Last month, we talked a bit about how to create classrooms that are open and inviting for our students of color. Of course, many of you already work hard to foster this warm and safe environment. So, if we do in fact have classrooms like this all over the nation, then why do we still see differences in student achievement? It’s a big question that defies a quick and simple response.
After looking at the microcosm of the classroom, we need to widen our lens and examine the communities in which those classrooms are situated to continue formulating our answer.
How do we assure that our school environments welcome not only our students, but their families as well? There is no one strategy that every school should implement. But there are a number of critical questions you can ask that can guide your journey to a more inclusive learning environment that recognizes and invites all stakeholders to participate in promoting student success:
1. Are families/stakeholders greeted warmly when they enter the school office?
2. Is there clear, consistent communication between home and school?
3. Is paperwork sent home in English and families’ home languages?
4. Are there bilingual staff available to help communicate with families that visit the school?
5. Does your school have high academic standards?
6. Does your school have the belief that all students can achieve those high standards?
7. Does your school see students’ cultural differences as assets for achievement rather than deficits that need to be modified to fit mainstream culture?
8. Does your school proactively plan curriculum and programming to challenge all students?
9. Are there opportunities for parents to communicate with the school about ideas, issues, or concerns and advocate for students?
10. Does your school have strong partnerships with a wide range of groups within the community?
11. Are community members and parents from all backgrounds welcomed as volunteers in the school?
12. Are there school events which examine and celebrate various cultures, other than the “standard” designated times (i.e. Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Chinese New Year, etc.)?
13. Is your school engaged in open, honest conversations about race?
Creating school communities that welcome and engage culturally diverse learners and their families takes commitment and energy. But when we create these communities, we’re empowering all students and their families.
Struggling with some of the aspects of a culturally proficient school? There are many great resources out there. Some suggested readings:
Davis, Bonnie. How to Teach Students Who Don’t Look Like You: Culturally Responsive Teaching Strategies 2nd Edition. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2012).
Hutchins, Darcy J., Marsha D. Greenfeld, Joyce L. Epstein, Mavis G. Sanders, and Claudia L. Galindo. Multicultural Partnerships: Involve All Families (Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education, 2012).
Lindsay, Randall, Laraine M. Roberts, Franklin Campbell Jones. The Culturally Proficient School: An Implementation Guide for Leaders. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2005).
Singleton, Glenn. More Courageous Conversations About Race (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2013).