Can Cultural Competency be Learned?

Posted on February 02, 2012

Making differences work in schools

“Cultural competency” training is designed to give teachers techniques and strategies that can help them not only reach minority students but also capitalize on cultural diversity in the classroom. At its core, cultural competency is about understanding differences and the role those differences play in how best to teach children.

For example, many high-achieving schools with large minority populations focus on achievement and visioning, or prompting the kids to imagine themselves succeeding by going to college and into desirable careers, according to Diana Daniels, executive director of the Indianapolis-based National Council on Educating Black Children.

By training teachers in those techniques, Daniels said, “you can teach a Caucasian to effectively teach African-American and Latino students in high-impact schools.” Some teachers bristle at the idea that they need training to teach kids who are different from them. To them, teaching is teaching. And children are children. Even among those who favor training, there are vigorous debates about what it should look like. For example, some think training should be specific to the ethnic traditions of the kids who attend a particular school.

Teacher population “whiter and whiter”

Two things, however, are indisputable: Socioeconomic and racial/ethnic achievement gaps exist in education, and the urban-school teachers struggling to close those gaps are increasingly unlike their students.

Author: Scott Elliott, Indestar

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