Teacher Training Is Needed To Support Multicultural 'Reorientation,' NASBE Says

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State school boards must encourage the revamping of teacher-training programs at both the preservice and inservice levels in order to incorporate multicultural perspectives into education successfully, according to a report by the National Association of State Boards of Education.

"Without sustained support to realign teacher perceptions, attitudes, and teaching techniques, odds for successfully reorienting schools for multiculturality are seriously diminished," the report concludes.

The 31-page document, entitled "The American Tapestry: Educating a Nation, a Guide to Infusing Multiculturalism into American Education" contains nine recommendations for altering the "Eurocentric" slant of existing curricula to reflect the increasing ethnic diversity of public-school classrooms.

The NASBE report "challenges state boards to examine their policies, practices, and procedures through a multicultural lens" and make the appropriate changes to "infuse a multicultural perspective into every school, in every district."

Noting that the public schools increasingly are called upon to educate a diverse population of children from a variety of cultural backgrounds, the report argues that state boards must take the lead in promoting diversity.

"A strong visible commitment to multiculturalism in education must come from the top and be accompanied by resources and a proactive stance on diversity," the report states.

'Multiculturalism' Favored

The report was developed over the course of a year by a 14-member study group led by Lucas Isidro, a member of the Connecticut state board.

The panel emphasizes in its report that it chose to reject the term "multicultural education"--which it said implies an "add-on" approach to teaching diversity--in favor of "multiculturalism in education."

The "critical distinction" between the two terms, the panel said, is that multiculturalism represents "an appeal for broad cultural inclusion and consideration of every facet of the school environment."

The report recommends that state policymakers ensure "broad cultural, ethnic, and gender representation" on state education boards, in the staffing of the state department of education, and on all advisory bodies.

State boards should develop more sophisticated systems for gathering and analyzing data that affect learning to provide "continuous information on state diversity," the report says.

In the area of teacher training and staff development, the report recommends linking accreditation of teacher-training institutions to "a comprehensive infusion of multiculturalism in teacher-education programs."

The report also recommends that state boards develop policies that ensure multiculturalism in staff training for teachers, administrators, and other school personnel.

In the area of curriculum, the report recommends the adoption of policies of "cultural inclusion that are cross-disciplinary" and extend beyond specific areas of the curriculum.

State boards, the report states, should encourage textbook publishers to adopt multicultural perspectives in instructional materials and adopt assessment tools that are grounded in cultural diversity.

"The ability of schools to successfully educate children of color rests with their ability to draw on the strengths of a child's culture," the report notes.

It adds that "to neglect this concept is to assume it is morally acceptable to ignore children's cultures, and thus let them fail."

Copies of the report are available for $7 each, prepaid, from NASBE, 1012 Cameron St., Alexandria, Va. 22314; telephone (703) 684-4000.

Vol. 11, Issue 07, Page 4

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