2010 Cultural Proficiency in Education: A Review of the Literature focused on Teachers, School Leaders, and Schools

By Cady Landa, M.P.P

Sociedad Latina‘s Youth Community Organizers (YCOs) have challenged Boston Public School officials, lawmakers, teachers, and business leaders to do right by Boston students. As those most affected by our city's persistent achievement gap and inequity in education, the youth are in the best position to develop and implement innovative solutions. Our education reform initiative has addressed school budget shortfalls, college access, guidance counselor shortages, and teacher quality. And in June 2010, in response to a critical need identified by the youth and families in our community, we launched a targeted campaign to build cultural proficiency in Boston Public Schools (BPS).

Our research links Boston's persistent achievement gap to a lack of cultural proficiency throughout the BPS system. Each student brings a unique cultural background to school every day and many struggle to navigate between two conflicting cultures of home and school. Too often teachers, administrators, and other school staff approach their students with cultural blindness, constructing cultural differences as impediments rather than as assets. As a result, many students of color are disengaged in their educational experience, report feeling uncomfortable in school, and have higher stress levels. This has dire consequences on student success, which we see reflected in Boston's dropout crisis, low graduation rates, and overall low achievement among students of color.

Summary of findings:

  • Definition of Cultural Competence and Proficiency in the Field of Education
  • Effects of Cultural Competence and Proficiency in Schools
  • Skills, Knowledge, and Attitudes Contributing to the Cultural Competence of School Staff
  • Professional Development Emphasizing Cultural Proficiency
  • International Exemplars of Cultural Competence in Schools
  • Areas of Debate

Read the full report here.