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Cultural Proficiency

Cultural Proficiency
A Manual for School Leaders

Fourth Edition

November 2018 | 360 pages | Corwin

Our students’ futures depend upon it: If we’re to guarantee equitable access and improved academic outcomes for our historically underserved students, then we must first confront the deeply rooted biases and practices that for far too long have limited them. That’s where Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School Leaders has already benefited tens of thousands of schools leaders--and the students, teachers, and communities they serve.  

Cultural Proficiency helps us all establish a mindset and worldview for effectively describing and responding to inequities. Its inside-outside approach to leadership is grounded in the assumption that honest introspection is a requirement to leading equity-driven change. And now, with updated content, new case studies, expanded vignettes, new activities and study guides, and an updated matrix, this fourth edition is more urgently needed than ever.  

What leaders love most is the way Cultural Proficiency lays the groundwork for powerful organizational growth with resources to: 

  • Engage colleagues in collaborative dialogue about creating powerful teaching and learning environments
  • Recognize and respond to both individual and group differences to break down barriers
  • Use the Cultural Proficiency Continuum to assess the limitations of school practices and identify opportunities to shift the culture 

Take this first step on the Cultural Proficiency journey and soon enough you, too, can create equitable educational opportunities and more inclusive environments in which differences are embraced. 

“This book is a riveting and unparalleled resource for all educational merchants of hope. . . . The insights, learning strategies, and professional development structures in this edition illuminate a path for all leaders to successfully commit to the journey of being equity champions!”

--Dr. Erick E. Witherspoon, National Director of Equity Professional Development Services
Generation Ready 

“There is no greater honor than to have one’s professional work become the inspiration for a new way of thinking, and transformative literature and action that change the world for schools and the children and youth they serve. I am grateful that the ideas have been so skillfully brought to scale by these authors.”
--Dr. Terry L. Cross, MSW, Founder and Senior Advisor
National Indian Child Welfare Association 

Preface to the Fourth Edition
Foreword to the Third Edition
Foreword to the Second Edition
Foreword to the First Edition
About the Authors
1. Cultural Proficiency
Cultural Proficiency: An Inside-Out Approach to Difference  
The Four Tools  
A Historical Context  
Why Would I or My School Want to Engage?  
Learning and Educating Effectively  
Living in a Global Community  
Participating in the Community  
Culturally Proficient Leadership: Diversity “Is”  
Resources for Developing Culturally Proficient Leaders  
Read the Text First  
Cultural Proficiency Books’ Essential Questions  
Going Deeper: Reflection  
Going Deeper: Dialogic Questions  
2. A Cultural and Historical Context for Our Unfolding Democracy
An Inside-Out Approach  
What It Takes  
Culture Is . . .  
What Happened to Race?  
The Legacy of Segregation and Exclusion  
A History of Caste in the United States  
Labels for Historically Oppressed People  
From Segregation to Cultural Proficiency  
Culture and History Provide Perspective  
Going Deeper: Reflection  
Going Deeper: Dialogic Questions  
3. Leadership for Today’s Schools
Our Journey With Culturally Proficient Leaders  
Culturally Proficient Leadership: Exploring Deeply Held Values for Equity  
Shared Vision  
Long-Term, Systemic Change: Finding Leverage Points for Acti  
Limitations of Local School Change Initiatives  
Inside-Out Approach to Change: Why Leaders Ask Why?  
Cultural Proficiency as a Frame for Change  
Culturally Proficient Leadership Is Transformative  
Continuum as a Guide: Creating Initial Awareness Is Cultural Precompetence  
Tools for Change  
Formal and Nonformal Leaders  
Culturally Proficient Leaders Focus on Inequities  
Going Deeper: Reflection  
Going Deeper: Dialogic Questions  
4. Framing Your Work With the Tools of Cultural Proficiency
The Important First Step: Inside-Out Change  
Cultural Proficiency Conceptual Framework  
The Four Tools of Cultural Proficiency  
Going Deeper: Reflection  
Going Deeper: Dialogic Questions  
5. The Tool: Overcoming Barriers
Barriers to Cultural Proficiency  
This Chapter Is for Everyone  
Caveat: Systemic Oppression  
Caveat: Privilege and Entitlement  
Caveat: Unawareness of the Need to Adapt  
Changing Educational Practices  
Culturally Proficient Educators  
Overcoming Resistance  
Very Good News  
Going Deeper: Reflection  
Going Deeper: Dialogic Questions  
6. The Tool: The Guiding Principles of Cultural Proficiency
Cultural Proficiency as an Expression of Values  
Principle: Culture Is Ever Present  
Principle: People Are Served in Varying Degrees by the Dominant Culture  
Principle: People Have Group Identities and Personal Identities  
Principle: Diversity Within Cultures Is Important  
Principle: Each Group Has Unique Cultural Needs That Must Be Respected  
Principle: The Family, as Defined by Each Culture, Is the Primary System of Support in the Education of Children  
Principle: People Who Are Not a Part of the Dominant Culture Have to Be at Least Bicultural  
Principle: Inherent in Cross-Cultural Interactions Are Social and Communication Dynamics That Must Be Acknowledged, Adjusted to, and Accepted  
Principle: The School System Must Incorporate Cultural Knowledge Into Practice and Policymaking  
Make It Count  
Going Deeper: Reflection  
Going Deeper: Dialogic Questions  
7. The Tool: The Cultural Proficiency Continuum
Macro- and Microaggressions  
The Continuum  
Going Deeper: Reflection  
Going Deeper: Dialogic Questions  
8. The Tool: The Essential Elements
The Essential Elements of Cultural Proficiency  
Finding Leverage for School Leadership  
Going Deeper: Reflection  
Going Deeper: Dialogic Questions  
9. Commit to Action
So Where Do You Start?  
You Are Here  
Action Through Transformative Collaborative Inquiry  
Design the Inquiry  
Going Deeper: Reflection  
Going Deeper: Dialogic Questions  
10. A Note to Those Preparing School Leaders
Historical Overview  
Legacy in Part  
Transformative Leadership Is Inclusive Leadership  
Systemic Leadership and Tools of Cultural Proficiency  
Achievement Gaps, Disproportionality, and Our Preparation Programs  
Call to Action  
Introduction to Learning Strategies
Do Your Own Work  
Believe It  
Be Able to Work Without the Script  
Set the Tone  
Take Time to Process  
Use Small Groups  
Work in Teams  
Develop Your Own Style  
Be Prepared for Trouble  
Have Fun  
Resource A: Understanding Diversity
Learning Strategy 1: Telling Your Stories  
Learning Strategy 2: Diversity in Your Life  
Learning Strategy 3: Stand Up  
Learning Strategy 4: Line Up  
Resource B: Getting to Know Myself
Learning Strategy 1: Journaling  
Learning Strategy 2: Diversity Lifeline  
Learning Strategy 3: Name Five Things  
Learning Strategy 4: Who Are You?  
Learning Strategy 5: Who Am I?  
Learning Strategy 6: Cultural Portrait  
Learning Strategy 7: Identities  
Learning Strategy 8: Group Stereotypes  
Learning Strategy 9: The Process of Personal Change  
Learning Strategy 10: Seven Dynamics of Change  
Learning Strategy 11: Paradigms  
Learning Strategy 12: Strength Bombardment  
Resource C: Getting to Know Your Colleagues and Your Organization
Learning Strategy 1: Introductory Grid  
Learning Strategy 2: Cultural Perceptions  
Learning Strategy 3: What’s in a Name?  
Learning Strategy 4: Totems or Crests  
Learning Strategy 5: Family Portrait  
Learning Strategy 6: Group Stereotypes  
Learning Strategy 7: Circle of History  
Learning Strategy 8: Storytelling  
Learning Strategy 9: Voices That Resonate  
Learning Strategy 10: Needs Assessment  
Resource D: Understanding Power and Privilege
Learning Strategy 1: Barriers to Cultural Proficiency  
Learning Strategy 2: Describe a Culturally Incompetent Organization  
Learning Strategy 3: A Survey of Privilege and Entitlement  
Learning Strategy 4: Listening and Hearing  
Learning Strategy 5: Seven-Minute Day  
Resource E: Going Deeper With the Principles
Learning Strategy 1: Guiding Principles Discussion Starters  
Learning Strategy 2: Family Values  
Learning Strategy 3: My Work Values  
Learning Strategy 4: Examining Your Organizational Values  
Resource F: Going Deeper With the Continuum
Learning Strategy 1: Cultural Proficiency Continuum  
Learning Strategy 2: Exploring Behaviors Along the Continuum  
Resource G: Going Deeper With the Essential Elements
Learning Strategy 1: Using the Essential Elements  
Learning Strategy 2: Essential Elements of Culturally Proficient Leaders  
Learning Strategy 3: Cultural Competence Self-Assessment  
Resource H: Book Study Guide
Resource I: Cultural Proficiency Books’ Essential Questions
Suggested Foundational Readings

"Informed by the latest literature and grounded in their ongoing work in the real world, the authors bring Cultural Proficiency right up to date and right into our current controversies. Our schools need this book on every level: from K-5 to college and from classroom to boardroom. Having worked toward diversity in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary school settings, I can tell you that all of them need this book."

Franz Metcalf, Ph. D, California State University, Los Angeles
California State University, Los Angeles

"As institutions and organizations become more socially and culturally diverse, leaders will be called to foster inclusive communities in which people can effectively work together. This edition of the Manual for Cultural Proficiency is a must read for leaders who are interested in deepening their understanding of cultural proficiency and learning about the policies, practices and internal structures required to build and maintain healthy organizational cultures. The manual provides a framework and set of tools that can be used in various organizational contexts and applied to both individual behavior and organizational practices. If you care about cultural proficiency, inclusive environments and diversity, you need this manual. Read it, refer to it often and commit to application of its strategies. Your organization will be better for it."

Angel Roberson Daniels, Vice President, The Angell Foundation
The Angell Foundation

"These are universal lessons: the barriers, guiding principles, continuum of responses, and essential elements of Cultural Proficiency apply to human service non-profits as well as they do in schools.  The authors articulate roles in ending oppression for both the dominant and dominated groups, lay out a clear road-map through the predictable and consistently challenging change process, and provide specific activities that I can use as a facilitator to help groups explore and address these important topicsCultural Proficiency brings together history, research, and activities that help me continue to do my own work as a white consultant to support and advance racial justice."

Elizabeth Sadlon, President, Sadlon & Associates, Inc.
Sadlon & Associates, Inc

"Cultural Proficiency provides me with the tools to face conflict head on and not stray from my intention of creating and nurturing school spaces that are safe, welcoming and inclusive for students no matter their background, level of ability or way of viewing and experiencing the world. Daily I actively engage with the tools of cultural proficiency. With an understanding of the inside-out approach to becoming a cultural proficient being I walk through the world with knowledge of the lens developed through my background, values, biases and beliefs. As I make decisions that impact students and support the professional learning of educators in my system, I reflect on the ethical tension between the barriers to and principles of cultural proficiency. It is through this critical self-reflection that I am able to prepare our staff to proactively build community and mentally prepare to address conflict when it interrupts the safe, welcoming and inclusive school environments students deserve."

Angela Ward, Race Equity Leader, Austin Independent School District
Austin Independent School District

"This book is designed as a manual for school leaders.  However, I have not found a better resource for developing culturally proficient leadership and organizations in any sector. The manual is rich with examples, tools and resources that educate and prepare formal or informal leaders to challenge counter-productive assumptions and biases; acknowledge their role in perpetuating systems of privilege; promote learning and growth from differences; create an inclusive work environment; meet the needs of diverse clientele; and work together in a healthy, productive way. This guide brings culturally naïve or destructive beliefs to light, creating immensely more aware and effective leaders."

Adena Wright Williams, Organization Development Consultant , CEO
WrightWay Consulting, Inc.

"This manual is needed now more than ever.  When differences are more disparaged, when fears and anxieties are stoked by public haters, when simplistic solutions to social and political problems are founded on ignorance and dreams of uniformity, educators and policy makers need a manual such as this:  practical, multi-faceted, broad in scope, and engaging. Having used it, I know it facilitates meaningful conversation, and fosters self-discovery, mutual understanding, and collective problem solving.  A fourth edition of this work testifies to its enduring value."

Sidney Morrison, Leadership Coach

"It is hard to believe that our esteemed authors, Lindsey, Robbins, and Terrell, are publishing their 4th edition of what I call the bible for all school administrators: Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School Leaders. Just like the bible, this manual has stood the test of time and remains just as apropos as it did when it was first published in 1999. I remember picking up the original black book when I first started in administration in 1999 and the contents of the book completely changed my way of thinking. It has always served as the compass towards improving education opportunities and educating students of color. This manual, this Holy Grail if you will, is a must-have for every administrator."

Dr. Roberto Núñez, Principal
Alisal Union School District

"Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School Leaders provides a framework for aspiring school leaders to practice culturally proficient leadership.   The activities, tools and strategies in this book support both leadership faculty and students to move away from prevailing 'one size fits all' models of school leadership to one of social justice leadership.   

Noni Mendoza-Reis, Professor of Educational Leadership
Connie Lurie College of Education, San Jose State University

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ISBN: 9781506390543