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Saturday, May 07, 2016

Cultural Competency Considerations

Our school has done a lot of thinking about cultural competency. Many great questions and suggestions were shared, questions and suggestions that  I've given thought to below in italics. I'll revisit this list again during the summer as I revise and update curriculum, routines, and structure for the school year ahead.

  • What systemic issues can you identify that are within your sphere of control/influence to address? Curriculum design, classroom community, learning team communication and feedback loops, professional learning.

  • Examples of systemic issues mentioned in the survey:
    • Disparities in access: looking for ways to provide more equal access to programs, opportunities, information, support. 
    • Different levels of readiness when starting school, issues for students who arrive at school after first grade: Possible orientation programs, thoughtful decisions about grade-level placement, social competency homerooms, school-time mentors.
  • How can we use data to identify examples of the opportunity gap and well as identify improvements connected to the different interventions/actions the school has implemented? We need to look deeply at the data with a diverse group. We have to scrutinize the data for trends. We need to use research, observations, and experiences too as we study the data.
  • How can you collect and use feedback from students and parents from marginalized groups in terms of how they feel about their school experience in terms of school engagement and performance? Careful design of surveys, surveys that are translated, completing surveys one-to-one with parents, discussion groups and conversations. Looking more strategically at the data is important too. And looking at the data with diverse perspectives, multiple lenses. Prioritizing results, creating goals, and working together to meet those goals. The use of Academic Parent Teams could fit in here too.
  • What trends do you see in the area of economics, race, culture, gender, lifestyle, learning challenge, geography, others in relationship to academic engagement and achievement? I would have to carefully tease this out with good data and time.
  • The survey highlights that we work very hard to make sure that that students see themselves reflected in the literature/visuals/content. We can continue to build on this good effort. I would like to write a grant to display more inspiring school signage, words that supports this effort.


  • How can you continue to make the communications more personal? Careful attention to patterns and routines, use of time, collaboration, and classroom structure will support this.

  • How do you ensure that students from marginalized groups are actively engaged in their school experience? Beginning the year by identifying who these students are and what their experience has been so far. Sitting down and discussing this with their families. Working together to craft greater opportunity and access. Spending more time at the start of the year getting to know one another and building relationships. These games were noted as helpful: Peace First website

  • How do you assess the materials and curriculum to determine that all groups are represented? Making the time during our collaborative curriculum design and revision meetings to look carefully at this. Potentially using related checklists as guides.

  • How do you continue to establish trust as well as support for students who are less proficient in their language skills? Using a lot of visuals, having differently paced lessons/groups at times, providing extra support, using blended learning approaches including technology, and making sure students have access to technology and rich, multi-modal learning experiences.

  • How might deficit thinking and low expectations hinder academic engagement and achievement? This can impact teaching/learning greatly. We might want to study "deficit thinking and low expectations" more and begin to change any actions or language that support those actions, and replace that with strengths-based actions, thinking, and language.

  • How can you help students develop resilience while making sure you are tapping into your student's strengths and passions? Stories of resilience, explicit recognition of resilience examples and progression, asking students, "How can I help you to persevere and stick with it more?"

  • How can you reframe your outlook on the obstacles which currently seem outside your sphere of influence to find ways to break down them down so that they can be addressed? I.e.: never having enough time to do all that you would like to, learning time lost to non academic activities, transitions, announcements, etc. This is where collaborative, strategic planning with lead time is integral. It's also essential to spend the summer months thinking freely about how you might change patterns, routines, signage, language, structures, and roles to create a more welcoming, supportive, and successful teaching/learning environment for all. Again, collaboration and sharing ideas here is critical.

  • What programming changes can we make to better teach all children? Focusing on holistic progression over specific grade level or benchmarks can help every child succeed more. Using the RTI approach more often and more broadly for all students with flexible grouping throughout our teaching/learning efforts can help. Greater use of multi-age learning/teaching and interest/passion based groups. Also re-looking at summer supports and extending those supports to more students. The use of academic coaches to support students who are struggling. Greater attention to Tier 3 support work. Aligning supports better to curriculum efforts. Looking carefully how money is spent with regard to meeting students' needs.