Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cultural Proficiency (#MASCconf2015)

In this standing-room only session, featured presenter Ron Walker, Executive Director, Coalition of Essential Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC) addressed the challenges around understanding and embedding cultural proficiency in our schools.

·      How are school policies supportive of cultural proficiency?
o   Is there full inclusion and awareness? We think and say there is, but there is not.
o   Do you have a cultural proficiency policy? Every policy that comes to the table needs the lens of cultural proficiency.
·      How are we as a state and country re-examining discipline?
o   The right approach is restorative justice including the culturally responsible approach of a Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) protocol.
·      Panel member Kharis McLaughlin, Director of Diversity in the Cambridge Public Schools, spoke to the language “all children.” The state says we can’t disaggregate data down to individual students but she disagrees. Even if there is one student of color, what if that student isn’t doing well? It’s not racist to look at each child because the goal should be to lead students to rigor and high standards. We shouldn’t use the term “sub-group.” If a student is doing well, we can’t replicate that to help others. We can’t support underperformance or replicate success without data analysis.
·      We can measure ourselves using the “Cultural Proficiency Continuum,” also known as the “Cultural Competence Continuum.” It looks like this:
o   Cultural destruction: destroys groups due to their culture (e.g. Holocaust, slavery, Trail of Tears).
o   Cultural incapacity: doesn’t destroy, but doesn’t improve.
o   Cultural blindness: fails to recognize, disregards, or ignores cultures.
o   Cultural pre-competence: good intentions and emerging, but need to learn more.
o   Cultural competence: appreciate all children and all communities.
o   Cultural proficiency: no one really meets this standard since it involves policy, practice, attitudes, and behaviors. We all aspire to this.
·      Do a cultural scan. Be conscious. Notice and respect people at all times in all places (e.g. at Market Basket, the man packing grocery bags was from a different culture. Asking “how do you pronounce your name?” shows respect.) Ask yourself “Where am I and where do I want to be?”
·      Is poverty an overlay question? The data of poor white boys is not that different from poor black and Latino boys.
·      The parent piece is not about bake sales. Parents are allies. They inform policy and act as liaisons.
·      Reflect on what all students should be able to know, understand, and do.
·      Nothing supersedes teacher quality and a teacher’s belief that all students can learn. High expectations for all is the key.