, from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Baerst said that the district conducted student and parent surveys during the pilot period before the curriculum was considered for official adoption.

“In January 2021, pilot teachers reviewed and discussed all data and evidence gathered from surveys. The pilot committee came to consensus to recommend California Studies Weekly for consideration,” Baerst told The Epoch Times in an email.

According to the board report, 65 percent of teachers who piloted the curriculum said the material was “engaging and interesting” in November 2021; in a January follow-up survey, 60 percent of the same group of teachers said so.

The report also showed that 79 percent of parents whose children received the lessons would like the board to adopt the curriculum.

The survey results were initially presented to the district’s Instructional Materials Review Committee on April 12, which encouraged the committee to recommend the Capistrano Unified board adopt the material.

It is currently unclear whether the adoption will take effect in the upcoming 2022–23 school year.

The estimated one-time cost to implement this adoption is $1,414,000, funded by district lottery funds.

California Studies Weekly is currently used in 45,633 schools across the nation, reaching 4,576,078 students, according to the curriculum’s website.