Culturally Relevant Teaching is Critical to Closing Achievement Gap

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Minnesota 2012 Teacher of the Year Jackie Roehl says engaging strategies elevate all students to higher achievement levels

No longer can teachers simply value diversity and multiculturalism and continue to teach all students the same way in the name of equality, culturally relevant teachers do not teach all students the same way in the name of equality.

Closing the achievement gap is a moral and ethical imperative that will require more educators to incorporate culturally relevant teaching strategies into their classrooms, Jackie Roehl, this year’s Minnesota Teacher of the Year and an NUA-endorsed teacher-leader, writes in a compelling column recently published by Education Week.

“No longer can teachers simply value diversity and multiculturalism and continue to teach all students the same way in the name of equality,” Roehl writes. “Culturally relevant teachers do not teach all students the same way in the name of equality; they create opportunities for learning that build on students’ personal backgrounds and academic strengths.”

Roehl says her work with the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education (NUA) has transformed her teaching by helping her to develop the skills to engage students by drawing on their cultural frames of reference to make learning relevant to their lives. She says NUA seminars improved her practice by emphasizing high intellectual performance for all students and providing teaching strategies that stress high operational practices while considering each student’s cultural frame of reference.

“All teachers, regardless of their classroom demographics, need culturally relevant teaching because it gets all students to the deepest levels of thinking and the highest levels of personal achievement,” Roehl says. “Using explicit and engaging strategies will not only help close the racial achievement gap, but also push all students to higher achievement levels and lasting personal connections.”

To read the entire column, follow this link: http://nuatc.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/embracing_discomfort.pdf

About Jackie Roehl:

Jackie Roehl has taught high school English in Edina, Minn., since 1998. Roehl also serves as a part-time literacy coach, staff development co-chair, and adjunct instructor through Hamline University, where she teaches a course in Culturally Relevant Teaching. Roehl holds master's and bachelor's degrees from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. She was chosen as Minnesota's 2012 State Teacher of the Year.

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Based in Syosset, N.Y., and founded in 1989 at Teachers College, Columbia University, the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education provides student-focused professional development, advocacy and organizational guidance to expand and accelerate student achievement. NUA works with teachers, school administrators and communities to identify strengths in order to leverage the needs of students and break down barriers to achievement and transform schools.

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Gina Davis
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