that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
James A. Baldwin
Disproportionality is a racial issue and in order to address it we must talk about race, its historical context, the complexity of culture, the intersections of race and poverty, and how all of these aspects effect teaching and learning
When asked why it's difficult to talk about race some typical responses are:
Cultural competence means having the knowledge, skills, experience and tools necessary to work effectively across cultures. Gaining cultural competence is a developmental process and includes engaging in conversations about race and equity, reflecting on one's own culture and beliefs and gaining awareness of other cultures.
Culturally Responsive Practices are the result of gaining cultural competence and implementing the tools, skills and perspectives into every aspect of education; curriculum, instruction, interventions, communication and policy decisions.
A number of terms are used interchangeably with cultural competence; cultural awareness, cultural responsivity, culturally relevant teaching, culturally responsive practice, and multiculturalism however, each term may be applied somewhat differently and indicate graduated steps along the cultural competence continuum and the developmental process of becoming culturally competent.
There are a number of ways to begin conversations about race, however a facilitator is key to the success and continuing development of the process as well as considering the culture of your school and school district.
Three initial ways to begin to have conversations about race/ethnicity and equity are:
Using Data - Disaggregating special education data, discipline data, achievement data, and graduation rates and then having a conversation to explore what the data indicates and what hypothesis might be applicable to your school or district as to why there are inequities. (See The Equity Project's LEAD brief, Using Data to Address Equity)
Text Based Discussions - There are many excellent articles and books which can form the basis for study groups or discussions at staff meetings. Using a protocol for a text based discussion is a tool to keep the focus on the material and provide varied opportunities for participants to share. (See Resources)
Experiential Workshops - If viewed as a starting point a well facilitated workshop in developing cultural competence can help develop a common language and act as a catalyst to continue conversations in ongoing small groups. If it is a one time event its effectiveness will be very limited for most participants.
Culturally Responsive Practice means asking difficult questions, and ensuring that those questions are discussed from many different perspectives. One of the core ideas in culturally responsive practices is that there is a multiplicity of truths in any given situation.
Some questions to consider are: