A Knowledge Base for Cultural Diversity in Administrator Training

Article excerpt

This article investigates the impact and necessity of multicultural training in administrator preparation programs. The impetus centers on the reality of the changing face of the school population and how administrators must be able to make decisions based on the knowledge and understanding of the various diverse groups. The article also attempts to gauge the extent by which administrators are able to assure a smooth school operation by making certain that classroom teachers instructionally appropriate approaches in working with culturally different students.


According to the National Center for Education Statistics' (2000) report, minority students comprise 37% of the total public school population in 1998, an increase of 15% since 1972. With the continuing rise of minority students, the educational system must be prepared to meet the learning needs of a culturally diverse population. A central question here is: Whose role is it to ensure that these students are given an equal opportunity to learn? Along with the many other responsibilities, it is the role of school administrators. In fact, NCATE Leadership Standard (7.4) defines this particular role when it states that school leaders are to "promote multicultural awareness, gender sensitivity, and racial and ethnic appreciation." Principals are not only expected to promote, but to also make certain that a school-wide multicultural education program is implemented (Manning & Baruth, 1996). Administrators must construct "an empowering school culture" by "creating a learning environment in which students from diverse racial, ethnic, and social groups believe that they are heard and are valued and experience respect, belonging, and encouragement" ( Parks, 1999, p. 4; Banks, 1993).

The manner in which principals respond will determine the success or failure of the program. Just as classroom teachers have a considerable impact upon their students' conduct and attitude concerning cultural diversity, school administrators have an even greater one (Irwin, 1999). If principals do not support the multicultural education program at their schools, then the teachers, staff, students, and parents are also affected. This means that without the full support of the administrator, the program is more likely to fail (Manning & Baruth, 1996).

Aspiring administrators are expected to become knowledgeable of multicultural issues and become people who show a "profound respect for and encouragement of diversity where important differences between children and adults are celebrated rather than seen as problems to remedy" (Barth, 1990, p. 10). One method of preparing educational administrators to work with an ever-changing school population is for colleges and universities to include multicultural education courses in their graduate curriculum. Hansman et al. (1999) recommended that the courses should "stimulate active discussion, listening, and understanding among students" (p. 2). These courses, according to Troutman (1997-1998), would enable aspiring administrators to appreciate their own values, attitudes, and cultures, which would then allow them to better understand the values, attitudes, and cultures of their faculty, staff, and students. In these courses, they would be given the opportunity to "confront their own fears and learn to discuss race and racial issues openly" and to deal positively with the entire school community's feelings and beliefs about multicultural issues (Manning & Baruth, 1996, p. 295). Knowledge gained from such discussion would help them, along with their faculty, to create a school environment where all students, regardless of their gender, race, culture or social class, would have an equal chance of obtaining a quality education (Troutman, 1997-1998). Without being knowledgeable of multicultural issues, school administrators may find it difficult to expect their teachers to integrate topics concerning these issues into their lessons (Midobuche, 1999). …