ABOUT EDUCATION THAT IS MULTICULTURAL AND ACHIEVEMENT
DEFINITION AND APPROACHES
A broad-based definition of multicultural education as a process of comprehensive school reform challenges educators to rethink traditional practices by addressing issues of bias, prejudice and discrimination that have resulted in educational inequities. Educational equity requires not just the provision of equal access to resources and learning opportunities, but also an equity of outcomes in which a much broader range of students experience the high academic achievement that leads to workplace and personal success and satisfaction (Nieto 1996). Multicultural education must permeate all aspects of curriculum, instruction and staff development if we are to achieve the goals set forth in the Regulations.
All curriculum and instructional support materials must reflect the contributions and perspectives of the cultural groups in America in a nonstereotypic manner. Students must be given opportunities to recognize that what might seem reasonable, relevant and important from one cultural perspective may be irrational, irrelevant, and unimportant from another cultural frame of reference. This requires an expansion of curriculum that not only examines knowledge, concepts, and information from multiple perspectives, but that reflects students' interests and experiential backgrounds (Banks, 1995).
Teachers must use a wide repertoire of instructional approaches and techniques to ensure equal access to learning. The recognition that culturally different students may prefer to learn in environments and through the presentation of content that differs from traditional pedagogy must be understood and accepted by all teaching staff. The literature is replete with best instructional practices for facilitating academic achievement. Often cited practices include attention to learning styles, cooperative learning, flexible grouping, and communication of high expectations (Grant and Sleeter, 1989).
Change in usual teaching practices will require ongoing high quality staff development that includes a wide variety of professional growth promoting processes. Teachers and administrators need opportunities to reflect critically on their teaching practices and to construct new beliefs and knowledge about students, instruction, and curriculum. Change in practice must be accepted as a routine effect in a continuous improvement model.
Connections with parents and the community at large will facilitate attainment of the goals of multicultural education. School staff and parents must forge productive partnerships that promote the academic, social, and emotional development of children.
THE SOCIAL CONTEXT
The United States and Maryland have always been multicultural societies that reflect great ethnic, cultural, and economic diversity. Because of its statewide diversity, Maryland has been called "America in Miniature." Currently, 30% of students in the United States are ethnic minorities. In Maryland, one in ten Marylanders is foreign-born, and Maryland's public schools educate a student population that is 42% ethnic minority (35% African American, 3% Hispanic, 4% Asian, .5% Native American). Over 100 nations and 130 languages and dialects are represented in Maryland schools. Also reflecting diversity, 12% of Maryland students have disabilities requiring special education services, and more than 13% are living at the poverty level.
Socially, our society still reflects racial, cultural, economic, and ethnic divisiveness. There has been an increase in recent years of anti-immigrant sentiment and reported incidents of hate- violence based on diversity factors. In response to this, President Clinton in 1997 established a National Initiative on Race" to address these issues. Noted educator Dr. Geneva Gay has stated:
Despite the pluralism of United States society, most people live in relatively isolated enclaves, away from others who are racially, socially, and culturally different. Individuals from the same ethnic groups live in close proximity to one another, creating largely single race or ethnic group geographic clusters. The population tends to be separated along economic lines, so that members of the middle upper and lower social classes do not interact with one another on egalitarian levels.... This absence of close and significant interactions across ethnic, social, and cultural lines may reinforce stereotypes and cause individuals to be suspicious and distrustful - even fearful - of those who are different. Multicultural education is needed to help reverse these trends and attitudes by teaching youth about culturally dfferent groups and by providing opportunities for individuals from diverse backgrounds to learn, live, and work together. (Gay, 1994)
In spite of federal, state, and local laws, discrimination and disparities still exist in our institutions. This is evident in areas such as employment, health care, and educational achievement based on race, gender, ethnicity, and disability. Education That Is Multicultural, as it helps youth to celebrate diversity and use positive social action strategies to improve our institutions, can assist our nation in reducing disparities and in implementing both the letter and spirit of our laws.
The need for multicultural education is also evident in light of the increased pluralism in our nation and in the context of the growing global interdependence of nations.
The increasing ethnic diversity of the United States population makes multicultural education for all students imperative, particularly if education is to fulfill its basic functions by being personally meaningful, socially relevant, culturally accurate, and educationally sound. (Banks, 1994)
Increased global interdependence means that U.S. citizens must know how to interact in different ways and under different circumstances with unfamiliar people at home and abroad. Successful interactions and relationships require the use of knowledge, attitudes, and skills about cultural diversity within a global context. (Bennett, 1990)
Education that is multicultural ig a vaIuable tool for enabling students to learn and succeed in our diverse state, nation, and "global village." It can promote positive and effective interactions as our young people grow academically and socially and prepare to be productive citizens in their families, communities, and workplaces. Education That Is Multicultural should be an important component of the national and state education goals to promote lifelong learning as we continue to strive to build a more just and equitable society.
CULTURAL DIVERSITY AND SCHOOL
The role of cultural diversity in public education must be considered in the effort to prepare students for the future. Success of an educational system is reflected not only in the attainment of high test scores, but is also reflected in the ability of graduates to earn livable wages and contribute positively to their families, communities, and democracy. In Maryland, Education That Is Multicultural includes race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, region, religion, language, age and disability. Our national and state data reflect different educational success rates for students. These results are impacted by cultural bias and inequity of resources.
Often, the combinations of diversity variables intensify the disparities of educational success. For example, in the United States in 1993, 46% of all African American children and 41% of all Latino children lived with families with incomes below the poverty level. The combination of race and economic barriers makes educational success more challenging for minority students who live in poverty.
The cultural competency of teachers and other important educational players is a key issue in student success. While the student population in the United States is becoming increasingly racially and linguistically diverse, our teacher population is increasingly homogenous based on race, economics, language, and gender. More frequently than not, entrants to the field of education are white, monolingual females who are from lower middle-class backgrounds. Cultural bias impacts teacher effectiveness with culturally diverse students. Faulty expectations can be based on any one or combination of diversity variables.
Evidence is clear that student achievement is detrimented by culturally hostile learning environments. For example, a 1990 study documented eight forms of racism that impact the school success of students of color. These are:
1. Hostile or insensitive acts
2. Bias in the use of harsh sanctions
3. Bias in giving attention to students
4. Bias in the selection of curriculum materials
5. Inequality in amount of instruction
6. Bias in attitudes toward students
7. Failure to hire racial minority teachers and other school personnel at all levels
8. Denial of racist actions
In addition, the American Association of University Women report, Hostile Hallways, raised national awareness of students' experiences with sexual harassment and its detrimental impact on student achievement.
Throughout the nation, local schools have responded in a variety of ways to address cultural diversity in education. From the food served in the school caferteria to tasks on the state assessments, everything that happens in schools has a cultural context. Local school system reforms have addressed instruction, curriculum, professional development and family involvement as vehicles to ensure an anti-bias, multicultural approach to education.
Current research, extensively referenced in the Banks and Banks edited Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education, confirms the urgency and complexity of multicultural diversity issues in teaching and learning. Students across the state, as well as throughout the country, are not achieving to standard, and the greatest gaps in achievement rest with students of color.
A number of variables have contributed to these achievement trends. In recent years, we have embraced an increasingly diversified student population. This has emerged along with a less diverse trend among our teacher population. A number of instructional strategies have been identified as being effective with culturally diverse students, such as cooperative learning, GESA, attention to learning styles, high expectations and tapping higher order thinking skills. The essential on-going trend, however, rests in the commitment and accountability to ensure that all of our students equitably achieve at high levels of performance. Considering the multicultural context of this situation, we are called to address what form this commitment and accountability must take.
In order to more effectively address this challenge, we must identify and recognize through competent practice other factors that contribute to student achievement which have not been given sufficient attention. Culture is the sum total of lived experience, a socialized means of survival that any group of people acquire in response to their lived environment. Teaching and learning are a core activity in our lived experience. Thus culture and the teaching and learning process are integral aspects one to the other. Given the inherent influence and presence of culture within leamers and teachers, within the core curriculum, and within modes of instructional delivery, culture is gradually emerging into recognition as a strong variable in educational practice. It stands to reason that we are challenged to draw out the cultural components that are pertinent to academic achievement.
Our orientation has been to achieve mastery in our grade-level curricular disciplines, and to pass it along to our students such that they can demonstrate mastery of knowledge and skills as measured by standardized test; such as mastery taught, mastery leamed, mastery measured, student achievement. As noted in our discussion above, we have been largely unsuccessful with our culturally diverse student population not withstanding the use of progressive instructional strategies. The culture diversity variable and its many subcomponents have been marginalized in our approaches to attaining equitable student achievement. This marginalization is analogous to the marginalization that called for the development of Education That Is Multicultural Regulations.
Demographics have undergone considerable transformation, while the core of our approach to teaching and learning has been only marginally transformed. An article entitled "Constructivism and Multicultural Education" written by Carla Matheson and Russell Young, professors of Teacher Education and Policy Studies in Language and Cross Cultural Education in the College of Education at San Diego State University (Multicultural Education, Summer 1995) provides us with viable guidelines to cause the transformation needed to attain student achievement among students of diverse cultural backgrounds. If we consider the notion of Education That Is Multicultural as a critical bridge to achievement, we can see how Matheson and Russell provide us with several useful guidelines to be integrated into our teaching strategies to learner's level of self-awareness and self-concept.
The authors assert, "New information moves through a cognitive filter of pre- existing personal thoughts, beliefs, and experiences which affect perceptions, interpretations" ..... which can either facilitate or impede knowledge and skill acquisition.
Further, James Banks has delineated in his comprehensive Dimensions of Multicultural Education framework the notion that personal/cultural knowledge is the filter through which persons teach and learn. Achievement in teaching and learning occurs in a social context which requires an integration of affective and cognitive function. He states in Multicultural Education Development, Dimensions, and Challenges, (Phi Delta Kappan, September 1993) that cultural conflict occurs in the classroom because the personal cultural knowledge of teachers and students are inconsistent with one another. Needless to say, where there is cultural conflict, learning remains all in the margin. This accumulates into gaps in the teaching/learning process, which in turn results in gaps in student achievement. The raw truth of this statement leads us to understand that as teachers, we must be taught not only to master the knowledge and skills that are pertinent to our grade-level subject matter, but we must be taught how to identify, recognize, master, and engage the cultural parts of ourselves and our students that are pertinent to the culture of teaching and learning needed to ensure that the instructional message sent is the instructional message received.
These factors have not been given sufficient attention given the integral nature of the multicultural reality characteristic of the educational process today. These components must be within ourselves as teachers, and must be incorporated at the center of day to day inculcated classroom practice. The knowledge and skills to accomplish this mode of mastery must be initiated and established throughout teacher training and staff development in every grade and discipline. To be effective in contributing significantly to student achievement, it is essential that these factors not be incorporated as separate, but within each content area and instructional delivery mechanism.
Our teachers' and learners' demographics have undergone cultural/multicultural transformation. If our students are to achieve from our efforts to teach them, then our teaching and learning process must undergo cultural/multicultural transformation as well.
Perhaps cultural diversity impacts assessment more than any other facet of instruction. One's cultural value system shapes one's view of self, relationship with others, nature, time, action, society, and logic itself. The manner in which students acquire and process information is deeply rooted in culture; hence, educators must better understand, respect, and adapt to these cultural variations and preferences, particularly in this enlightened age of "authentic assessment." If the teacher rightfully attempts to hit the student where she or he lives, the teacher will then consider a variety of foci in determining the best response mode for assessment. For example, does the teacher allow, and encourage the student to focus on the past, present, and future? Does the teacher allow the student to view concepts spiritually as well as materialistically, intuitively as well as factually, cooperatively as well as competitively? Or does the teacher look for the "right" answer, based in large part on the "dominant" culture's world view?
The medium of expression also plays out here. The recognition of intelligence as being much more than one's logical/linguistic blend brings to light the notion of "intellectual diversity," a.k.a. the multiple intelligences. The question "How are you smart?" rather than "How smart are you?" opens pathways of instruction and assessment that have lied dormant for the better part of the 20th century. Howard Gardner's research into the capacities of the human brain have shattered the view of intelligence as something that can be measured with a single pencil and paper instrument, particularly a conventional I.Q. test. One's ability to solve problems and fashion products that are culturally relevant in ways that involve the hands and the heart, the body and the emotions, have reshaped our view of what it means to be "smart." Educators must therefore allow for a variety of responses that enable students to test their understanding in ways that are culturally relevant to them. This of course does not mean that students should only work in their strongly developed intelligence areas; rather, students should be given a diversity of response modes that enable them to develop strength in all areas: verbal-linguistic; logical- mathematical; visual-spatial; bodily-kinesthetic, musical-rhythmic, intrapersonal and interpersonal.
In addition to sociological and perceptual "learning styles" being validated and utilized in assessment, conceptual styles also must be accounted for. "Field dependent" learners, for example, generally will not respond to traditional, linear lines of thought, needing to process concepts, issues, problems, themes, and so forth on a more holistic, circular basis. Relationship- building must therefore be allowed to take root. Perhaps a constructiveness approach, wherein students' prior knowledge and experiences govern the manner in which a concept is taught and assessed, works best with these students. Connecting learning to the student's "environmental" life and concerns would serve as the catalyst here.
In short, sensitivity and responsiveness to students' diverse learning styles best informs instruction and assessment. By better understanding, respecting, and using diversity toward the end of academic excellence, educators are turning what unfortunately has been a cliche into something quite functional: equity and excellence for all students.
Affirming Diversity: The Socio-Political Context of Multicultural Education, Second Edition, Sonia Nieto, Longman Publishers, New York, NY, 1996
Comprehensive Multicultural Education: Theory and Practice, James A. Banks, ed., Allyn and Bacon, Boston, 1990
The Condition of Education, Vol. 1: Elementary and Secondary, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C., 1992
"Constructivism and Multicultural Education", Journal of Multicultural Education, Summer, 1995
Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education, James A. Banks and Cherry McGee Banks, eds., MacMillian Publishing Company, New York, NY, 1995
Maryland Public Education Fact Book: 1996, Maryland State Department of Education, Baltimore, 1996
Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives, James A. Banks and C.A. Banks, Allyn and Bacon, Boston, 1993
A Synthesis of Scholarship in Multicultural Education: A Monograph, Geneva Gay, NCREL Education Monograph Series, Seattle, 1994
Turning on Learning: Five Approaches for Multicultural Teaching Plans for Race, Class, Gender, and Disability, Carl A. Grant and Christine E. Sleeter, MacMillian Publishing Company, New York, NY, 1989
The State ofAmerica's Children: 1995, Children's Defense Fund, Washington, D.C., 1995
America`s Teachers: Profile of a Profession 1993-1994, National Center for Education Statistics, 1997
"Schools Find Teachers in Short Supply: A Report of NEA and AACTE Findings," USA Today, August 8, 1996
"Racial/Ethnic Harassment: What Reseach Reveals," Martha Adler; in Equity Coalition for Race, Gender and National Origin Newsletter, Volume IV, Number 1, Spring 1996
Hostile Hallways: The AAUW Survey on Sexual Harassment in America `s Schools, American Association of University Women, Washington, D.C., 1993