Staff Development In Multilingual Multicultural Schools

It is estimated that by the turn of the century up to 40 percent of the children in the nation’s classrooms will be non-white, with the majority Latino (Valencia, 1996). Already, multilingual multicultural schools exist in practically every major city. Since the teaching force is primarily white, and becoming even more so, it is important to take immediate action to prepare teachers and principals to work with a student population different from themselves. Yet, professional development activities in schools still shy away from tackling inequity, prejudice, and bias, although experience shows that their existence negatively affects instruction, curriculum, teacher-student and teacher-parent relationships, and even teacher-teacher relations.
Creators of staff development programs must understand what reform means locally in order to gain insight into how professional development for the reforms can be made relevant and sustained. They must consider how the dominant culture of a school (whether it is a “white” or “minority”culture) can halt all reform efforts so that nothing, particularly people, fundamentally changes. When this happens, staff development programs take up the dual task of developing new expertise in teachers, and also addressing how inequalities, power, racism, or laissez-faire attitudes are rooted in the school’s basic institutional structures. Indeed, school reform itself must make solving these problems –along with instituting communities of genuine collaboration, caring, and justice–fundamental forces driving their missions and action plans.
This digest presents recommendations for a staff development program for a multilingual multicultural teaching staff based on a model that has been tested and shown to be effective.
Historical Disempowerment of Bilingual/Minority Teachers and Students
For the past 25 years, the education of language minority students has been mainly addressed by short-term federally funded programs specializing in providing variations of bilingual instruction in elementary schools and English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction in secondary schools. While they have been most helpful in targeting specific educational needs of students, the programs have also alienated both the students and their teachers from the social and academic mainstream of the school. Their “remedial program” label deprived many students of high expectations, higher aspirations, equality, and excellence in academic endeavors (Cummins, 1993; Lucas, 1993; National Coalition of Advocates for Students, 1994). The program fragmentation and student alienation have had an extremely negative impact on bilingual teachers as well; bilingual/minority teachers in the programs have generally been sent to the back of the “mainstream bus” of school reform and staff development. This isolation has created a culture of “us vs. them” between bilingual and mainstream teachers. It has engendered in bilingual teachers at best a superficial interest in school innovations and restructuring efforts; at worst, a deep rooted sense of disempowerment.
Although there have been many staff development opportunities for bilingual/ESL teachers, programs typically lack comprehensiveness and continuity. Fads come and go and bilingual teachers try them for a year or two, or simply adapt a few techniques or components of a model. Accountability has been rare. An exhaustive meta-analysis of effective programs for Latino students illustrates that throughout the country bilingual teacher performance has rarely been considered , evaluated, or held accountable (Fashola, Slavin, Calderon, & Duran, 1996). However, blaming reluctant bilingual teachers for program ineffectiveness is incorrect, since most implementation efforts lack follow-up support to give teachers encouragement and constructive feedback on their progress.
Weakness in staff development and program implementation designs combine to produce student failure, and, reasonably, criticism of bilingual programs. Frequently programs offer only helpful hints or techniques, and possibly some new materials, rather than a plan for changing the basic core of a teacher’s practice. Some programs simply bring in an expensive motivational speaker for a couple of hours to “motivate” teachers, without providing teachers with follow-up time for analysis, or for making connections to their daily practice.
Accountability has also taken a back seat to another sensitive factor in bilingual education: the shortage of bilingual teachers. Because schools are desperate to fill their bilingual teaching positions, the selection process, on-the-job preparation, and evaluation systems have failed to consider instructional quality and accountability.
Further, bilingual program staff development has suffered from what Apple (1993) calls “official knowledge” because programs are usually mediated by a complex political economy and the institutions they serve. They have been designed to influence only those functions sanctioned by these entities. This applies just as well to bilingual teacher preparation at many universities. Therefore, effective bilingual teacher pre- and inservice training is almost nil. The result is that bilingual teachers have been fighting alone for many years.
The Need to Restructure Professional Development
Effective instruction in bilingual/multicultural schools requires that teachers combine a sophisticated knowledge of subject matter with a wide repertoire of teaching strategies, and with state-of-the-art knowledge about learning theory, cognition, pedagogy, curriculum, technology, assessment, and programs that work. Teachers also need to have ample knowledge of the students’ language aand sociocultural and developmental background, and to be as proficient as possible in two languages. Standard teacher-proof curriculum, traditional bilingual teaching, and typical staff development programs do not ensure that teachers will develop such skills. In addition to bilingual and mainstream teachers, counselors, resource specialists, and administrators must undertake tasks they have never before been called to accomplish. Yet, there is still much reluctance to change and to participate in a staff development program focusing bilingual/ESL issues (Calderon, 1994; Calderon, 1996; Calderon & Carreon, 1994; De Villar, R.A., Faltis, C.J., & Cummins, J., 1994; Gonzalez & Darling-Hammond, 1996; Development Associates, 1995 ).
Until now, schools have relegated language minority students to bilingual teachers only, taking the opportunity away from other teachers to grow professionally to meet the nation’s educational needs. However, if all students are to succeed, all teachers in all schools must be given profound learning opportunities and support within a well-structured program, the resources to do their job effectively, and the tools to become multicultural professionals.

Staff Development In Multilingual Multicultural Schools

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Staff Development In Multilingual Multicultural Schools

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