Banks (2004) wrote one of the seminal articles on educating all students through multicultural education. Therein he identifies five dimensions of multicultural education: (a) content integration, (b) knowledge construction, (c) equity pedagogy, (d) prejudice reduction, and (e) empowering school culture and system. A rigorous, responsive, and responsible education must embrace all five dimensions. In order to educate all of our students, we must be committed to setting rigorous academic expectations for all students, instructing with culturally responsive curriculum, and accepting responsibility for the learning of all students.
Rigorous Academic Expectations
Multicultural education emphasizes that academic content is important, but even more important is that students learn the academic content. Students should be met where they are and surrounded with support by faculty, staff, and other students to reach high academic standards. Ladson-Billings (2011) cites Eastside Preparatory Academy, a real school in California with a curriculum similar to an elite prep school, as evidence that this method is not only possible but successful. “In its ten-year existence Eastside, which serves a 100% low income and minority community, has posted a 100% high school graduation rate and a 100% four-year college-going rate” (p. 14). A rigorous curriculum integrated with content about diverse people should be the standard of all schools.
Culturally Responsive Teaching
I believe that teaching is not pouring knowledge into empty vessels, but a dynamic interaction between a learner and the content, the teacher, and the other learners. This dynamic model of teaching is responsive to students’ cultural backgrounds, learning styles, and individual needs. Dr. Geneva Gay states that culturally responsive teaching “uses culture and experiences of different ethnic groups as a launch pad to teach more effectively.” Being a culturally responsive teacher means that the teacher uses good pedagogy and contextualizes it for each student. It also means that teachers view all students as coming to school with a valuable and culturally rich legacy.
Taking Responsibility for Student Achievement
The school is responsible not only for student learning but also for ending the achievement gap. While some may be quick to blame factors outside of the school’s control on student achievement, I say if it affects schooling, then it is the responsibility of the school to address. Garza and Garza (2010) summarize the research on school reform by stating: “Today’s schools have failed to develop a critical and pedagogically sound educational environment that is effective and relevant to the needs of children of color” (p. 191). Schools are responsible for establishing and maintaining a positive school climate, not just for some students but for all students. A positive school climate means that the space is physically welcoming, that students see a reflection of themselves pictured in posters and photographs around the school, and that the teachers are seen as conductors of the learning experience. Viewing teachers as conductors makes them responsible for providing a learning environment that is conducive to achievement and for getting all of the students to the destination of academic success safely and on time.