Culturally Responsive Teaching: A Reflection Guide

Policy Paper
Sept. 23, 2020

This is an unprecedented time for U.S. schools: a pandemic has upended education for millions of students and families in the midst of nationwide protests for Black lives. These crises have put a spotlight on disparities that have long plagued our education system. School segregation is on the rise. Far too many Black, Indigenous, and other youth of color lack access to educational resources, including technology, enrichment activities, suitable school buildings, and diverse and effective teachers. As if resource disparities were not enough, these students are often held back by low teacher expectations, exclusionary disciplinary practices, curricula that neglect the struggles and contributions of people of color, and school norms that privilege white and middle-class ways of communicating, thinking, and even dressing.

These enormous challenges cannot be addressed without culturally responsive teachers. While educators cannot singlehandedly make schools less segregated and more equitable, they can ensure that students feel valued and affirmed in schools, in the curriculum, and in their interactions with peers. They can promote engagement and achievement by connecting curriculum to students’ daily lives, cultural backgrounds, and concerns. They can deploy rigorous activities that help students make sense of the world around them and become agents for positive change. They can call attention to educational injustice and work to bolster opportunities for all learners. Culturally responsive teachers do these things and more.

There are many frameworks and ways to think about culturally responsive teaching. Building on this scholarship, New America developed a set of eight core competencies that describe what culturally responsive teachers know and do (see Figure 1). Since it was published in 2019, the framework has been used widely by individual teachers, districts, non-profit organizations, and teacher preparation programs to boost culturally responsive teaching practices across the country. Additionally, states such as Illinois and California have incorporated the framework into their resources for teachers.

Building on our past work, this resource offers a set of reflection questions that make self-appraisal, goal setting, and critical conversations across the eight culturally responsive teaching competencies more concrete. We also share research evidence that describes the benefits of culturally responsive teaching. Now is the time to revamp efforts to foster a culturally responsive teacher workforce. We hope this resource enables teachers and those who support them to promote rigorous and relevant learning that leads to the engagement, achievement, and empowerment of all learners.


New America’s Education Policy Program wants to learn more about how you are working to boost culturally responsive teaching practices at your school, district, state, or preparation preparation program.

Related Topics
Teachers and Leaders Culturally Responsive Education