The research reviewed in Chapter Three has revealed several practices that may encourage culturally relevant teaching. In considering the past and present experiences of minority students in school, it is important to find the most effective practices to teach all people’s children. The following are practices that research has shown to be effective when working with a diverse student base.
The Effect of Tracking and Stereotyping by Teachers
Studies have shown that teachers refer minority students to gifted and talented programs less (Elhoweris et al, 2005), and to special education programs more (Hosp & Reschly, 2004), than white students. Since minority status, unfortunately, often correlates with low socioeconomic status, these figures may be due to differences in class. Low SES students are also overrepresented in special education classes for the mentally retarded (Hosp & Reschly, 2004).
The study by Elhoweris et al. (2005), which showed race had an effect on teachers recommendation of students into gifted and talented programs shows that teachers’ expectations of a student will affect what they see. If teachers hold stereotyped impressions of their students, they will continue to think their minority students are less able than white students, even if they perform in approximately similar ways.
If indeed African American students have lower achievement scores as Hosp and Reschly (2004) found, it would seem that more would be referred to special education programs. To this I would suggest future study into what is it about our system that gives minority and low SES students less of a chance to succeed.
That race is such a strong predictor in Hosp and Reschly’s (2004) study for the referral of students to classes for the emotionally disturbed, a branch of special education that deals mostly with behavior, is telling of the difficulties that teachers (a majority of whom are white) may have in connecting with minority students. Just because a student comes from a different cultural background than their teacher does not mean the teacher should assume they need special education. The teacher may need some “special education” to learn culturally relevant practices and help all his or her students succeed.
The researchers (Hosp & Reschly, 2004) suggest the development of early interventions that might help reduce the higher representation of minorities in special education classes. Professional development for teachers working with a multicultural student base is not addressed as a cause by the authors. They report that yes, race and income have a strong affect on placement, but they do not address why they do.
Teaching teachers to see the student rather than the race or cultural characteristics often attached to race may help with this
Teachers who want to give all their students a chance at a fair education need to keep studies like these (Elhoweris et al, 2005, Hosp & Reschly, 2004), in mind. When struggling with a student from a different culture, a teacher must analyze the source of the conflict or misunderstanding, and attempt to find culturally relevant ways to teach the student. Teachers can find methods that keep students with diverse abilities in the mainstream classroom, and stop relegating students to special education programs because of cultural misunderstandings. All students have unique abilities and needs, and being aware of these can help teachers accurately diagnose students who need special education, and students who just need a different type of help in their regular classrooms
The Effect of Class and Socioeconomic Status on Teaching and Learning Craig et al.’s study (2003) concluded that with proper intervention, social class should not make a major difference in a student’s success in school, and Stage et al. (2001) concluded that low SES students with difficulty in letter naming should receive early intervention to strengthen letter naming fluency in order to ensure they do not fall behind peers in first grade and beyond. Given these findings, schools must provide early testing and intervention for students who show signs of struggling with literacy early on in education, by offering testing for pre-kindergarten students and offering preschool slots to students who show a need for extra help. These recommendations require state, district, and school wide efforts. Teachers must also provide early intervention in the primary classroom, so students get the help they need early on and do not slip behind their peers in reading development.
Since Wiencek et al.(1998) found that when teachers use the developmentally appropriate view of early reading development, wherein children learn to read when they are ready, seems to work for the middle and upper class students and disadvantage poor students. From this finding the reader can assume that teachers must take it upon themselves to make sure all students, especially low income students, have time to explore books and concepts about print, as well as work with phonemic awareness and phoneme grapheme correspondence. Children should also have small group or one on one teacher interaction, and an opportunity to receive teacher scaffolding.
Effective Methods for Teaching Hispanic Students
Riccio et al. (2001) also called for early intervention of reading difficulties for Spanish speaking ESL students. They found that for students who don’t speak English at home, it is difficult to identify reading problems early on, because of the language barrier. With the high rates of illiteracy and drop out in the Hispanic community, it is vital to identify problems with phonemic awareness early. With tests such as the CTE that identify abilities in the native language, schools can identify reading difficulties early on. It is important to have this early intervention in place instead of waiting to diagnose these problems once the student learns English, after they are already significantly behind their classmates.
It has been shown (Carlisle and Beeman, 2000) that students who speak Spanish upon entering school were shown to learn to read more quickly in Spanish and in English when they were taught in Spanish, while children who were taught in English did not start reading as quickly in either language. Perhaps a reader needs to be familiar with the language before comprehension strategies can be applied, decoding words that do not make sense will not nurture comprehension. It is important for ESL students to receive some instruction in reading strategies in their native language when possible, so these can develop as early as possible and then be transferred to the student’s second language.
The application of Carlisle and Beeman’s (2000) study is that learning to read in one’s native language will not only benefit the student’s literacy in his/her first language, but also help him/her read much better in English. This shows teachers that students will make gains in English reading whether or not they read only in English, and that students are able to maintain their literacy capabilities in their native language if they are encouraged to practice, and read, in their native language.
Research shows (Denton, et al., 2004) that students who do not speak English and who learn to read in a school culture where decoding and phonics are of key importance may learn to decode words that they cannot understand. Spanish ESL students who were tutored improve only in context free reading. It is important to focus on the difference between fluency and comprehension. Fluency can be helpful for students who are learning to read words they already know the meaning of, but being able to pronounce words with an English pronunciation does not help students who do not know the meaning of the word to begin with. Allowing students to spend some time reading in their native language will help students’ comprehension, as has been shown by Steffensen, et al. (1999). When ESL students are pushed to have increased fluency, their comprehension may suffer because they need more time to think about the content and translate mentally (Denton, et al., 2004).
According to the research (Chiappe et al., 2002), teachers must remember that until ESL students learn English, they are interpreting everything in terms of their native language, which can cause confusion. In most languages, the syntax is different than in English. Students cannot use this as a cueing system for reading. It is important for teachers to make sure students are able to make meaning out of reading, instead of just pronouncing words that have no meaning to the student. A focus on meaning helps students improve more than an emphasis on decoding unfamiliar words.
Pollard-Durodola, et al. (2004) studied the strategies that are used to teach phonemic awareness and early word reading in Spanish. This is important for a teacher to know, even in an English instruction classroom, because students may be coming into classrooms already having learned to read in Spanish. Teachers should be familiar with strategies, similar and different, to better understand their new students unique abilities and schema. This study really showed the difficulty students may have in transitioning their reading abilities from a language with shallow, consistent orthography like Spanish to one with many different rules like English. Knowing that Spanish often treats a syllable as the unit of sound rather than a phoneme can help a teacher work with students who may not comprehend the idea of breaking words down into the smaller units.
Having knowledge of these differences can help teachers assist students who may need to grasp not only a new language, but a new set of rules for reading it.