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Culturally Relevant Teaching and the Impact on Academic Achievement

The relationship between, race, class, and school performance has been one of the most consistent features of education in the United States. All students do not learn in the same way ,and we felt it was of our utmost responsibility for this problem to be highlighted when it comes to children living in low-income neighborhoods. As future educators, we need to be mindful of this and respond accordingly. If we do not, then we run the risk of treating students with disabilities, students below the poverty line, and students of different race or gender than our own as less intelligent, incapable of understanding or achievement. Studies have shown that rather than trying to educate everyone in a standardized way, we do far better to diversify our techniques and attempt to connect with our students as they are – rather than as we are.

Poverty and lack of opportunity often are presented as the only plausible reasons for poor performance, but is that the underlying reason behind the failure of our children today? No, but the lack of culturally-relevant teaching seems to be at the forefront of the educational setbacks of our youth. Cultural competence is an important source of connection between the teachers and their students. Enhancing student-teacher relationships and promoting cultural capital builds the foundation in which students are able to relate the education they receive in class through cultural experiences and everyday aspects they face in a given environment. The notion of “cultural relevance” moves beyond language to include other aspects of student and school culture. Thus, culturally-relevant teaching uses student culture in order to maintain it and to transcend the negative effects of the dominant culture. With that being said, there are a few questions that come to mind to help solve these classroom problems for our children:

  • How do we demand success from our students who have been made to feel as if they are incompetent?
  • How do we show appreciation of our students’ culture by refusing to remove the students’ culture from their education?
  • How do we demand that students develop a broad sociopolitical consciousness and engage critically in the world that helps them to understand where exactly certain biases originate and how they can make a difference?

These are all just stepping stones to a make sense of the inequality in public education in low-income neighborhoods.

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