Research has shown that teachers of diverse backgrounds can have a positive effect on the success of students of color. In Washington, the number of teachers of color is just seven percent compared to the twenty-four percent of students. In Seattle, over fifty percent of students are of color and only ten percent of Seattle teachers represent the diversity in their classroom. (Martinez-Foundation, 2011). Our children deserve to feel comfortable, motivated, respected, and understood in their schools and especially in their classrooms. If a teacher does not have the tools, resources, or education on how to use differentiated instruction in her class, and how to best understand the different cultures, some kids may fall behind in their ability to achieve academically. Our future depends on the children of today and the educations that they receive. Cultural competence is:
• Knowing the community where the school is located. • Understanding all people have a unique world view. • Using curriculum that is respectful of and relevant to the cultures represented in its student body. • Being alert to the ways that culture affects who we are. • Placing the locus of responsibility on the professional and the institution. • Examining systems, structures, policies and practices for their impact on all students and families. ”Cultural competence will allow teachers to successfully teach students who come from different cultural backgrounds.” (OSPI, 2011) There is now a way to enable the success of cultural competence among teachers in our city.
Over 100 different languages are spoken in Seattle Public Schools, and 24 percent of the district’s 46,000 students are bilingual speakers. To meet the increasing need for bilingual teachers in both general and special education classes, Seattle Public Schools has partnered with the state’s Professional Educator Standards Board, the Seattle Education Association and City University to provide a dual certification program for the district’s paraprofessionals. Cultural competence provides a set of skills that professionals need in order to improve practice to serve all students and communicate effectively with their families. (OSPI, 2011).
Cultural competence training would give teachers the opportunity to confront their stereotypes and biases that they hold that directly affect the way teachers see, and teach their students. Biases and stereotypes within a teacher’s classroom can negatively affect the achievements of his/her students. One of the ways this program will be funded is through the SEA membership. The SEA membership believes in closing the academic achievement gap and that having classroom teachers that reflect our student population will help in accomplishing that goal,” comments Wendy Kimball, President of SEA.
“Support for paraprofessionals and secretaries/office personnel is critical given the difficulty of going back to school to earn a teaching certificate and working full time.” Kimball continues, “SEA is committed to supporting staff with the resources of time and money so they can earn a certificate. The funding for this program came from reallocating money during the 2004-2009 contract bargaining from the sabbatical funds and a settlement agreement.” ( Kimball, 2011).