Editor's Column

By Behar-Horenstein, Linda S. | Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

Editor's Column


Behar-Horenstein, Linda S., Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy


Today's schools are characterized in part by cultural discontinuity and hegemony that marginalizes and disenfranchises groups and classes of people. Because of their prevalence in US schools, forthcoming issues in the Florida Journal of Educational Administration will focus on culturally responsive school leadership and how it can ensure that school experiences afford equal opportunities for all students. To become a culturally responsive leader, individuals should come to understand their own assumptions, beliefs and values about people and cultures different from their own (Terrell & Lindsay, 2009). They must become cognizant of the personality characteristics, values and mores that are important to their faculty and staff.

The prevalence of diversity in most U.S. schools provides good reason to train and prepare school leaders to be fully cognizant, appreciative and motivated to promote culturally responsive instructional practices (Growe et al., 2002). According to the National Association for Colleges of Teacher Education (NACTE) Leadership standard (7.4) it is the responsibility of school leaders to "... promote multicultural awareness, gender sensitivity and racial and ethnic appreciation" (cited in Growe et al., 2002). School leaders must actively involve faculty, staff and students and pursue this resolutely by creating environments whereby the values of different cultures are understood and appreciated.

Limited experience and training in multiculturalism cannot allow school leaders to have comfort and competence in dealing with issues concerning student diversity, and it may be a source of frustration for those who do not possess that sensitivity and training. Educational leadership programs can lessen this burden by ensuring that prospective school leaders have the capacity to lead in culturally responsive ways. Hansman et al. (1999) cited in Growe et al. (2002), suggested that the preparation of such school leadership include multicultural educational courses where active discussions on such issues are encouraged. An essential portion of such courses would be content integration, including the incorporation of content and examples from other cultures to illustrate key concepts. However, a mere understanding of cultural differences is not enough. School leaders must promote environments whereby the stakeholders appreciate, respect, tolerate, and explore differences within the diverse groups, provide a sense of belonging, acceptance, and a possibility of acquiring their full potentials. A mentality of "us" and "them", as well as "superiority" and "inferiority" can only be overcome when strong leaders practice their beliefs in terms of school recruitment, hiring, and promotion practices, and create appropriate award systems.

School leaders must acquire the skills needed to differentiate leadership practices (Duke, 2010). Becoming aware of student achievement, past and present, considering the welfare of the entire school and having the courage to make organizational changes are critical for culturally responsive school leaders. Differentiating leadership begins with an examination of school-wide practices to determine if instruction is geared towards student learning needs and if there is an overreliance on retention as an intervention. In low performing and declining schools, leaders must direct faculty to focus on promoting literacy among students with limited English proficiency and those who are non-readers or emergent readers. Providing high quality instruction for students with the highest academic needs means that school leaders demonstrate their capacity to change dysfunctional attitudes, beliefs and instructional practices. At times, school leaders may have to confront teachers about their instructional competence. While this is not an easy task, it is essential to providing high quality instruction.

Providing teachers with appropriate professional development opportunities commensurate with their skills and needs is also essential. …

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