NEW REPORT: Providing Quality Education For All: Cultural Competency in K – 12 Education

Catherine DeCramer, Andrew Ryan, Simerun Singh
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This study investigates the cultural competency policies and practices of three Walla Walla public schools, identifies culturally competent practices, and suggests areas for improvement at each school and the district overall. The research was guided by our community partnership with the Bilingual Coordinator of the Walla Walla Public Schools (WWPS), Diana Erickson, and Latino Club Advisor, Bill Erickson.

METHODS: We used the “Snowball Method” to recruit teachers, administrators, Latino parents, and Latino students for individual and group interviews (in the case of parents and students) at Blue Ridge Elementary School, Garrison Middle School, and Walla Walla High School. The three schools have the highest percentage of Latino students in the district. Staff and faculty members at the three schools were surveyed about communication with Latino parents and Spanish-dominant speakers, confidence in teaching in culturally competent ways, general views on the effects of students’ cultural backgrounds and race in school, and experiences with prior cultural competency trainings.

FINDINGS:

  • In 2009, an unfunded mandate by the Washington State Legislature identified cultural competency as an effective means of reducing the achievement gap in Washington public schools.
  • There are no policies explicitly establishing a commitment to cultural competency at Blue Ridge, Garrison, or Walla Walla High School.
  • Teachers are uncertain about how to address racial conflict in the classroom, expressing more faith in their abilities to teach Latino students in culturally validating ways. Teachers more confidently encourage students of different cultural/racial backgrounds to work together after attending cultural competency trainings.
  • Latino students perceive certain barriers to their success at school, including discrimination from other students, lack of racially and culturally diverse staff members, and marginalization in advanced and Advanced Placement classes.
  • Latino families value schools’ efforts to affirm the cultural backgrounds of Latino students through providing bilingual staff members, culturally-inclusive family events, and express a desire that schools further develop these efforts.

 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE WWPS DISTRICT:

  • Increase racial and cultural diversity within district administration and on school staff.
  • Provide cultural competency training for teachers that focuses on developing cultural knowledge and an understanding of the role that culture plays in a person’s life.
  • Promote communication between Latino families and schools by involving minority parent representatives in the WWPS Diversity Committee and encouraging the hiring of bilingual staff members.
  • Identify, develop and implement culturally affirming practices in the classroom and in family outreach efforts.
  • Expand the reach of the dual-language program.

 

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