Equity & Diversity

Reaching Minority Students Through Cultural Competency

By Francesca Duffy — December 05, 2011 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

In Indianapolis Public Schools, where the majority of teachers are white and the majority of students belong to ethnic and racial minority groups, teachers are being pushed to bridge cultural divides that may be present in their classrooms. According to the Indy Star, IPS has each of its teachers take a survey on diversity that is designed to open discussion about cultural differences in school communities. The paper also reports that this year marks the first time that IPS teachers are required to incorporate multicultural themes into their curriculum. For this purpose, the district created a 335-page curriculum “with ideas on lessons in African-American history” for teachers to implement in their classroom. A second curriculum that focuses on lessons in Latino history is also said to be in the works.

In an effort to develop greater “cultural competency,” a few of the teachers have made a conscious effort to use techniques designed to help them to reach out to and engage their minority students. One educator told the paper that he frequents the events that he knows his students’ attend in order to learn more about their cultures. “You can see a new side of them in their comfort zones. . . . I know better what to expect from them in the classroom,” said Jared Allen, a science teacher at Pike High School. Another teacher reported that he makes a point to learn the “teen slang” his students use in their everyday lives to better communicate with them and demonstrate that he truly cares about their lives. “I try to create an atmosphere where they know I’m on their side,” said George Sims, a teacher at George Washington Community High School.

According to the Indy Star, while some educators see “cultural competency” as an important tool for teachers in diverse settings, others question its necessity:

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. Others argue that to focus specifically on ethnic and racial difference is a mistake—that it's more important for teachers to understand the effects of poverty.

What are your thoughts on the need for educators to be trained in cultural competency? Is it important for teachers to take account of student ethnic and racial differences in their teaching methods?

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Reported Essay What the Indian Caste System Taught Me About Racism in American Schools
Born and raised in India, reporter Eesha Pendharkar isn’t convinced that America’s anti-racist efforts are enough to make students of color feel like they belong.
7 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Reported Essay Our Student Homeless Numbers Are Staggering. Schools Can Be a Bridge to a Solution
The pandemic has only made the student homelessness situation more volatile. Schools don’t have to go it alone.
5 min read
Conceptual illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity How Have the Debates Over Critical Race Theory Affected You? Share Your Story
We want to hear how new constraints on teaching about racism have affected your schools.
1 min read
Mary Hassdyk for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion When Educational Equity Descends Into Educational Nihilism
Schools need to buckle down to engage and educate kids—not lower (or eliminate) expectations in the name of “equity.”
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty