This view is reflected in increasing calls for financial equity among schools, desegregation, mainstreaming, and standardized testing for teachers and students alike; it has been maintained that by providing the same education to all students, schools can equalize social opportunity (Bowman, 1994).
This latter position is typically followed up with the use of a particular curriculum designed to support the approach. In this regard, Bowman suggests that, "Knowledge is thought to exist in the collected wisdom of a canon, and education is the transferral of established wisdom to the learner" (p. 218). Unfortunately, when educators attempt to impose a "one-size-fits-all" curriculum on a diverse study body, there are bound to be problems -- particularly for those students who are already marginalized through language and other socioeconomic constraints.
Furthermore, in many ways, the public schools are unique in that they have been assigned the responsibility of communicating what American society regards as important values and instilling these in the next generation of workers -- and taxpayers. For example, in his book, Cultural Diversity in the United States, Naylor (1997) points out that:
Education transmits culture from generation to generation. If it is anything, culture is ever-changing. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but always changing. Cultures and their associated discourses and literacies change as a result of their own internal dynamics and in relation to other cultures. Cultural change is an inevitable, unavoidable historical progression. Cultures change as shared ideas, values, attitudes, and behaviors are altered as a consequence of interaction among members of a culture and between members of different cultures. The question then becomes: How can the educators grab hold of this malleable and ever-changing phenomenon of culture so that they can pass it on to the next generation? (p. 322)
According to Mcneil, "Standardization reduces the quality and quantity of what is taught and learned in schools. This immediate negative effect of standardization is the overwhelming finding of a study of schools where the imposition of standardized controls reduced the scope and quality of course content, diminished the role of teachers, and distanced students from active learning" (p. 3). In fact, the long-term effects of standardization have been shown to be even more severe over the long-term, where standardization creates inequities, it simply further widens the already growing gap between the quality of education for poor and minority youth and that of more privileged students in American classrooms (Mcneil, 2000). To the extent that these standardized testing regimens are allowed to remain in place in the extent to which this gap will continue to grow in the future. According to Mcneil:
The discriminatory effects of standardization are immediately evident in the reduction in both the quality and quantity of educational content for students who have historically scored low on standardized assessments. Over time, the longer standardized controls are in place, the wider the gap becomes as the system of testing and test preparation comes to substitute in minority schools for the curriculum available to more privileged students. (2000, p. 3).
Finally, while the problems associated with standardized testing have been shown to be complex and pervasive in American classrooms, the problem is further exacerbated by the fact that studies have shown time and again that cultural diversity is a sensitive topic in the United States, and many students may be hesitant to participate in class discussions or exercises in fear of offending one of their peers (Viramontez & Harrison, 2002). Therefore, "It is essential for educators to understand the nature of the problems faced by children at risk of school failure and to design educational solutions that take into account the importance of the social context in which learning takes place" (Bowman, 1994, p. 218). These issues are discussed further below.
The Importance of Identifying Effective Culturally Sensitive Educational Evaluations.
Clearly, there are a wide range of challenges facing both administrators and educators alike in delivering culturally sensitive educational services in the American classroom today. First of all, pedagogical choices are required in order to educate a culturally diverse student body. According to Naylor (1997):
Whether non-English speaking students should be taught in English or in their native language is a legitimate pedagogical question. But the way we deal with diversity in the classroom goes well beyond this. The language of use and the goal of language training is a part of the larger question of the dominant cultures expectations of the assimilating student. (p. 321)
These issues are becoming increasingly important for both American educators and society as well because of the need to remain competitive in a globalized economy that is assuming an international flavor more and more. To achieve this level of competitiveness, though, requires a workforce that is adequately educated. In this regard, Bowman points out that:
One of the inescapable requirements for the future well-being of the United States is a highly educated workforce. Our new national imperative, therefore, is to educate all children to the highest possible level. At present, schools are not successfully educating many of our students. Children from low-income families and those from some minority groups -- primarily African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and some Asians -- have higher rates of dropping out, retention in grade, and special education placements than do other children. (p. 219).
If these trends in educational achievement are not reversed, these disadvantaged students will not acquire the skills or background they will need in the future to secure gainful employment or achieve full participation in the economic and civic life of the nation. Bowman suggests that more importantly, the inequality that results from differences in educational achievement among these students is likely to make the social stability of the country increasingly questionable.
There are some distinct and important differences, though, in the respective responsibilities of administrators compared to those of classroom teachers which are discussed further below.
Administrators. Providing a culturally sensitive curriculum is the strict responsibility of the school administrator (Growe et al., 2002). Troutman (1998) maintains that educational administrators employ the dimensions of multicultural education as guidelines for the implementation of a cultural diversity program. The first dimension is content integration. It involves the inclusion of "examples and content from a variety of cultures and groups to illustrate key concepts, principles, generalizations, and theories in their subject areas or disciplines" (Troutman, 1998, p. 10). The role of school administrators is to motivate classroom teachers to incorporate racial and cultural content into the entire curriculum (Growe et al., 2002).
The second dimension is the knowledge construction; this is a process that is comprised of "methods, activities, and questions teachers use to help students understand, investigate, and determine cultural assumptions, frames of reference, perspective, and bias that influence the ways in which knowledge is constructed" (Growe et al., 2002, p. 206). In this regard, educational administrators must ensure that teachers assist their students in understanding how knowledge is constructed and how it is affected by race, culture, and social position (Troutman, 1998).
Those initiatives that are intended to reduce and eliminate prejudice should "describe the characteristics of students' racial attitudes and values"; for this purpose, educators should develop and implement cultural diversity programs that "promote positive interactions and cooperative learning activities" (Troutman, 1998, pp. 13-14). Therefore, an equitable pedagogy can be achieved in American classrooms when educators use "instructional techniques that promote cooperation and include the learning and cultural styles of diverse groups"; in addition, administrators must ensure that teachers accommodate the learning styles of a diverse student population (Growe et al., 2002).
The final dimension of multicultural education is implemented by generating a common or shared school culture, which draws on the ethos of students; this step involves developing an educational environment ensuring that all students will enjoy an equal education. The educational administrator's role is to evaluate "tracking and grouping practices, labeling practices, sports participation, ethnic tuff, and gifted programs" in order to provide an overall school community that promotes equality and appreciation of diversity among students (Growe et al., 2002).
A concomitant element in multicultural development is the awareness stage; this level of awareness is derived from the race and culture of others, but it is also developed in a manner that may tend to comprise a general culture. At the acceptance level, educators must acknowledge the origins of their own ethnocentric views and attain impartiality in their perception of other cultures. Still another stage in multicultural development is affirmation. According to these authors, "People, at this stage, use the skill learned in the previous stage and frequently facilitate and act as a liaison between cultures. They are now able to affirm the cultures of others (Growe et al., 2002, p. 207).
Administrators can determine whether a school's multicultural education program is effective through certain indicators. One such indicator is that a faculty and staff possess knowledge and activity that are truly reflective of the diverse population of the students. "It is important…