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  • 1. Running Head: CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 1 Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Students: Lauren A. Bonanno Molloy College Summer 2011
  • 2. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 2 AbstractThe author argues for the ideas of diversity as it pertains to public education in the U.S. and itsimplications of quality, equality, and opportunity for all students – including diverse and thosewith special needs. Culturally and linguistically diverse students face several unique challengesthat pose threats for their future. Fortunately, there is hope and the author explores thesepossibilities in detail as it pertains to the diverse population of elementary and secondarystudents today. Key Words: Education, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students (CDL), ,Constructivist, Strategies, Students with Disabilities, Poverty
  • 3. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 3 Introduction Marcel Proust is quoted as saying, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seekingnew landscapes, but in having new eyes”. It is with this powerful concept of rediscovery bymeans of shifting perspective (having new eyes) that one can understand the process of teachingour nation’s growing diverse population of students. As a country founded on principals offreedom by those original immigrants in flea of persecution, one would assume that diversity,equality, and acceptance would be intrinsically woven into the basic thread of American Culture;however, our society has, on more than one occasion, slighted, mistreated, and underrepresentedcertain groups of Americans. This unfortunate discrimination has traditionally targeted people in the following fivecategories set by the federal government: African American (Black), Hispanic (Latino/a),Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native (Native American)” (Smith andTyler,2010, p.74). Often referred to as the “minority”, these broad and over generalized groupsof Americans have too often been the victims of the perceived majority’s racism, prejudice, anddiscrimination. Furthermore, these injustices have long embattled minority students within our publiceducation system. Over the course of the past decade, the journey of legislation and reform hasmade momentous progress in our nation’s fight for equal opportunities in learning for allstudents. Historical Context of Diversity in Education Public education is one of our nations most powerful institutions. The themes ofbilingualism and multiculturalism have long played a major role in this system. In the late 19thCentury, immigrants from Southern, central, and Eastern Europe settled here, disrupting the
  • 4. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 4heterogeneous communities, systems, and schools that existed at the time. In attempts topreserve their status quo, known as nativism, foreign language instruction was bannedthroughout all schools at the time (Smith & Taylor, 2010). The next wave of cultural movement came during the WWI era when the country cametogether and fostered what is known as “Americanization”, or in other words the traditional ideaof the “melting pot”. This movement fostered the abandonment of all outside cultures andfiltered them into a unified cohesive “American Dream” (Smith & Taylor, 2010). This idea ofthe assimilation of culture seemed ingenious at the time, but before it wasn’t before long that thisexclusivity led to racism, segregation, poverty, and aggression among Americans. In union with the civil rights movement, the 1960’s brought an era of change for not onlyAmerican culture, but for society and the education system. The new social philosophy wasknown as cultural pluralism. This new vision was guided by the liberties of the civil rightsmovement and promote equality for minorities and acceptance of diversity within our nation.Similarly, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, public education seemed to be following a similarpath towards equal opportunity. Legislation and movement was passed to protect the rights ofand provide an equal opportunity to learn for diverse students. Outwardly, this movement towards fairness was making an impact in the lives of diversestudents who had previously been inappropriately diagnosed or dismissed because of a culturalor linguistic barrier. For example, in 1970, Diana v. the State Board of Education found thatusing IQ tests to identify Hispanic students as having mental retardation was discriminatory(Smith & Taylor, p. 75). In 1971, in the case Larry P. v. Riles, the court drew attention to theoverrepresentation of African American students in classes designed for intellectually disabledstudents. Additionally, in 1974, a landmark case in the US Supreme Court ruled, in Lau v.
  • 5. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 5Nichols, that limited-English proficient students have a right to special assistance as part of equaleducational opportunity. These rulings set precedents that opened doors for new equalopportunities and paved the way for our present day legislation. Current Legislation Today, in the pursuit of an equitable education for all students, the federal governmentissued two major reforms, the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the Individuals withDisabilities Education Act of 2004. Despite their critics, these two documents are intended toserve as manuals of hope and equality for our American students, specifically thosedisadvantaged by diversity or disability. This tag team of powerful literature provides structure,guidance, and expectations for high quality planning and implementation of best teachingpractices for all students, as well as protections and accommodations for specific students so thatthey may be afforded an equal opportunity to succeed. In 2001, NCLB was passed with the intention of reforming the previous Elementary andSecondary Education Act (ESEA) by means of increasing student achievement and changing thecultural dynamics of American’s schools. The reform holds educators accountable for providinghighly qualified teachers and instruction in every classroom, proper and effective use ofaccommodations, modifications, and alternate assessments for students with disabilities as wellas appropriate assessment of English Language Learners (ELL). The most innovative and revolutionary decree issued by this document is itsaccountability mandate. Educators are to be held fully responsible for the learning of every child("No Child Left," 2010). The onset of this document quickly changed the face of education froman instruction-oriented and teacher-focused routine and into a universally designed student-learning machine, programmed to understand children and meet their individual needs.
  • 6. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 6 Secondly, the 2006 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) effectivelycompliments NCLB as it plays a significant role in supporting and meeting the various needs ofstudents who have been identified as having a disability. Specifically, the document highlightssupports and reinforcements appropriate for culturally and linguistically diverse populations("Culturally and Linguistically," 2010). Prevalence of CDL Students National statistics and data that describe the country’s school-aged population and thebreakdown of these students by race can easily be misinterpreted. First, as previouslymentioned, the federal government filters the country’s “minorities” into five generalized groups:White (Caucasian), African American (Black), Hispanic (Latino/a), Asian/Pacific Islander,American Indian/Alaska Native (Native American)”. These categories do not accuratelyrepresent the true diverse backgrounds of most people that supposedly fall into that group. Secondly, the system that categorizes this diverse group of individuals also makessignificant assumptions about the consistency of characteristics among people within a particulargroup. For example, in comparing two Chinese students, one child’s family has lived in the U.S.for 150 years and the other immigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was five. In thisinstance, the cultural attributes are not comparable, yet the federal government places them in thesame broad group of Asian/Pacific Islander. Finally, one last inconsistency in national data involves the disparity between statistics inlocal, state, and regional data that is used to calculate the national numbers. While theseproblems with data are important, it is not a priority within the education system; rather a helpfulpiece of information to remind educators to use a critical lens when assessing such information.
  • 7. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 7 The National Center for Educational Statistics reports that as of 2009, there was a total of49,054 students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools in the United States. Ofthese students, 57% were considered White, 17% were considered Black, 20% Hispanic, 5%Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1% of these students were considered American Indian/AlaskaNative. In certain cities, such as Nashville, Chicago, and New York City, these same minoritiesaccount for an overwhelming majority of the student population in public schools, ranginganywhere from 66% - 92% (Smith & Taylor, 2010). Factually speaking, research predicts that by the year 2020, 45% of American schoolchildren will be children of color – as previously noted, it is the white middle class students whoare slowly becoming the minority. Bennett (2011) explains, “current patterns of immigration,particularly with the influx of people from South East Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean,ensure that ethnic pluralism will continue to be the American way in the foreseeable future”.With these predictions in mind, it is evident that our nation is becoming more of a culturalmosaic, which has significant implications for educators and the approach teachers take in theclassroom. Culturally and Linguistically Diverse In today’s public education system, minority children are defined as culturally andlinguistically diverse (CDL). IDEA categorizes these students into one or more of the followingthree groups: culturally diverse students, linguistically diverse, and any CLD student who, inaddition to being considered diverse, also has a documented disability, as determined by theguidelines of IDEA ’04. Linguisticaly diverse describes those students whose native language is one other thanAmerican English. IDEA refers to this group as Limited English Language Proficient (LEP), but
  • 8. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 8more educators more commonly refer to them as English language learners (ELL or just EL).Also, it is likely that the linguistically diverse student whose native language is not English willbe considered culturally diverse, as these two groups are not mutually exclusive. Being a diverse student does not automatically qualify a child for special educationservices, however, the learning needs of these students are unique and require special attention,as they are generally directly linked to their diverse cultural and linguistic differences (Smith &Taylor, 2010). Characteristics of Diverse Students Culturally diverse students are defined as a student who is “ not Eurocentric ormainstream America” (Smith & Taylor, p.77), yet it seems that they are the future Americanmainstream. Keen awareness and constant reflection of the specific cultural elements within theclassroom is necessary to identify and effectively manage the varying needs, challenges, andamazingly rich opportunities associated with a culturally diverse group of students. It is quite clear that to accurately describe an individual by one trait or characteristic isimpossible, and in some ways, children are more complex than adults. Children, particularly ofschool age, are heavily influenced by culture and often find themselves “Caught between twocultures” (Smith & Taylor, 2010), which has the potential to be a positive or negative situationdepending upon the teacher’s response and classroom strategies. Cushner, (2010), defines culture as the human-made part of the environment… that whichdetermines, to a large extent, people’s thoughts ideas, patterns of interaction, and materialadaptations to the world around them. Socialization, he says, is the process by each personexperiences and makes sense of the world. Socializing agents, such as school, community,family, sports, media, technology, among other elements, are consistently influencing one’s
  • 9. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 9cultural identity – the core basis of one’s identity comprised of ethnicity, social class, gender,health, age, language, ability/disability, etc (Cushner, 2010). The culmination of these biological and environmental factors greatly affects a child’sworldview, habits, values, and perhaps their ability to “manifest their mental powers” (Bennett,2011). How a student best absorbs new complex information, processes the material, and howwell he or she retains the knowledge is reflected in their individual learning style andpreferences. For these reasons, teachers are encouraged to differentiate materials, processes, andstrategies in the classroom as much as possible so that learning occurs for all students. According to Lynch and Hanson (2004), children come to school with a goodunderstanding of the norms and expectations of their homes, which is typically developed by thetime they are five years old. The immigration process does not prepare individuals for thenumerous and often overwhelming implications of a new culture, which can include a newlanguage, landscape, and new definition of “normal”. (qtd. in Smith & Taylor, 2010). Conceptsand beliefs, conscious or not, affect our actions and perceptions of social interactions. Forexample, competition is a common American theme, whereas collaboration is emphasized inother cultures such as Asian and Latino. Eye contact, personal space, relationship between childand authority figures, as well as perceptions of value, meaning, and priorities will varydepending upon the student’s specific culture, socialization, and experiences. Wade Boykin and his associates at Howard University studied African American childrenand the effects of the socialization process on cognitive development and learning styles. Hisframework was based upon the premise that African American culture encompasses threedifferent realms of experience: mainstream, minority, and Black cultural or Afro-cultural”(Bennett, 2011). Bennett (2011) finds the results of his study to “reflect the bicultural nature of
  • 10. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 10the African American community and captures the ‘uniformity, diversity, complexity, andrichness of Black family life’. One can conclude from this research the level of complexity ofchild’s development and the importance of cultural competence among all educators. The second group of CLD students includes the linguistically diverse students, or thosewho speak a native language other than English. Approximately 10% of the current schoolpopulation has limited proficiency in English, which is an alarming increase of 57% over thecourse of the past ten years (NCELA, 2008). IDEA ’06 refers to linguistically diverse studentsas “limited English proficient” or LEP, but educators commonly refer to them as EnglishLanguage Learners or ELL. As outlined in IDEA ’04, the strengths, abilities, and variables associated withlinguistically diverse children vary considerably and must be assessed strategically andprofessionally. Communication between ELLs and the teacher can create considerable confusionthat can later lead to behavioral or academic problems. One major concern for teachers of ELLstudents is the teacher’s lack of understanding between language differences, disabilities, and/orimpairments. “One general guideline for determining whether a bilingual student has a languageimpairment is to discover whether the impairment occurs in both English and the child’sdominant language” (Smith & Taylor, 2010, p.79). Knowledge of various dialects, grammar structures, and the cultural roots associated withparticular languages will help clarify any initial doubts. For example, many consonant sounds inEnglish do not exist in Chinese and therefore, many Chinese-speaking students are referred forspeech therapy for an articulation concern, which in reality, is unwarranted (Smith & Taylor,2010). Understanding various language elements is key to avoiding any confusion that mightlead to unnecessary interventions or improper referrals for special education services.
  • 11. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 11 Additionally, many culturally diverse students in the U.S. can speak their native languageas well as English. In the process of mastering the second language, students often use a blendof the languages when communicating verbally. Referred to as code switching, this interchangeof languages should not be cause for alarm, rather it is “often a sign that dual languageproficiency is developing” (Smith & Taylor, 2010, p. 80). Moreover, recent language debates have focused on appropriate variations of the Englishlanguage. Particularly, many schools do not recognize Ebonics as a proper form of English;however, many African American children come to school speaking this dialect because it is thecultural norm at home, but at school, these children are often perceived negatively (Smith &Taylor, 2010). It is critical for teachers to understand that “the majority of academic learning islanguage based: students who struggle linguistically face exceptional disadvantages in theclassroom” (Smith & Taylor, 2010, p. 81), and thus, just as we accommodate and servedisabilities, teachers must address the learning needs and empower linguistically diverse studentsto reach their potential. Finally, the third group identified through IDEA includes those CDL students who havebeen properly identified as having one of the 13 disabilities. It is important to remember thatCDL students do not necessarily have a disability. On the contrary, despite a lack of data, someresearch have shown that the majority of culturally diverse students do not have disabilities andoften have potential, but are overlooked for gifted programs. Each CDL student, however, doeshave unique learning needs that are inevitably compounded by his or her personal cultural and orlanguage elements. The secret to success with these students is recognizing and anticipating thattheir individual cultural components will likely affect the way in which the disability isconceptualized, manifested, and managed (Smith & Taylor, 2010, p. 78).
  • 12. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 12 Lastly, behavioral challenges are common with CDL students as a result of frequentmisconceptions, stereotypes, or misunderstandings on behalf of the teacher. Student behavior andthe boundaries associated with societal norms is linked to biological elements, but more stronglyinfluenced by his or her socialization experiences and cultural roots. Behavior is a cultural traitthat commonly varies by student, and despite their potentially gifted abilities and often, bestefforts, CDL students often find themselves at the bottom of the class, suspended, or disciplinedfor reasons beyond their control at the teacher’s digression. Cultural misunderstandings or confusion regarding expectations of the teacher andassignments are to blame for management concerns in a diverse classroom. If the cultures of astudent’s home clashes with the culture of school, the child generally suffers negativeconsequences” (Smith & Taylor, 2010, p.83). This clash is known as cultural dissonance andcan usually be avoided if proper classroom management techniques are implemented. Similarly, stereotypes concerning various cultural groups or linguistic differences canpose an additional hurdle for CDL students. For example, a study conducted by Neal andcolleagues (2003) found that a significant number of classroom teachers unknowingly heldmisconceptions about African American boys’ – subconsciously linking their behavior to theirnonverbal movement styles, such as assuming an assertive or defiant posture, swinging one’sarms, and walking with a swagger or stroll (qtd. in Smith & Taylor, 2010, p. 83). These unjustgeneralizations are formed by prior negative experiences and/or influences of another person’sattitudes towards an individual. It is imperative that educators disregard stereotypes and personalbias, specifically in regards to the behavior of a particular ethnic or racial group. Thesemisconceptions form a rift in the classroom and reflect unwarranted suspicions and pressure onstudents.
  • 13. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 13 These examples highlight the importance of taking the time to build an accurate andcomprehensive picture of each child’s abilities and learning needs. Completing a full assessmentof both the student’s personal, academic, social, and cultural factors as well as a personalinventory, including potential flaws in teaching strategies, will prove more effective in solvingthe problem. Unique Challenges The problem, Bennet (2010) argues, is rooted in the lingering affects of inequitablesocioeconomic and historical patterns of prejudice and discrimination within our society.Despite the statistics that Similarly, Harold Cruse, an American writer and civil rights activist,also shares this historical rationalization. Cruse once said, “America is a nation that lies to itselfabout who and what it is. Even today, it is a nation of minorities ruled by a minority of one--itthinks and acts as if it were a nation of white Anglo-Saxons and Protestants” (Gorski, 2010).Theoretically, this unjustifiable elitist attitude that maintains a belief in the superiority of ahomogeneous and selective American culture has merit, as it does help explain the denial of ourdiverse society and the origin of the fundamental injustices found in our society. Assuming Bennett and Cruse were correct in their assumptions, the enduringconsequences of such a deep-seated elitist perception are quite obvious. Recent studies (Gordon,Bridglall & Meroe 2004; HFRP 2005) suggest that the real problem surrounding the nation’sachievement gap is rooted equally in the learning opportunities available to students, both in andout of school. Progress has been made to equalize the classroom and provide an fair opportunityfor everyone to learn. Outside the classroom, however, diverse learners are less likely then theirmainstream peers, to compensate for the lack available opportunities at home and in theircommunities.
  • 14. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 14 Unfortunately, these historical and societal injustices have led researchers to concludethat, “culturally and linguistically diverse children (CDL) are more likely to find themselveschallenged by a multitude of factors that put them at risk for unnecessary unsatisfactoryoutcomes” (Smith & Taylor, 2010, p.76). Today, we consider these CDL students to be “at risk”– a phrase acknowledging the high probability of negative outcomes that diverse learners willface. At no fault of their own, in order to succeed, CDL students must overcome significanthurdles throughout their life - poor academic achievement, low socioeconomic status, andsignificant health related problems - challenges that their mainstream peers are unlikely to everface. Poverty is the most significant force negatively affecting CDL students today. Accordingto 2009 data from National Council for Educational Statistics (2010), 20% of children under theage of 18 who live with their family are living below the poverty line – the number jumps to44% for children under 18 who live with a single mom. Of the 20% of children living below thepoverty line, 11% are white, 35% black, 33% are Hispanic, and 14% are considered Asian. Thissocioeconomic disparity of classes has proven to be the single most powerful deterrent ofacademic success and literacy among diverse children. In the unfortunate wake of socioeconomic injustice, according to Smith & Tyler (2010),children and their families are often limited in their access to health care and have a higherpotential for homelessness. Furthermore, these struggling families are forced to live inunderprivileged neighborhoods, which have been proven to negatively shape a student’s affectand potential for success. As of 2009, data from the study concluded that extremely low literacy levels are directlyrelated to poverty and other socioeconomic disadvantages (Burns, 2000). In extremely poor
  • 15. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 15communities across the U.S., little opportunity and minimal resources are available to help fostergrowth and learning for our nation’s youth.. Ironically, these poor neighborhoods are the sameareas desperate for quality education. Reality is these neighborhoods are subject to failingschools, at the expense of the students,. These students battle with unkempt facilities and poorbuilding conditions, inadequate funds for school programs and technology, as well asinexperienced or low performing teachers with high turnover rates (Boyd, Lankford, Loeb,Rockoff, & Wyckoff, 2008). The 1997 amendments to IDEA (P. L. 105-17) also added the requirement that statescollect data for the purpose of monitoring and reducing disproportionality (Section 674).Congress found the need to be particularly urgent because the number of children from diversebackgrounds in the nation’s schools was increasing steadily. According to the National Centerfor Culturally Responsive Education Systems (NCCREST, 2006), African American children inpoverty are 2.3 times more likely to be identified by their teacher as having mental retardationthan their White counterpart. As of 2000, one in three children was African American, Hispanic,Asian-American or American Indian. Children of color now comprise more than 75% of theenrollment in many large city schools, and White students have become a minority in manymore. Proactive & Pragmatic Strategies Highlighted by NCCREST (2006), the ultimate challenge for educators and policymakersis to address the real underlying problems that produce disproportional (i.e., the unequalopportunities for many students of color because of the consequences of structural poverty andthe discriminatory treatment of students of color in the general education system) as well as thereferral, assessment, and identification process for Special Education.
  • 16. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 16 The RTI and Special Education referral process is designed to assess and meet the specificneeds of “students who are persistently non-responsive to more intensive and alternativeinstructional or behavioral interventions over time…. These students are viewed as the mostlikely candidates for special education” (Fletcher, Barnes, & Francis, 2002: Ortiz, 2002). TheNational Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD) strongly supports comprehensiveassessment and evaluation of students with learning disabilities by a multidisciplinary team forthe identification and diagnosis of students with learning disabilities. Comprehensive assessmentof individual students requires the use of multiple data sources. These sources may includestandardized tests, informal measures, observations, student self-reports, parent reports, andprogress monitoring data from response-to-intervention (RTI) approaches (NJCLD, 2005). More culturally and linguistically diverse children continue to be served in specialeducation than would be expected from the percentage of culturally and linguistically diversestudents in the general school population. Although African Americans represent 16 percent ofelementary and secondary enrollments, they constitute 21 percent of total enrollments in specialeducation (NCCREST, 2006). There is also an emerging appreciation among policymakers thatculturally and linguistically diverse students are at increased risk for being educated in restrictivesettings and a concern that such restrictive placement may not always be justified on the basis ofstudent learning challenges and behavior. Assessment Process In recognition of these difficulties, a number of solutions and best practices have beendeveloped. Learning occurs through high-quality instruction; a process that stems from goodassessment. There are five main issues to consider when designing and using an RTI assessment
  • 17. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 17system for students who are linguistically and culturally diverse: The importance of multiplemeasures; The multi-dimensional nature of language and reading; The importance of academiclanguage for school success; The role of progress monitoring in an RTI framework; The way inwhich the information will be used and who it is shared with (NCCREST, 2010). In general, these concerns can be effectivly addressed by following the systematic andproven four-step process of RTI. The first step involves convening a full, multidisciplinaryassessment team including parents, educators, and assessors. Second, using pre-referral strategiesand interventions. If a student is having difficulties, information should be gathered to determinewhether these difficulties stem from language or cultural differences, from a lack of opportunityto learn, or from a disability. Third, sensitivity to cultural and linguistic diversity in assessmentsand assessment procedures is another factor that is receiving attention in reading and literacyresearch (Figueroa & Newsome, 2006; Wilkinson, Ortiz, Robertson, & Kushner, 2006). Althoughassessment instruments are now translated into Spanish, Chinese, and other languages, particularcare must be taken when assessing ELL students whose native language is not English. Finally,identifying learning disabilities in such students requires planning, keen observation, andsensitivity, knowledge, and skill on the part of all team members (Klingner & Harry, 2006;Macswan & Rolstad, 2006). IDEA outlines regulations that support appropriate service to culturally and linguisticallydiverse populations. Included in this policy is rules of assessment, which prevents radical orculturally discriminatory evaluation materials from being used, the opportunity for the evaluationand assessment to be administered in the child’s native language, as well as entitlements forparents and the rights to an interpreter throughout the IEP process. Additionally, IDEA ’06 sets
  • 18. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 18strict criteria for special education eligibility and the assessment process of CLD students.Significant strides have been made in an effort to prevent, and/or determine the presence ofdisproportional number of diverse students within special education (ASHA, 2010). Determining the language to be used in testing-assessment of language dominance andproficiency should be completed before further testing is conducted for students whose homelanguage is other than English (NAEE, 2005). Conducting an individualized and age-appropriate assessment of the child and his or her home environment can produce valuableinsight. Parents are crucial to understanding the students background and how the studentfunctions in the home and in the community. Parents can provide information that forms aframework for understanding the information about the student, and the parents perspective canbe invaluable for accurately interpreting data as well as for subsequent planning and instruction. Along the same thought, recent research has begun to address the importance ofunderstanding the interactive factors, such as family, community, and the nuances of one’sparticular culture and language. It is critical to understand how a child’s socializing agents affectthe their literacy development, specifically in bilingual students (Petrovic, 2010). For example, ifa student is said to have a problem with "auditory processing," the problem should be evident notonly on tests, but also in the classroom and at home. For students with limited Englishproficiency, the auditory processing problem should be evident not only in English, but also inthe students native language (Leung, 1966). Ideally, these assessments will be nonbiased, using appropriate methods in combinationwith additional personal observations of the child’s performance using various forms of authenticassessments from an assortment of environments (school, home, community) to produce amultidimensional assessment. For example, student-learning journals/logs, guided reading, K-
  • 19. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 19W-L charts, group projects and presentations, and other forms of multisensory evaluations.Specifically, graphic organizers have proven to provide teachers with the ability to determine ifthe child’s misunderstanding stems from a cultural or linguistic misconception (Ciascai, 2009). Educators and assessors also need training to ensure accurate placement decisions.Acquiring a second language can produce complex effects on the childs language, cognitive andsocial development (McLean, 2000). Too often, unqualified assessors misinterpret assessmentresults and as a result, misidentify and/or misplace a child in a inappropriate learningenvironment. In order to properly assess a CDL student, an assessor must be trained to understandcultural, linguistic and experiential differences and their impact on a childs development and testperformance. A trained and experienced assessor develops a clinical memory that serves as aresource of information and wisdom. A number of team interaction models, such as the Transdisciplinary Team Assessmentmodel, can be used to help structure and guide the team. One key to reducing inappropriateplacement in special education is to reduce inappropriate referrals for evaluation. Educatorsshould carefully collect and analyze information on a CLD child prior to making a referral forspecial education evaluation.. If the students learning problems are related to either of thesevariables, interventions should be directed to the identified variables (Leung, 1996). Pre-referral A variety of pre-referral strategies are available to educators, and techniques such ascurriculum-based assessment can be used to tell if instruction has made a difference. Title VI ofthe Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires a language assessment of any child who may be limitedEnglish proficient, including an assessment of the childs proficiency in English as well as in his
  • 20. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 20or her native language in order to distinguish language proficiency from disability needs. Thisact states that an accurate assessment should include objective assessment of reading, writing,speaking, and understanding. Further, IDEA requires that "any materials and procedures used to assess a child withlimited English proficiency are selected and administered to ensure that they measure the extentto which the child has a disability and needs special education rather that measuring the childsEnglish language skills."The job of the assessment team is to develop a comprehensive,multidimensional assessment tailored to the child being evaluated. Such an assessment includesboth formal testing (e.g., standardized tests) and informal testing (e.g., interviews andobservations) in a variety of environments (e.g., home and community). Any formal tests that might be used should be examined for cultural bias by a personfrom the cultural group and should be administered by a person who is very knowledgeableabout the childs cultural group and speaks the childs language or dialect (McLean, 2000). Ifmodifications are required to make the instrument appropriate, the test should be used to providedescriptive information only (rather than scores), since modifications may invalidate the scoringof the test. Monitoring Student’s Current Levels of Performance Once the assessment is completed, the group of qualified professionals and the childsparents must determine if the child has a disability, and move on to developing an instructionalplan for the child regardless of whether or not the child is considered disabled. Smith and Taylor(2010) discuss the common concerns that children who do not have disabilities will be assessedas having them because of cultural or linguistic differences, but they point out that there are alsocases in which children who do have disabilities have gone unserved because of the difficulty of
  • 21. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 21distinguishing between cultural or linguistic differences and disability. According to Leung(1966), "Assessment must be a means to an end. As such, the ultimate quality indicator ofassessment is how directly the results aid in instructing the student." Specific steps must be taken to ensure the progress and monitor a student’s current levelof performance upon efforts to remedy a particular skill. The following process must befollowed in sequential order and with optimal accuracy and consistency.Process of monitoring and assessing current levels of performance (SPAM):1. Conduct initial screening assessment;2. Assess students regularly (Progress Monitoring)• Disconfirms risk: responsive students remain in Tier 1• Confirms risk: unresponsive students move to Tier 2.3. Compare student performance to an established goal4. Use results to determine if an instructional change is needed or goals need to be increased Teaching & Classroom Strategies Promising research has emerged in many areas, including an integrated model ofdifferentiated instruction, universal design for learning (UDL), and multicultural pedagody. Theimplementation of this blend lends itself to various preventative and response-based problem-solving models in literacy, complexities of reading, non-cognitive influences, brain function,genetics, and accountability measures (Garden and Whittaker, 2006). “The individualcomponents of each of the mentioned strategies have proven to be exceptionally helpful inmeeting the needs of students from diverse backgrounds in the general education curriculum”Garden & Whittaker, 2006).
  • 22. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 22 Differentiated instruction enables educators to meet the demanding standard-basedexpectations set fourth by education reform, specifically NCLB 2001. UDL has radicallychanged the way educators consider education and the learning process. This theory willrevolutionize and significantly improve student learning by taking into account elements such asschool and classroom’s physical environment and atmosphere, learning styles, cognitiveprocessing preferences, and universal access to the most accurate information, technology, andinnovation available. Multicultural pedagogy and individual cultural identities are not topics to be entertainedand quickly dismissed; On the contrary, these concepts must be universally accepted andembraced as core educational themes embedded deep into the credence of every teacher,administrator, and academic institution. It is not enough to simply introduce the idea of “culture”in a lesson or discuss accomplishments of selected minorities during black history month – theoccasional celebration and ceremonial consideration of diversity in education is inadequate and atrue disservice to our students. In pursuit of an equal learning opportunity for all students, ironically, a teacher must takean unequal approach to teaching. Equity, when employed as a strategy in the classroom,maintains fairness in its approach to all students, but does not necessarily deliver an equal levelof support. The idea of equity provides an individualized and needs-based support system thateffectively targets and prioritizes specific needs of each child. Bennett (2011) agrees and takesthe idea a step further when she says, “equity pedagogy envisions teachers who create positiveclassroom climates, use culturally responsive teaching to foster student achievement, and
  • 23. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 23consider cultural styles and culturally based child socialization, as well as the conditions ofpoverty or wealth, in their approach to teaching and learning". Equity, as a teaching strategy, is aprogressive and critical element in the pursuit to achieve success for every child amongst thediverse population of our nation’s schools. Earlier, teacher quality was discussed as a significant determent in a child’s academicsuccesses (Boyd, Lankford, Loeb, Rockoff, & Wyckoff, 2008). The variables that affect ateacher’s quality include teaching experience, ability to provide clear and explicit instruction andexpectations, teaching style, attitudes and potential personal bias, which can be discoveredthrough personal reflection of ones cultural identify. This is of particular relevance in regards toteaching a diverse group of students. A teacher’s choice and successful implementation ofculturally responsive instructional strategies also affects student’s performance. Culturally competent teachers will exercise a variety of strategies that support the activeinvolvement of the student. Cooperative multisensory learning environments that target specificskills and provide appropriate accommodations have proven effective in addressing the learningneeds of diverse students (Schiering, 1999). For example, target skills might include alphabetawareness, handwriting, phonological prerequisites, test taking strategies, punctuation, andsyntax. The instructional strategies used to teach these skills should include accommodationstailored to meet the needs of a specific student. Appropriate “accommodations enable students towork independently, by changing the setting, requirements, demands, and/or expectations”(Schiering, 1999). Schiering (1999) offers a extensive list of these accommodations for diverselearners, which can include slowing down the rate of verbal instruction, increased response time,preferred seating, alternative directions, frequent opportunities to review, ask questions, and
  • 24. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 24clarify information, as well as the flexibility to use various relevant technologies, self-correctivematerials, and any support that will increase the child’s confidence in her or her learning as thechild establishes a pattern in their learning. Today’s children are students of the 21st Century; facing a future of a globally networkedcommunity that is more diverse and changing at speeds greater than any generation before.Educators must consider the imminent realities of our evolving world and anticipate theexpectations of the multicultural future our students will face. Regardless of race, color, language,or ability level it is the responsibility of educators to effectively meets the needs of each child sothey are equipped with the tools necessary tackle the problems of tomorrow. Using the technology available, educators must plan diverse global learning experiences,emphasizing a high level of international awareness, encourage and strengthen technology andcritical literacy skills, and support each child as he or she hones-in on their individual strengths.These points, among others, are part of the training students need to progress, think critically,and remain flexible in the face of constant change. Culturally responsive literacy instruction requires relevant multicultural literature andother reading materials to which the student can personally relate (including youth culture).Students benefit from “windows, bridges, and mirrors,” windows so that they can see into otherworlds, mirrors so that they can see themselves reflected in what they read, and bridges toconnect the two. Culturally responsive literacy programs also tap into community resources that promotechildren’s literacy, such as by inviting volunteers from the community to serve as reading tutorsor even just “listeners” while students read. Inviting and involving parents and others in the
  • 25. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 25neighborhood to share their expertise or “funds of knowledge” about various topics is anothereffective and culturally responsive strategy. For example, the results of one effective modelinvolved local elders helping in the schooling of American Indian youth. Both the students andthe elders benefit as they gain new insight from the perspective of a different culture as well asgeneration. Lastly, programs should also focus on developing partnerships with parents,sometimes including home visits, so that teachers can better understand the multiple and variedliteracy practices already in the home and so that parents can enhance home literacy experiences. Success in learning should not be measured on a set scale, but on the capacity of eachindividual child. Bennett (2011) shares in this view when she wrote, "our goal as teachers is tofoster the intellectual, social, and personal development of all students to each one’s fullestpotential”. In order to reach this goal, Bennett (2011) also argues that in today’s world, it isimperative for all teachers to pursue cultural competence as a means of understanding ourstudents on a personal so that we can provide each child with an equal opportunity to learn andreach their full potential. Specific Strategies for ELL Students U.S. schools are rapidly becoming more culturally and linguistically diverse. For example,between 2000 and 2005, the population of English language learners (ELLs) increased from 3.8million to 4.5 million, with the largest number of ELL students in urban cities across the U.S.Data by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center (EPERC) show that “60% of thenations’ English Language Learners are concentrated in 20 metropolitan areas… Spanish isspoken by 75% of the ELL population with some 100 other native tongue languages constitutingthe other 25%.
  • 26. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 26 Interestingly, “Asian Americans currently represent the most rapidly growing segment ofthe population, yet the majority of ELLs speak Spanish, with Latio/a children under the age offive comprising 22% of the entire U.S. population” (Diaz et al, 2008….. qtd. Smith & Taylor,2010, p. 87). The data reflects the realities of our country’s increasingly diverse population andemphasizes the pressing need to provide these students with effective ELL learningopportunities. The instruction these children receive, according to 2006-07 Title III data, includes duallanguage and two-way programs, transitional bilingual programs (instruction in native language tosupport English development), structured English immersion programs, as well as content-basedEnglish as a Second Language support provided in English-only programs. The majority of thestates (36 of 48) participating in the survey reported providing English only as well as programsthat provide native language and instruction. Regardless of the program, the most crucial element in effective ly teaching ELL studentsis the employment of culturally competent and responsive instruction. In a true multiculturalclassroom, students will participate in authentic literacy activities in a supportive learningenvironment while also experiencing the explicit instruction needed to gain important skill andstrategies. This instruction should include frequent opportunities to practice reading with avariety of rich materials in meaningful contexts. Conclusion & Thoughts Research tells us that this disparity poses a significant threat to our nation’s children andtheir ability to compete in the diverse global market and culturally extensive future of the 21stCentury. It is therefore difficult to remain positive in the face of discouraging literacy statistics
  • 27. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 27rooted in socioeconomic causes, as it might seem like an unfathomable fatal social problem – butthere is hope! Quality education has proven to improve the outcomes of our diverse studentpopulation. In fact, research (NYSED, 2009) has shown that literacy alone can reverse theadverse affects of poverty and enabling students to be successful. Frederick Douglass once said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”.Similarly, in regards to our diverse society, James A. Banks, (2010), the director of the Centerfor Multicultural Education at the University of Washington also believes that the ultimate goalof genuine multicultural education is education for freedom. A true and complete education, heclaims, is one that promotes the autonomy, abilities, and skills necessary for our students tocross ethnic and cultural boundaries to embrace peaceful participation or simply acceptance ofother cultures and groups (Banks, 2010). These powerful ideas illustrate the importance of literacy and quality education for allstudents, but specifically for those with a cultural disadvantage . One can argue that the aim ofeducation today, with the help of legislation and quality educators, is to empower all studentswith the skills necessary to free themselves from injustice and adversity. Encouraging students to “learn by doing and discovering” (Cooper & Cooper, 2007)enables the child to make personal connections to the information, and thus retain moreknowledge. Teachers must remain flexible and offer a variety of options to students. Empoweredby the ability to choose, students are likely to develop a sense of responsibility for their ownlearning. For a diverse child, the idea of choice is exhilarating (Wallace, 1974 ). Posing evensimple choices that are based on their preferences, such as beanbag or a chair, activity A or B,
  • 28. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 28draw or write, as well as the collective democratic feel of a classroom community enables them toexpress themselves and ultimately thrive. Possibly the most vital and beneficial strategy for teachers to follow is to remain curiousand actively engage oneself in the learning process – as the best teacher is also the best student.Demonstrating one’s ability to stay current, knowledgeable, and also capable of making mistakesis a refreshingly honest method of connecting with children. Students are comforted by therealization that mistakes are normal as long as you learn from them; and ultimately, that life is alearning process. Lastly, teachers that employ these progressive and constructive methods mustbe organized by nature and maintain consistency in their practice as these student-centeredstrategies can be easily led astray. The goal of education today is to close this achievement gap by creating a positive,academic, and creative environment for all children to learn from the past, actively engage in thepresent, and think critically about the future. Horace Mann, one of the first advocates for publiceducation, once argued that school should be “a great equalizer of the conditions of men”, and intoday’s global climate, these words are extremely powerful. John Dewey’s approach toacademia was inspirational as he set out to “make each one of our schools an embryoniccommunity life, active with types of occupations that reflect the life of the larger society andpermeated with the spirit of art, history, and science” education (Ryan & Cooper, 2010, P. 309).With these inspiring thoughts in mind, it is imperative that classrooms are seen as a commonground and “community” where race, socio-economic situations, gender, and bias are alldisregarded for the sake of the students and active learning.
  • 29. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 29 ReferencesBall, D. L. (2000). Bridging practices: Intertwining content and pedagogy in teaching and learning to teach. Journal of Teacher Education, 51, 241–247.Banks, J. (2010). Multicultural education: goals and dimensions. Retrieved from, C. (2011). Comprehensive multicultural education: theory and practice. (7thed.).Burns, M. (2000, May 29). Family literacy: tools that help parents promote reading in the home. Brain Connection, Retrieved from, D, Lankford, H, Loeb, S, Rockoff, J, & Wyckoff, J. (2008). The narrowing gap in new york. city teacher qualifications and its implications for student achievement in high- poverty schools. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 27(4), Retrieved from doi: 10.1002/pamBrighton, C.M., (2003). The Effects of Middle School Teachers’ Beliefs on Classroom Practices. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 27, 2/3, pp. 177–206.Ciascai, L. (2009). Using graphic organizers in intercultural education. Acta Didactia Napocensia,2. Retrieved from, R., & Cooper, J., (2007). Those who can, teach. (11th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students. (2010).American speech-language hearing association. Retrieved July 19, 2011, from =%22Culturally%22Cushner, K.; Muri, A. and Sundh, S (2010). Baltic Sea Regional Cross-Cultural Materials Development Project. Gotland, Sweden: University of Gotland.Daniels, V. I. (1998). Minority students in gifted and special education programs: The case for education equity. The Journal of Special Education, 32, 41-43.Dunn, R. (2000). Learning styles: Theory, research, and practice. National Forum of Applied Educational Research Journal. 13, 1, 3-22.Gorski, P. (2010). Social justice quips and quotations. Retrieved from, T.R. (2007). Closing the achievement gap: Revisiting Benjamin S. Bloom’s “learning
  • 30. CULTURALLY & LINGUISTICALLY DIVERSE STUDENTS 30 for mastery.” Journal of Advanced Academics, 19, 8-31.Huebner, T. A. (2010). Differentiated Learning: Meeting Students Where They Are. 67, 5, 79- 81.Ortiz, A. A., Wilkinson, C.Y., Robertson-Courtney, P., & Kushner, M I. (1991). AIM for the Best, Assessment and Intervention Model for the Bilingual Exceptional Student: A handbook for teachers and planners. Arlington, VA: Developmental Associates, Inc.Melby, E. O., (1963). The Teacher and Learning. New York, NY: Basic Book Publishers.NCES, Initials. (2010, October). Poverty status of all persons, persons in families, and related children under age 18, by race/ethnicity: selected years, 1959 through 2009. Retrieved from Child Left Behind Fact Sheet on Assessment of ELL. (2010). American speech-language hearing association. Retrieved July 19, 2011, from, K., & Cooper, M., (2010). Those who can, teach. (12th ed.). Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners.Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.Wallace, J. (1974). Decision making: the role of education. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 56(1),