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The_Culturally_Responsive_Teacher - The Culturadly To...

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The Culturadly B elki Alvarez, a young girl one of us knows, arrived in New York from the Dominican Republic several years ago with her parents and two siblings. After a difficult start in the United States, both parents found jobs; their minimum-wage earn- ings were barely enough for a family of five to scrape by month to month. As the oldest child in the family, Belki soon had to assume caretaking responsibili- ties for her younger brother and sister. At only 8 years old, she was responsible for getting her siblings ready for school, taking them there each morning, bring- ing them back home at the end of the school day, and caring for them until her parents came home from work. On weekends, she worked with her mother at the community street fair to make extra money for the family by sell- To engage students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, we must see them as capable learners. Ana Maria Villegas and Tamara Lucas 28 EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP/MARCH 2007 ing products prepared at home. She as- tutely negotiated prices with customers and expertly handled financial transac- tions. Belki often spoke enthusiastically about having her own business in the future. She spoke Spanish fluently at home and in the community, and she often served as the English language translator for her parents. Belki's teachers, however, did not know this competent, responsible, en- thusiastic girl. They perceived her as lacking in language and math skills, having little initiative, and being gener- ally disinterested in learning. Such profound dissonance between her in-school and out-of-school experi- ences is not unique to Belki. Sadly, this is typical for an increasing number of students in U.S. schools today Over the past three decades, the racial, ethnic, and linguistic demographics of the K-12 student population in the United States have changed dramatically In 1972, 22 percent of all students en- rolled in elementary and secondary pub- lic schools were of racial/ethnic minority backgrounds (National Center for Educa- tion Statistics [NCES], 2002). By 2003, racial/ethnic minority students accounted for 41 percent of total enrollments in U.S. public schools. In six states and the District of Columbia, students of color are already in the majority (NCES, 2005). The immigrant student popula- tion has also grown significantly in the past 30 years. Currently, one in five stu- dents speaks a language other than Eng- lish at home, and the majority of these Sstudents are learning English as a second language in school (Center on Education Policy, 2006).
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R,e p " 1T% lo RSpon.sive T.ealcher A Framework and a Vision Successfully teaching students from cul- turally and linguistically diverse back- grounds-especially students from historically marginalized groups-in- volves more than just applying special- ized teaching techniques. It demands a new way of looking at teaching that is grounded in an understanding of the role of culture and language in learning.
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