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Teacher Colleges Emphasizing ‘Cultural Competence’

By Sarah Karp and Rebecca Harris

Schools of education have generally always included training targeted at specific types of students, whether those living in the inner city or in rural areas. But Tim Daly, president of the non-profit The New Teacher Project, believes that such specialty training is on the rise nationally. (The New Teacher Project conducts policy research and helps districts find strategies to improve the quality of teachers in schools serving poor and minority students.)

UIC’s College of Education now offers only an urban education major for undergraduates. Students in the major can choose to prepare for an elementary education certification or study “education in a democratic society,” which includes policy studies and prepares students to become educators in non-traditional settings like non-profits.

Indeed, the catch-phrase “cultural competence” has become common in education circles. As Reavis Elementary School Principal Michael Johnson puts it: “Are they able to relate to the children they serve?” To help prospective teachers better understand the children and communities in which they plan to work, some education schools offer classes in race, class and culture. Some incorporate internships at local community organizations as part of training. Some programs are being more deliberate in teaching candidates how to manage classrooms—a skill that new teachers often struggle with.

One reason is culture shock. “The vast majority of the teaching force is white women who don’t know the communities, so there’s a potential cultural mismatch or a misreading [of students’ behavior] that happens early on and it unravels from there,” says Vicki Chou, dean of the College of Education at UIC. The college commissioned a survey of Chicago principals and found that first-year teachers, especially in predominantly black schools, lack classroom management skills.

Continued at: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/03/15/26catalyst_culturalcomp.h30.html

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