The Orange County Department of Education is partnering with several community organizations to hold a series of interactive engagement sessions, aiming to enrich the Southeast Asian Model Curriculum Projects and enhance students’ learning outcomes.
The events are designed to create a space for open dialogue and constructive feedback between the department’s partners and the local community, ensuring that the curriculum resonates with the community and aligns with the diverse needs and expectations of Orange County’s students.
In 2022, the California Department of Education selected OCDE to lead the development of three model curriculum projects centering on the Cambodian, Hmong and Vietnamese American histories, culture and refugee experiences. The projects’ names are Cambodian American Studies Model Curriculum, Hmong History and Cultural Studies Model Curriculum, and Vietnamese American Experiences Model Curriculum.
Driven by specific legislative mandates
The projects were initiated in response to Senate Bill 895, which was signed by then-Governor Jerry Brown in 2018 after it was approved by the state Legislature. Citing academic research on the importance of culturally meaningful and relevant curriculum, the bill set out to provide a template for K-12 lessons about Cambodian American history and heritage, Hmong history and cultural studies, and Vietnamese American refugee experiences.
The curriculum projects are driven by specific legislative mandates. SB 895 paved the way for subsequent action, notably the passage of Assembly Bill 167 and Senate Bill 369. AB 167 granted the California Department of Education the ability to contract with OCDE for the purpose of curricula development. SB 369 broadened the Cambodian curriculum to include American experiences.
While the curricula will not be mandatory, each will present ideas and examples for school districts to consider as they develop their own coursework. The lessons may be implemented as part of history, social studies or language courses — or included in a district’s ethnic studies program.
In line with a broader collaborative approach, OCDE conducted statewide sessions hosted in partnership with 12 agencies and county offices of education from October 2022 through May 2023. These sessions resulted in feedback from more than 330 participants.
The Fresno Center — formerly known as Fresno Center for New Americans — is one of OCDE’s active partners. This organization was established in response to the influx of Southeast Asian refugees after 1975. A majority of its clients are of Hmong descent, a community without a standard accepted written language. Much of their history is conveyed orally, posing challenges in preserving their heritage.
“Many of the elders, veterans and first-generation Hmong Americans are passing. It is important for us to start now to record as much as possible,” Dao Lor, a program manager at The Fresno Center, said. “Many participants were very engaged and commented that they were excited about the future of the Hmong.”
“Additional comments from participants stated that they could “rest in peace” knowing that the Hmong history will be taught in the education system.”
Community engagement sessions
OCDE will continue to lean on its partnerships with organizations working with Cambodian, Hmong and Vietnamese communities. Over the next few months, the department’s partners will host sessions, both virtually and in person across the state, to share drafted lessons and units with community members. These sessions aim to gather feedback by posing questions and assessing how well the content resonates with attendees.
Following the completion of these sessions, OCDE will consolidate and summarize findings from each event, utilizing the feedback to revise lessons and content.
These community engagement sessions are scheduled at various locations throughout the state, ensuring accessibility to a diverse range of participants.
The Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association — also known as VAALA — has signed on to host additional community engagement events.
“As time passes, VAALA recognizes the need to preserve the histories of Vietnamese Americans to ensure the community’s representation in history and language arts and other courses, as well as to foster connectedness, open dialogue and respect for others across California,” Eric Nong, an artistic director for the Viet Film Fest, said.
“We are enthusiastically helping the Orange County Department of Education in the creation of the Vietnamese American Experiences Model Curriculum.”
The curriculum development project has a target completion date of June 1, 2024. Following this, OCDE will lead the rollout of the curricula to ensure that educators who are interested have the necessary resources and support for effective implementation.
OCDE has published dates for each project and will continue to update the lists with newly scheduled events. To register for one of the sessions, or to learn more about the curricula, visit OCDE’s Model Curriculum Projects webpage.