Cultural Competency: Implications for Education Leaders

Castellano-j120x148Much like the teaching force across America, administrators serving low-income, culturally and linguistically diverse student populations are primarily white. While we continue to recruit more diverse educators to the profession, it is not feasible to think that we can always match the demographics of teachers or administrators with the demographics of their students. Is this even necessary?

How important is it to be of the same demographic group as the students with whom you work?

One answer to the dilemma is developing the cultural competence of teachers and administrators currently in the field. Culturally competent educators work to understand their own biases and patterns of discrimination. They have the skills to mitigate the attendant negative effects on student achievement and the personal courage and commitment to persist. Culturally competent educators need to understand their own cultural history and contemporary status, as well as that of their students and their communities. In particular, if they are to fully appreciate their students’ strengths and needs, culturally competent educators must first identify where and how structural and/or institutional inequities have affected students’ lives.

Can educational and instructional leaders who are not culturally competent be fully effective? How do you challenge your own biases and patterns of discrimination in your school community? How can school leaders be proactive about building cultural competency?

Post submitted by Jaime Castellano, principal and director of gifted education at Ganado Intermediate School in Ganado, Ariz., and 2011 Annual Conference Scholar.