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Breaking the Mold of Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students

reviewed by Vasthi Reyes Acosta - November 30, 2012

coverTitle: Breaking the Mold of Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students
Author(s): Andrea Honigsfield & Audrey Cohan (eds.)
Publisher: R&L Education,
ISBN: 1607097990, Pages: 288, Year: 2012
Search for book at Amazon.com

Breaking the Mold of Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students: Innovative and Successful Practices for the 21st Century is a unique collection of studies that describe successful practices used in working with culturally and linguistically diverse populations within the United States and abroad. The populations represented are diverse as are the practices described. As a teacher quoted in the book stated, “I want to be prepared to work in any kind of school with all different kind of children. . . . I want to be able to reach all children. I want my children to know that I care and that they are valued and important. . . .” (Hartlep, 2012, p. 29).  This collection helps prepare today’s teacher to face the increasingly diverse student populations present in today’s schools.

In the first section of the book, titled “Social Justice and Advocacy, the editors collected a wonderful sampling of studies that focused on social justice. Their definition of social justice includes more than cultural or linguistic differences; it includes sexual orientation as an important and critical aspect to consider when preparing educators for the present and the future. These chapters address “how resources and educational opportunities are distributed in schools and communities; what procedures and decision-making processes may be in operation in various educational systems; and what may be the nature and quality of interactions among members of school communities, including students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members” (Honigsfeld & Cohan, 2012, p.2).  For example, Chapter Six, “Diversity as Strength: How Higher-Performing Schools Embrace Diversity and Thrive,” a study of 76 schools demonstrates how consistently higher-performing schools provide models of embracing cultural and linguistic diversity. These higher performing schools succeeded by maintaining the belief that difference is good, and that educators should approach difference in ways that build resilience to adversity. “So the message ‘we believe in you and support you’—which is typically echoed in average-performing schools—is accompanied by ‘we expect the best out of you and will hold you to it’” (Wilcox, 2012, p. 49).

The second section of the book, titled “Family and Community Involvement, provides powerful examples of how parents can positively impact the education of their children. These examples recognize parents as resources, and argue that we must involve families and community members beyond superficial participation, in a sustained and systematic manner. From the creation of full service community schools in New York City to a Texas school district’s home visit initiative, these studies demonstrate how to build bridges between home and school. In Chapter Eleven, “Preparing Chinese Immigrant Parents of Children with Disabilities to Become School Partners,the home school partnership is considered one of the most crucial factors for student and school achievement. In the first year of the project, some parent participants expressed that they were uncomfortable disagreeing with school professionals, even when they knew the services provided did not address their child’s needs. This belief is common among newly arrived immigrants of any culture. The study was most relevant not only because it was reflective of the realities facing many immigrant communities, but also because it presented a good model for replication. It presented best practices that could be used when working with immigrant parent populations, a challenge most school districts face. The lessons learned from the studies presented in this chapter can be applied to other communities and adjusted to meet local needs. By demonstrating what was possible these studies inspired.

The third section of the book, titled “Culturally Responsive Practices in Classrooms, Schools and Districts,” presented real, clear examples of how to address linguistically and culturally diverse students. A chapter addressing the needs of the deaf student in a mainstream classroom was particularly relevant: “Considerations About Bringing a Deaf Students Into a Community of Learners in a Mainstream Classroom.” Another chapter, titled “Just don’t quit on us . . .represents the mantra of the whole book, that although these populations are a challenge to mainstream USA, any true support for ALL students must invite change and transformative ideas designed to respond to these student populations that cry out to be heard, understood, recognized, and taught. The chapters in this section spanned different classrooms, schools, and districts and presented a non-deficit driven approach to working with diverse populations. For example, Chapter Twenty, “Integrating Culture-based Arts Education Across Subject Area Boundaries,” presented a description of the implementation of Project Intersect, a research-based Federal Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Grant that provided the opportunity for a teacher to construct a place-specific interdisciplinary arts curriculum. She delivered a culturally responsive curriculum for indigenous learners through a fur-trade unit. During this unit the students were able to demonstrate their command of Ojibwe and French vocabulary, mathematics, science, and some economics. As a result of the delivery of this curriculum and the work associated with Project Intersect, nearly 50 percent of teachers provided Native children with more culturally responsive learning opportunities in 2010 than they had in 2006. Some unique lessons they learned along the way were: a strong public school commitment to integrating culture-based arts education is essential for positive student outcomes; cultural immersion activities are important in developing teachers’ skills and comfort for constructing a culture-based curriculum; and local elders, artists, and academics must be involved in cultural-competency training.

The last section of the book, titled “Preservice and Inservice Teacher Education for Diversity,” focused on teacher training and development. It highlighted teacher preparation programs that support culturally and linguistically diverse student populations by preparing teachers to work with these populations. It recognized that for teachers to work successfully with diverse populations they first must learn to see outside their own personal racial, cultural, and socioeconomic biases. These chapters honored the cultural and linguistic diversity of the students by offering the teachers ways to respond to diversity so all students could achieve.

This book should be a cornerstone to understanding the myriad practices available to serve culturally and linguistically diverse student populations. This book would allow teachers to see the span of approaches, the breadth of populations, and the proven approaches available when working with culturally and linguistically diverse students. Teacher pre-service and in-service preparation programs should make this book required reading to better prepare all teachers for the student population of today’s classrooms.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: November 30, 2012
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16952, Date Accessed: 5/27/2022 3:27:32 AM

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About the Author
  • Vasthi Acosta
    Amber Charter School
    E-mail Author
    VASTHI REYES ACOSTA is the Head of School/Principal at Amber Charter School in East Harlem. Vasthi Acosta is a graduate of Columbia University’s Teachers College where she was awarded both a Doctor of Education and Master of Arts degrees. She also holds a Master of Science degree from Bank Street College of Education and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Fordham University.

    Dr. Acosta has worked in the NYC Department of Education as Assistant Principal, Consultant and teacher. She was a college professor at Hostos Community College in the Early Childhood Education department, a curriculum developer and teacher trainer at Teachers College. While at Teachers College, she was responsible for training teachers throughout the North Eastern United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. She has been a national validator for early childhood programs seeking accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

    Dr. Acosta has presented scholarly work at national and state-wide conferences. She has published several articles, the two most recent, a book review of the book Language, Space and Power: A Critical Look at Bilingual Education and a commentary titled, Stung by Buzz Words, both in the Teachers College Record. As an author, her novella is published in the anthology A Big Apple Christmas. She is also a columnist for El Diario/La Prensa where her weekly column, “La Maestra del Pueblo” appears every Monday.

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