Oct. 27, 2021
Teachers at Capital City Lighthouse Charter School in North Little Rock, Arkansas, were in for a unique professional development opportunity. Unlike a typical training session, on this late summer day teachers would learn directly from students. Teachers heard first hand student reflections about their school experiences and how well their classes reflected their identities and interests.
“I see myself in some [books], but not most of them,” one student said. Others shared the desire to feel affirmed in classrooms and the value of having “someone special” in school that treats them like they have always known them.
To ensure all students at their school have the identity-affirming and engaging environments they want and deserve, school leaders heightened efforts to prepare educators to embrace a culturally responsive approach. The goal is to create culturally responsive and sustaining classrooms where student knowledge, cultural backgrounds, and everyday experiences are at the center of promoting learning.
To do so, school leaders selected a group of “Champion” teachers from an application pool. These teachers are part of a trial cohort participating in immersive learning about culturally responsive practices guided by New America’s 8 Competencies for Culturally Responsive Teaching.
Participating teachers delve into each of the competencies through a range of experiences. They complete online modules developed by Frontlines of Justice, participate in guided conversations with colleagues using New America’s Reflection Guide, and hear from notable invited speakers.
Efforts at Capital City Lighthouse Charter School are only beginning and there is still much to be learned. Still, the school is a stand-out example of how to embrace culturally responsive education and openly available tools—including those offered by New America—to foster a safe and engaging learning environment for students.
Culturally responsive education is an essential element of empowering teachers and students to promote equity in the classroom and social justice in the community. There is no better time in this period of reckoning to do this work.