Preparing and Developing Culturally Responsive School Leaders


Standard 3 of the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL) reads, “Effective educational leaders strive for equity of educational opportunity and culturally responsive practices to promote each student’s academic success and well-being.” How do we take this important aspiration and realize it through our practices and actions?

In June, our school’s administrative team hosted a two-day Climate Summit for our entire staff. The aim was to collaborate around our school’s newly defined core values; clarify our common practices around creating a safe and positive school climate; articulate our social-emotional learning plans for the upcoming year; and standardize our discipline practices to ensure consistency, fairness, and, most importantly, increase opportunities for our students to be in class, rather than excluded.

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Ensuring Education for All Children

For most children, school is their home away from home. There they form friendships, socialize, grow, and learn.  Children and their families rely on teachers, principals, and other school staff to nurture and protect them when away from home.  And families and educators have a shared responsibility to work together and ensure that schools are safe environments for all, including our youngest and most vulnerable children.  We can best meet this responsibility when we have a clear understanding of policies and resources that can support the creation of safe learning environments, and ultimately, children’s development and learning.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) regularly releases resources to help educators, school administrators, and families to protect and ensure equitable access to education for all children, including our most vulnerable student populations.  For example, in the past few years, ED has released several documents that address the needs of immigrant children.  One example is the Newcomer Toolkit ED released in September that provided a one-stop shop for educators who serve newcomer students.  The toolkit both catalogued resources for meeting the unique socio-emotional and academic needs of these students and highlighted the assets that newcomer students bring to the classroom.

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Celebrating our Students’ Assets and Intentionally Targeting their Needs

“Merhaba!” “Salaam!  “¡Buenos días!” In my eleven years as a public school principal, greeting my students at the door as they start their school day is one of my greatest joys. It also serves an important purpose – setting a welcoming, warm environment in which each student is known and valued. In serving a range of English learners over the years, I have learned to keep five essential values at the core as I partner with teachers and parents to support our whole student body.

Students who are English learners are English learners all day. (Photo courtesy of the author)

Students who are English learners are English learners all day. (Photo courtesy of the author)

First, bilingualism is a gift and an asset. Helping students maintain their native language is crucial for helping them to develop their identity. We always encourage parents to support their children’s native language development, helping our students engage in complex discourse at home, while celebrating the linguistic assets our students bring to school each day.

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