This qualitative study examined educator beliefs related to culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse students and families along with participants' knowledge of culture and its application in practice. Data were collected through a qualitative instrument administered to 111 teachers and educational leaders in two school districts in Texas and Michigan. Participants provided written responses to scenarios depicting culture clashes that commonly occur in schools. Data were analyzed using a constructivist grounded theory resulting in a continuum of cultural responsiveness. Results reveal the majority of participants appear to have a general awareness of culture, but also hold a number of deficit beliefs about diverse students and their families. In describing how they apply cultural knowledge in practice, participants tended to address visible aspects of culture, overlooking less obvious aspects. The majority of participants used deficit thinking in explanations for the clashes and viewed the clashes as problems warranting a technical solution. Little consideration was given to the social aspects of schooling such as identity, culture, language, and relationships, which are at the heart of culturally responsive teaching, learning, and leading. More than 30 years of school reform efforts have failed to address inequitable educational outcomes. The results of this study suggest the ineffectiveness of reform efforts may be due in part to educators' deficit beliefs and lack of cultural knowledge, two areas preparation and professional development programs must better address.
Preservice Teacher Preparation
Administration and Leadership