Our VOICE: The Importance of Cultural Competency in Professional Development


Recently, DC VOICE representatives attended a meeting with the State Board of Education to discuss important issues that our constituents have brought to our attention. In our Campaign for Equity, we have made professional development a crucial component of model for education reform. Outlined in our Supports for Quality Teaching (SQT) framework are seven areas which the public school system and local schools themselves should focus on to not only increase quality teaching but also promote learning. When we asked high school students who participated in past “Youth Voices Front and Center” interview series which items they found most beneficial in the Supports to Quality Teaching framework, they stated 1) Teaching and Learning Conditions, 2) Professional Development, and 3) School-based Administration. However, most students insisted that all seven target areas outlined in the framework were crucial in promoting quality teaching and learning. DC VOICE believes that students’ voices must be included in reform efforts, as they are the main benefactors of the public education system. Not only students but teachers as well have insisted that professional development and supports are an important component of creating an effective learning environment.

Included in DC VOICE’s platform for professional development are courses and workshops, professional networks, extra time, and school-based instructional support and leadership. From the feedback of students, we have augmented this list to incorporate cultural competency, which is the ability to understand, respect and effectively work with persons/groups with various cultural backgrounds including age and gender. Multicultural education provides empowerment to children who are members of oppressed racial groups, lower class, and female. Multicultural Education grew out of the civil rights movements in the 1960s. While protest movements are not as visible today, many issues of inequity within the public school system still exist and have continued to affect communities of color for generations. Cultural competency, while not being a requirement for teachers, would enhance teacher’s abilities to educate and subsequently further equity in public education. Specifically in the classroom, a teacher can better accommodate student’s needs when he or she is familiar with their cultural and familial backgrounds. Again, during the “Youth Voices Front and Center” interviews students made it very clear that this would enhance their learning experience. For instance, one male student stated, “give examples, put in everyday living…connect times tables to a paycheck or paying the rent.” And thus, our final recommendation, for professional development and supports, is that multicultural education strategies be incorporated into the DC government’s plans for effective instruction practices.

As a representative of various stakeholders in the education system, this month DC VOICE has submitted a resolution to the State Board of Education requesting that they develop, fund, and publish a comprehensive professional development plan for all schools that is driven by academic performance and local school needs. We and other community stakeholders would like to know exactly how schools receive supports that will directly increase quality teaching. By adopting DC VOICE’s “Resolution Supporting the Amendment to DC Municipal Regulations”, the State Department of Education would be: upholding the state accountability plan for the District of Columbia developed by the Chief State School Officer, supporting goals to increase achievement among students and, most importantly, responding to the voice of the people.

Demand Reform. Demand Equity



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