xpress-wordsEvery few years, there comes a new idea to save American public schools. Whether it was the No Child Left Behind act of 2001, that sought to use standards and accountability to push its students to proficiency, or the Race to the Top initiative of 2014, that offered $4.35 billion dollars as United States Department of Education competitive grant to spur and reward innovation and reforms in states and local school K-12 districts, these types of programs seem to fail in providing our schools with the quality education every child deserves.

But why is this failing? You would assume that grants and financial funding would be enough incentive in aiding our schools to perform at the highest quality. But it is that very idea of enforcing antiquated standards of learning-for-the test that has plagued many schools for the past decade. So how can our kids learn? What is the best way to educate the leaders of tomorrow?

In many schools across the nation, many educators are embracing the concept of culturally responsive teaching, as a framework for their teaching style. Culturally responsive teachings are lessons and conversations that kids learn in the classroom to what they experience on an everyday setting within their communities and world around them. This tactic of using cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and performance style opens up a sense of diversity for students to learn in more appropriate ways that can be effective for them throughout their academic careers.

So how does it work? Culturally responsive teaching is a pedagogy that recognizes the importance of including students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning. How it works is by rethinking the overall framework of a lesson. While it is important to utilize the lesson plans and foundations for learning, incorporating outside, yet student-relevant information can be incredibly powerful to a teacher’s lecture and student’s engagement. Take for example a lesson on natural disasters. Complementing your lesson with events such as Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans or the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti can provide students a point of how to relate to the topic. Going even further and relating specific events to their lives will not only interest the students, but also enlighten them in enjoying the class.

While there needs to be much research invested in the idea of this pedagogy, the goal behind culturally responsive teaching is simple, it wants its students to develop their own voice that will allow them to be academically successful, critically conscious, and forces of change within their communities. But before doing so, they need to see a future in which they are given the knowledge and foundation to make that influence. The power to read well, write analytically, and speak knowledgeably will be their voice.  This concept is only the beginning to something so great. It can aid the unsuccessful campaigns of No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top and hopefully change our nation for the better.