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Culturally Responsive School Leadership

Culturally responsive school leadership (CRSL) has become essential to research on culturally responsive education, reform, and social justice education. Nearly two decades ago, culturally relevant (Ladson-Billings, 1995) and culturally responsive pedagogies (Gay, 1994) entered and, arguably, would come to dominate discourses on education and reform. Following the effective schools' research, a new wave of scholars aimed to explicitly describe ways in which classroom teachers could address the unique learning needs of minority students. Specific strategies were produced as a result of this work, and it set education research on pedagogy in new, untapped directions. For example, teachers are encouraged to use cultural referents in both pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1995) and classroom management (Weinstein, Tomlinson- Clarke, & Curran, 2004). Moreover, culturally responsive classrooms have been expanded to include multiple epistemologies as diverse as Indigenous (Castagno & Brayboy, 2008) and even hip-hop approaches (Khalifa, 2013).


Gay (2010) made the point that culturally responsive teaching is important, but that it alone cannot solve the significant challenges facing minority students. She amplified the importance of reforming and transforming all aspects of the educational enterprise, such as funding, policymaking, and administration, so they too are culturally responsive. Indeed, such incisive transformations are yet to happen consistently in the field of educational leadership. Surely, if teachers should adjust their craft in ways that respond effectively to children's cultural learning and social needs in the classroom, as Gay suggested, then school administrators must have a similar mandate regarding the entire school culture and climate.


Educational reformers have long claimed school leadership is a crucial component of any reform of education, secondary only to the very act of teaching (Leithwood, Louis, Anderson, & Wahlstrom, 2004). This same research suggests that good teachers will eventually leave schools where there are ineffective school leaders, especially in urban educational environments. Therefore, developing effective leaders becomes a vital part of the process of recruiting and retaining the best teachers for children who have been marginalized. Effective leaders must be capable of promoting and sustaining an environment stable enough to attract, maintain, and support the further development of good teachers. Additionally, the right leader will hold an understanding of the need to recruit and sustain culturally responsive teachers who are better prepared to work with poor children of color. This goal is especially important given the high likelihood poor children of color will get mostly inexperienced teachers who are often teaching out of their content areas (Clotfelter, Ladd, Vigdor, & Wheeler, 2006; Lankford, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2002; Office for Civil Rights, 2014).


IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your students and staff members gain an understanding of one's sense of self and what they deeply value. Having an understanding of one's values matters because research has shown it is linked to better well-being, less stress and delinquency, and increased confidence in one's ability to succeed. Understanding students' values can be developed with culturally responsive practices that reflect a student's identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a safe and dynamic learning environment that honors your school community, visit our website at www.iinii.org, or contact us at iinii@iinii.org or 1800-507-2502.



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