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Why Culture Counts . An Asset Model for Differentiation Sandra Darling. P-16 Council Recommendations Closing the Achievement Gaps. California’s post- secondary schools need to embed culturally responsive instruction into both pre-service and professional development Programs.

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why culture counts

Why Culture Counts

An Asset Model for Differentiation

Sandra Darling

p 16 council recommendations closing the achievement gaps
P-16 Council RecommendationsClosing the Achievement Gaps

California’s post-

secondary schools need to

embed culturally

responsive instruction into

both pre-service and

professional development


Closing the gap over a 12

year period would add $980

billion to the annual GDP in

the US.

why culture

“All learners come to formal

education with a range of

prior knowledge, skills,

beliefs, and concepts that

significantly influence what

they notice about the

environment and how they

organize and interpret it. This

is the influence of culture –

the means through which we

learn and develop our own set

of glasses.”

Williams, 2003

“Children’s culture defines

what they will focus their

attention on, how they

interpret the world to give it

meaning, what background

knowledge they bring to

learning, and how they will value

that learning. Educators need to

learn how to differentiate

curriculum, instruction, and

assessment to address the

differences with an asset


Darling, 2008

what is culture
What is Culture?

“Cultureis a complex system

of patterns, visible and

invisible, that determines how

an individual will view the

future, world, people, things; it is

inclusive of values, norms,

traditions, language, race,

ethnicity, customs, knowledge,

beliefs, folkways, mores, history;

and becomes a normal way of

acting, feeling, and being.”

Dr. Rosilyn Carroll

Center for Excellence in Urban Teaching


Cultural Proficiency

Cultural proficiency is a way of being that enables both individuals and organizations to respond effectively to people who differ from them. It is esteeming culture; knowing how to learn about individual and organizational culture. It is the policies

and practices of an organization or the values and behaviors of an individual that enable that agency or person to interact effectively in a culturally diverse environment. Cultural proficiency is reflected in the way an organization treats its employees, its clients, and its community, or in the way an individual treats his/her colleagues or person from different cultures. 

(Lindsey, Robins, & Terrell 2003 p.5)

The Guiding Principles of Cultural Proficiency

1)   Culture is a predominant force

 2)   People are served in varying degrees by the dominant culture

 3)   Group identity is as important as individual identities

 4)   Diversity within cultures is vast and significant

 5)   Each group has unique cultural needs.

                                     Lindsey (2003).


Cultural Competence

Interacting with other cultural groups using the five essential elementsof cultural proficiency as the standard for individual behavior and school practices; acceptance and respect for difference; ongoing assessment of one’s own and the organization’s culture; attention to the dynamics of difference; continuous expansion of cultural knowledge and resources; and the adaptation of one’s values and behaviors and the organization’s policies and practices.  (Lindsey, Nuri –Robins & Terrell, 1999, 21-22)


Cultural pre-competence is an awareness of the limitations of one’s skills or an organization’s practices when interacting with other cultural groups. (Represented by individuals who want to provide fair and equitable treatment with appropriate cultural sensitivity; however, this desire is accompanied by the frustration of not knowing exactly what is possible or how to proceed.) (Lindsey, 1999)


  • We need a Korean Vice-Principal to help us with the Korean students.
  • Recruiting members of under- represented groups, but not providing support for them or making any adaptation to the differences they bring to the workplace.             
  • Dismissing as overly sensitive anyone who complains about culturally inappropriate comments.  

Cultural pre-competence


Cultural Incapacity

Cultural incapacity is the belief in the superiority of one’s culture and behavior that takes away power from another’s culture. (Represented by individuals or organizations that show extreme bias, believe in the superiority of the dominant group, and assume a paternal posture toward so-called lesser groups.)


  • “I didn’t know he was gay. He doesn’t look gay to me.”
  • Historical examples include restrictive immigration laws targeting Asians and Pacific Islanders, such as the Oriental Exclusion Acts and 
  • The Jim Crow laws that denied African Americans basic human rights.

Cultural incapacity is announcing that a new Latina has been hired to be a role model for Latinas without recognizing that all children can profit from having role models from their own and other cultural groups. (Lindsey, 1999)


Cultural Blindness

Cultural blindness is acting as if the cultural differences that you see do not matter or that one does not recognizethat there are differences among and between cultures.

(Represented by individuals who believe that color and culture make no difference and that all people are the same.) (Lindsey, 1999)


Cultural Destructiveness

Cultural Destructiveness is the elimination of other people’s cultures. (Lindsey, 1999) 


  • Slavery,
  • Japanese interment,
  • Genocide
  • Holocaust

Achievement Gaps Based on Race/Poverty – North Carolina NAEP – 2007 – 4th Grade

Impact of Culture

White39% Proficient or Better - 61% Not at Proficiency

Black 27 points below White - 12% Proficient or Better – 88% Not

Hispanic 21 points below White – 18% Proficient or Better – 82% Not

Asian/Pacific Is. 2 points above White – 41% Proficient or Better – 59% Not

American Indian 22 points below White – 17% Proficient or Better – 83% Not

Impact of Poverty

Students in Poverty – 16% Proficient or Better – 23 points below White

Students NOT in Poverty – 41% Proficient or Better – 2 points above White

Impact of Poverty – 25 points Discrepancy

remediation classes required california
Remediation Classes RequiredCALIFORNIA

45% of High School graduates

still required remediation

courses in College.

  • 26% of White Students require remediation courses
  • 63% of African American students require remediation courses
  • 61% of Latino students require remediation

(Closing the Achievement Gap, 2008)



  • Full Time Staff – 80% White
  • Part Time Staff – 78% White
  • Classified Staff – 65% White


  • Over ½ from Vista, Poway, and Oceanside
  • Vista – 52% Hispanic; 30% White
  • Poway – 14% Hispanic; 71% White
  • Oceanside – 55% Hispanic; 27% White
  • Credit Students – 52% White – increasing in Hispanic
  • Non-Credit Students – 40% White – decreasing in Hispanic
the challenge
The Challenge
  • The US Education System was designed for white, middle-class kids.
  • The US Education System is very successful for the students whose needs it was designed to meet.
  • However, white, middle-class students are not who is sitting in our classrooms today.

Skim the handout – Why is it so difficult… Identify three (3) things that you believe are barriers to closing the achievement gaps for students at Palomar. Explain why you think those barriers exist?

Be ready to share your group’s 3 barriers.

the challenge1
The Challenge
  • Focus of improvement in education Pre-K to Post Secondary has been on improving curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
  • Data consistently show that students of color, students from poverty, and English language learners are not benefitting from those improvements.


  • Deficit thinking prevails
  • Cultural differences are not addressed in the teaching – learning process
  • Curriculum is not contextualized for culture
  • Instruction isn’t modified for cultural values that impact learning
background knowledge
Background Knowledge
  • Individualist vsCollectivist Value Systems (70% of the world’s population is collectivist)
  • Vocabulary
  • High Expectations
  • Resilience
increasing achievement closing gaps we can do both
Increasing Achievement – Closing GapsWe can do BOTH

Improving Achievement

Closing the Achievement Gap

Focus on the LEARNER

Culture TRUMPS Poverty

Culturally responsive teaching

Honoring collectivist value systems

Building resilience

Differentiating context, content/product, process and assessment with assets

  • Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment
  • Title I, Special Education, Gifted and Talented, ELL Programs
  • After School Programs, Tutoring
  • Pacing Guides, Increased Assessment, Posting Standards
new framework and model
  • Planning
  • Differentiating Context
  • Differentiating Content/Product
  • Differentiating Process
  • Differentiating Assessment
  • Building Resilience
strategies for planning
Strategies for Planning
  • Identifying learning expectations
  • Examples of quality work
  • Culturally responsive classroom
  • Grouping Strategies
  • Pre-teaching Vocabulary +49

Aligned Instructional Database (Darling, 1999)

pre teaching vocabulary 49
Pre-Teaching Vocabulary +49

Step 1 - Present students with a brief explanation or description of the new term or phrase that is contextualized for culture.

Step 2 - Present students with a nonlinguistic representation of the new term or phrase.

Step 3 - Have students generate their own explanations or descriptions of the term or phrase. Make sure to include reporting orally, musically, or in writing

Step 4- Have students create their own nonlinguistic representation of the term or phrase.

Step 5 - Periodically have students review the accuracy of their explanations and representations.

Aligned Instructional Database (Darling, 1999)

strategies for differentiating context
Strategies for Differentiating Context
  • Contextualize for culture - curriculum and classroom environment
  • Affirmations – GRIOT
  • Mirror back gifts
  • Provide opportunities to lead – KIVA
  • Voices and Choices
  • Verbalization +46
  • Movement
  • Cooperative Learning +28
  • Wait time +40

Aligned Instructional Database (Darling, 1999)

griot gree o african american call and response
GRIOT (gree – o)African American Call and Response

Students sit at tables of four, arranged in a semicircle to face the

teacher as they wait for the affirmation period. One student is the

griotfor the day.

GRIOT: Greetings, Brothers and Sisters.

CLASS: Greetings, Griot. (Group claps three times.)

GRIOT: Today’s affirmation is, “I have solved problems like this before.”

CLASS: (Individual students interpret what the affirmation means to them and for the work they must do for the day. They also relate how the affirmation will help them to be successful in their respective tasks.)

GRIOT: The Griot is finished.

CLASS: Thank you, Griot. (Group claps three times.)

strategies for differentiating content product
Strategies for Differentiating Content/Product
  • Scaffolding
  • Visual Representations + 49
  • Heuristics +38
  • Rubrics
  • Multiple Intelligences
  • Contracts
  • Differentiated Instruction +37

Aligned Instructional Database (Darling, 1999)

process of learning making meaning self metacognitive cognitive
Process of Learning – Making Meaning Self – Metacognitive - Cognitive
  • Self System –
  • Metacognitive System –
  • Cognitive System –
  • Do I want to? Am I motivated? What’s in it for me? Do I believe I CAN do this?
  • What do I already know about this? How would I do this task? What do I want to learn? How will I monitor if I’m learning it?
  • What strategies will I use to make meaning of this content?

Marzano, R. (1998) Theory-based Meta-analysis of Research on Instruction. Aurora, CO: McREL

strategies for differentiating process self system
Strategies for Differentiating Process – Self System
  • Teaching for Relevancy +40
  • Praising Effort +29
  • Cooperative Learning +28
  • High Expectations
  • Listening to Storytelling
  • Mirroring Assets

Aligned Instructional Database (Darling, 1999)

strategies for differentiating process metacognitive system
Strategies for Differentiating Process – Metacognitive System
  • Goal Setting +39
  • Collaborative planning, identifying resources, sequencing steps
  • Disposition Monitoring +33
  • Activating Prior Knowledge +46
  • Verbalization +46
  • Graphic Representations +49

Aligned Instructional Database (Darling, 1999)

strategies for differentiating process cognitive system
Strategies for Differentiating Process – Cognitive System
  • Compare and Contrast +41
  • Model Making +31
  • Manipulatives +31
  • Critical Thinking Skills + 41
  • Concept Attainment +41
  • Aligned Instructional Database for more

Aligned Instructional Database (Darling, 1999)

where to begin cultural profile
Where to begin? CULTURAL PROFILE



Take 2 – 3 minutes and complete the Cultural Profile.

Share your Profiles with each other and reflect on the similarities and differences you found.


macro micro cultures
Macro – Micro Cultures

Macro culture is the original

culture of a group of people.

There are five major Macro

cultures in the USA:

American Indian

African American


European American

Asian American

Micro cultures are groups within a Macro culture.

Take the Macro-Micro table and fill in your group’s knowledge of the Macro and Micro cultures served at Palomar. NOTE: Use the characteristic topics from YOUR Cultural Profile to describe them.

contextualizing curriculum
  • In your group, choose a unit of instruction from any class that is taught at Palomar.
  • Discuss the content to be learned by students.
  • EMBED your group’s knowledge about your students’ cultures into the unit.
  • List strategies that engage diverse learners into the Treasure Chest of Strategies
instructional strategies that engage diverse learners
  • As a group (using the Instructional Needs Rubric and the Differentiation Model Rubric), choose instructional strategiesfor your contextualized unit/curriculumthat will build resilience, help students to connect with their culture, and build vocabulary.
  • Share you revised unit.
why culture counts1

As a group,


Why do YOU think

culture counts at

Palomar College?

What is one

commitment you can

make to be more

culturally responsive?

for more information
For More Information

Sandra K. Darling, Ph.D.

Learning Bridges®

743 W Nolan Way

Chandler, AZ 85248




  • Tileston, D., Darling, S. (2008). Why Culture Counts: Teaching Children of Poverty. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree
  • Tileston, D., Darling, S. (2008). Closing the Culture and Poverty Gap. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

We could learn a lot from crayons: some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some have weird names, and all are different colors....but they all exist very nicely in the same box.