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Classrooms across the United States are microcosms of society. The faces in classrooms today reflect the changing demographics of the communities in which the schools are located. Today, schools are witness to the rapid changes in student demographics, in particular, the growth of Hispanic students in classrooms throughout the United States (KewalRamani, Gilbertson, Fox, & Provasnik, 2007). With rapid changes in demographics come challenges and issues, in addition to those with which schools are trying to meet.
Educators face many challenges in public schools today. Leaders and teachers must find ways to address such issues as standards-based instruction, federal and state accountability systems, doing more with less resources, finding, hiring, and keeping highly qualified teachers, maintaining safe and drug-free learning environments, ensuring all graduates are college or career ready, reducing the dropout rates, design, implement, and evaluate special programs for struggling learners and academically advanced learners, provide a coherent sequence of courses at the secondary level, incorporate federal, state, or local mandated initiatives, establish working partnerships with families and communities, and find ways to address other sociopolitical and sociocultural factors affecting their schools (Conchas, 2009; McNutly, 2009; Nelson, Palonsky, & McCarthy, 2007). Educators must find ways to design, implement, and evaluate instruction and programs for the culturally diverse and language minority students, who now sit in their classrooms, as well (Gay, 2000). This particular challenge has plagued public schools for decades (Editorial Projects in Educational Research Center, EPERC, 2008; National Education Association, NEA, 2007).
From its inception, public education has been considered a means to achieve social, political, and economic benefits. Horace Mann referred to public education as the "great equalizer." ( ). He and others like him viewed public education as a way for students and families to achieve the aforementioned benefits. But, one must step back and reflect on the history of public education in this country. For whom were the first public schools designed? Who were the children? Which sociocultural groups did they represent? What were the intentions of the public schools who did educate students who did not represent the mainstream cultural group? As individuals peruse the student achievement data, graduation rates, dropout rates, retention rates, suspension and expulsion rates, school to prison rates, disproportionate representation of certain cultural and ethnic groups in special program rates, college retention rates, and such, there are obvious racial and ethnic disparities and gaps which result in socioeconomic gaps, employment gaps, political gaps, health gaps, and others (____). From the data, one may conclude that the "great equalizer" has not delivered on its promise. However, schools are designed to get the results they get. McNutly (2009) stated that schools have behaved their way into their current situation and schools can behave their way out of it. There are schools who are meeting the educational and noneducational needs of all students, including culturally and linguistic diverse student groups. Such schools are not only effective but, culturally responsive (Gay, 2000).
I posit that authentically effective schools are culturally responsive schools. The schools are designed to meet the educational needs of the students in their classrooms. The leadership and teachers demonstrate a strong belief that all students in their charge can be successful. These educators collaboratively work with each other, students, and families. I, also posit that the work of theses culturally responsive and effective schools can be replicated. To become an effective and culturally responsive school, involves a change process that has an impact on every stakeholder at every level the system (Hall and Hord, 2006). To better understand the position I take, I present a review of the literature. I will share the conceptual framework which guides my study. As I conducted the review of the literature, I did so with the help of four guiding questions adapted from the work by McCarthy (_). McCarthy states that if educators can answer four questions as they plan and deliver instruction, Why, What, How and What if, all learning styles in classrooms will be addressed. I borrowed from McCarthy's work to develop four questions to help me conduct a comprehensive study of effective and culturally responsive schools, in particular, those schools now faced with educating the one of largest and fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States and their classrooms-the Hispanic student population (KewalRamani, et. al, 2007). The four guiding questions were: (1) Why is there a need for effective and culturally responsive schools, (2) What are the characteristics of effective and culturally responsive schools, (3) How do schools become effective and culturally responsive?, and (4) What are effective and culturally responsive instructional practices?.
The intent of the literature review is to answer the four guiding questions. First, a review of the current context and trends about racially and ethnically diverse students groups in schools must occur. A review of trends and the current context will provide a background to the racial and ethnic disparities in schools today. The following background information will include: (a) the current population data trends, (b) current state of affairs of racially and ethnically diverse student groups in schools, (c) an explanation of the anchoring idea by which information is filtered, effective and culturally responsive schools. In addition, the review includes a limited study of three supporting theories and concepts found in the literature on racially and ethnically diverse students in schools. The three supporting theories are: (a) critical race theory, (b) cultural reproduction theory, and (c) deficit model.