School Leaders and Cultural Competence

School Leaders and Cultural Competence

Maysaa Barakat (Auburn University, USA), Maria Martinez Witte (Auburn University, USA) and James E. Witte (Auburn University, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4249-2.ch009
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Culture is a core element in everyday living within the United States. The variety of races, traditions, languages, and religious beliefs contribute to a cultural combination that is rich and strengthens the bonds of our society. However, within school systems cultural differences, seen through the eyes of prejudice and stereotyping, can deter and hinder student achievement and teaching efforts. Incorporating cultural competencies within educator preparation and professional development programs can serve to provide equitable education and address the achievement gap with culturally diverse students. This chapter discusses current research practices and advances in cultural competence within U.S. schools and educational institutions.
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Culturally Responsive Educational Leaders

The increasing significance of culturally relevant, responsive, and competent leadership in schools is made clear given the sheer increase in the number and percentage of school children representing a diversity of racial, ethnic, and linguistic populations in the United States (Horsford, Grosland, & Gunn, 2011, p. 586).

Educational leaders must acquire the necessary knowledge and skills and pair them with ethical values and beliefs to support intercultural communication and create multicultural and socially just school communities to operate successfully within the emerging global education environment (Grestl-Pepin & Aiken, 2012). “As we begin to face a new global order, leaders are challenged by changes such as increasing cultural diversity, changing demographics, economic exigencies, complexity,…social change,…classism and values tension, as well as expressions of spirituality, religion or faith” (p. xv). Culturally and linguistically diverse students are underrepresented in advanced and gifted programs while they are over represented in intellectual and learning disabilities as well as emotional disturbance categories (Huber, Hynds, Skelton, Papacek, Gonzalez, & Lacy, 2012). Some argue that all students are capable of achievement and actually achieve in a positive learning environment (Donovan & Cross, 2002; Gandara, 2000; Huber et al., 2012). This argument refers to the achievement gap and recommended actions to close the gap. The achievement gap among students from marginalized groups could be due to educational leaders’ lack of cultural knowledge and skills as well as cultural mismatch between home and school (Huber, et al., 2012; Sirin, Rogers-Sirin, & Collins, 2010).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cultural Competence: “The ability of professionals to function successfully with people from different cultural backgrounds, including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, culture, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, physical or mental ability, age, and national origin” (Kohli, et al., 2010, p. 3).

Praxis: Praxis in the Freireian sense involves both reflection and action. Accordingly when knowledge and reflection are not followed by action they become worthless; mere verbalism. The opposite is also true, when action does not stem from knowledge and reflection it also becomes worthless; mere uninformed activism. True praxis is a process that involves the ongoing interaction and integration between reflection and action.

Educational Leader: A moral steward, educator or a community builder.

Color-Blind: Maintaining racial disparity within the society by using behind race-neutral language.

Achievement Gap: The disparities between different demographic groups of students in academic performance in school as measured by standardized test scores.

Cultural Intelligence: An individual’s capability to function and manage effectively in culturally diverse settings.

Minority Population: The term refers to non-white population including, but not limited to, African Americans, Native Americans, Asians and Hispanic populations and also immigrants who are racially, religiously, ethnically, and/or linguistically different from dominant white population.

Culture: “The way in which variables like ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class, religion, political affiliation, physical and mental abilities, and geographic location, intermingle to influence the values, beliefs, attitudes, and practices of people” (Kohli et al., 2010, p. 3).

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