Impact of professional learning on cultural proficiency
Sims, Barbara Nell
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Bridging the achievement gap has become a major focus for most school districts as one result of NCLB and high-stakes testing. New assessment accountability measures are forcing leaders to take a fresh look at standards-based leadership and accountability in the context of diverse schools. The need for multicultural training is no longer isolated within urban communities. Milner (2010) argues that it is critically important, particularly, for educators in urban, suburban, and rural environments to understand the “differences, complexities, and nuances” inherent in what it means to teach in these settings (Milner, 2012, p. 709). Culturally proficient teachers and leaders are needed to address twenty-first century students in our increasingly diverse and modern technological world: “Cultural proficiency is a model for shifting the culture of the school or district; it is a model for individual transformation and organizational change” (Lindsey et al., 2009, p. 4). Teacher preparation programs are not adequately preparing their pre-service students to understand changes in curricular approaches to diversity from the color-blind approach to multiculturalism. Meece and Wingate recommend that pre-service teachers need training in how to understand the anti-bias curriculum and its relationship to the current achievement gap. Culturally relevant pedagogy rests on three criteria or propositions: “(a) students must experience academic success; (b) students must develop and/or maintain cultural competence; and (c) students must develop a critical consciousness through which they challenge the current status quo of the social order” (p. 160). This action research case study examines the impact of cultural proficiency training on the beliefs, biases, and assumptions of elementary grade teachers. The theories used to frame this action research study include the Cultural Proficiency Theory and the Culturally Responsive Instruction Theory (CRI), undergirded by Mezirow’s Transformative Adult Learning Theory supported by the Social Capital Theory.