Students in American public schools represent an increasingly diverse population in terms of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and other characterizations. Students come from a variety of cultures, backgrounds, and home environments. More specifically, culture includes shared traditions, symbols, language, behaviors, and what is considered normal and abnormal for a group of people. Vygotsky (1978) explained that students come to school with experiences that impact how they assimilate new information. Humans learn through interaction with others and interpretation of information is based upon past experiences and current perceptions. Based on this thinking, educators must develop cultural competence in order to provide an appropriate education to all children. Educators in leadership roles are positioned to practice culturally responsive leadership, which includes developing and supporting a culturally competent staff.
Researchers at Harvard University, University of Washington, and University of Virginia founded Project Implicit, which is ongoing research that “investigates thoughts and feelings that exist outside of conscious awareness or conscious control” (https://www.projectimplicit.net/index.html). At the website, anyone can take an implicit association test. These tests demonstrate that even when a person says (and truly believes) they do not have a bias toward a certain race, body type, or sexual orientation, oftentimes, there still exists an underlying and unconscious preference for one over the other. In light of this information, educational leaders must take deliberate actions to practice culturally responsive leadership.
The International Successful School Princi...
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...dividual students), and engendering competence (supporting the student based on their background and allowing students to assess their own work). Indeed, in the state of Pennsylvania, teachers are evaluated using the Danielson Framework for Teaching and to be rated as “distinguished” is to have a classroom in which the students are intrinsically motivated and take responsibility for their own learning and self-assessment.
All schools have some level of diversity. Whether diversity is skin color, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background, educational leaders must make a deliberate effort to be culturally competent. Moreover, education leaders need to coach teachers to utilize culturally responsive strategies when developing lessons. If the goal is to ensure all students become competent and productive citizens, all students deserve the same opportunity to learn.
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