The Role of the Principal in Fostering Culturally Responsive Schools

As school leaders, principals set the tone for cultural awareness, responsiveness and inclusivity. They should also provide resources for teachers to gain the skills required to engage in culturally responsive teaching. As ethnic, socioeconomic and racial diversity within schools has broadened, leaders and educators must recognize the varied backgrounds of their students through culturally responsive teaching and learning techniques.

The online Master of Education (M.Ed.) –  Educational Leadership, Principal Certificate program from Eastern Washington University (EWU) allows education leaders to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to help students learn in a changing and diverse world. Program graduates are equipped to be education leaders who foster equitable, relevant and successful school environments that recognize equity disparities and allow students to express themselves. Through a curriculum that includes coursework on topics such as administration, management, supervision, curriculum design and school law, graduates are prepared to sit for the Washington principal certification exam.

How Principals Build Cultural Competence

Principals are uniquely positioned to foster cultural competence in schools on the student, teacher and family levels. While many strategies for building a culturally competent school exist, some proven approaches include conducting implicit bias training, fostering community involvement, committing to a diverse staff base and encouraging parent involvement.

Implicit Bias Training

Educators and principals must dive deep into their biases and stereotypes to promote culturally responsive teaching. When we make ourselves aware of our perceptions of others, we can improve our cultural awareness. This is the ability to recognize and respect the differences of everyone in the school, regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability or race.

Principals should engage their staff with literature, professional development training and conferences to better understand and connect with students. Students benefit when principals ensure their teachers have the proper training to strengthen student engagement, create connections between the students and the curriculum and increase student success.

Community Involvement

The principal is the key to implementing change within a school and steering faculty and staff to embrace new practices and attitudes. To create an authentically inclusive school, a principal should involve students and their parents or caregivers by creating opportunities to develop friendships and interact beyond a classroom setting.

Implementing shared activities can foster community interactions that encourage social inclusion. Principals can promote inclusion by demonstrating inclusive leadership, setting high student expectations, establishing a support system and providing resources for educators and students.

One article published in the Leading Learning Lab newsletter includes a list of examples for fostering community involvement, such as partnering with local businesses, training parents as volunteers, partnering with other schools and more.

Diverse Staff

Cultural responsiveness is about understanding how students’ experiences impact their learning. It is also about how administrators and educators welcome diversity and foster relationships between teachers and students. Personalized instruction should consider students’ demographics without negatively impacting the education they receive. If principals support a culturally responsive curriculum and hire faculty and staff who reflect student demographics, the school will benefit from this inclusive environment.

Parent Involvement

Parent participation is another effective component of achieving a supportive school environment, as parents want to feel involved in their children’s education and success. School leaders can build connections between parents and the school by organizing after-school activities, linking parents with school resources, encouraging parent volunteerism, organizing parent-teacher committees and communicating via school apps or websites.

Principals can also engage with parents and the broader community by developing a school blog, using social media, hosting family nights at school and allowing teachers to explain how parents can help students with assignments and provide feedback.

How Eastern Washington University Can Help Principals Create Culturally Responsive Learning Environments

If you’re interested in building on your teaching experience and taking the next step to becoming a school principal, EWU’s online M.Ed. – Educational Leadership, Principal Certificate program helps professionals develop culturally responsive schools by increasing student achievement, organizational effectiveness, teacher performance and parent engagement in their educational communities.

Learn more about Eastern Washington University’s online Master of Education – Educational Leadership, Principal Certificate program.

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