Ten Regional School Districts Work to Embed Cultural Proficiency
President Obama has stressed the importance of creating a more inclusive and diverse school system. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, "Education is the civil rights issue of our generation, the only sure path out of poverty and the only way to achieve a more equal and just society."
The Developing Inclusive Schools Consortium (DISC) is continuing its five-day institute on creating and sustaining culturally proficient school districts. The institute is being attended by large work teams (including superintendents and other district administrators, principals, teachers, and parents) from Edgewood, Forest Hills, Lakota, Mt. Healthy, Newport, Northwest, Norwood, Princeton, Talawanda and West Carrolton school districts. Attendees are eligible for academic credit through Xavier University.
The first days, held August 3 and 4, 2009, featured nationally-recognized leaders who provided a two-day intensive introduction to cultural proficiency. Dr. Raymond Terrell, co-author of Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School Leaders, and distinguished professional in residence in the Department of Educational Leadership at Miami University in Oxford, was co-leader. He was joined by Dr. Arthur Shriberg, a professor of management and entrepreneurship at Xavier. Shriberg has consulted with and facilitated training programs concerning leadership, diversity, management skills and group communication skills in over 150 corporate, governmental, health care, not-for-profit, and educational settings.
October 9 provided opportunities to share issues and best practices within and among districts. Attendees learned about the many messages and issues which concern students and educators today as related to issues of cultural diversity. A highlight of the day was the “Privilege Walk.” Attendees were split into two teams facing each other at opposite ends of the room. A number of statements were read. If a statement applied to you, you took one step forward. For example: “My home growing up had at least 50 books.” It was eye-opening to see the disparity in the lines after the statements were complete. This disparity underscored the many different circumstances from which students come to school. This activity also was a message of hope in terms of providing examples of how personal and societal obstacles can be overcome if students from all backgrounds are viewed as persons with potential.
At the two remaining sessions for 2009-10, to be held on January 22 and April 16, 2010 at the Cintas Center, school district teams will continue to meet and learn from the DISCO team and from one another as they begin to put their action plans into effect within their district. At these sessions, additional trainings on elements of diversity (e.g., race, ability level) will be provided by DISCO staff.
The ten districts participating in this institute contract with DISCO year-to-year, but understand that the process of developing and embedding cultural proficiency in day-to-day practice is a long term commitment. By joining DISC, a joint project of Developing Inclusive Schools Communities and Organizations (DISCO) and the Xavier Center for Excellence in Education (XCEED), participating school districts are seeking to close the academic achievement gap by helping schools create an inclusive climate, responsive to the challenges of increasing diversity.
“The most productiveway to face these diversity challenges is to come together as a consortiumto pool costs, learn from each other, and jointly participate in high quality training,” said Dr. Arthur Shriberg, co-director of DISC. “Membership in DISC provides opportunities to administrators, teachers and support staff to do just that.”