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Reaching Out to Culturally Diverse Students

By Janet Perry, AVID Consultant

“That girl has a funny accent.”

“He wears a strange head wrap.”

“Those kids take all honors and AP classes and never have time to hang out with friends.”

“That group dances to rap music during lunch.”


Comments like these can be heard from students across the country, with the underlying meaning often being that something or someone different from their norm is bad. Such perceptions can create a negative learning environment in a classroom that necessitates heightened sensitivity to cultural differences.  So, once again, AVID is leading the way.  

To help bring together students from different backgrounds, break down barriers to equity in education, and close the achievement gap, AVID Center has developed professional development curriculum called “Culturally Relevant Teaching” (CRT). This course not only provides educators with pedagogical tools that embrace rather than ignore cultural referents, but it also includes ways to engage and give all students access to rigorous courses. CRT has become a powerful course offering at every AVID Summer Institute and annual National Conference, and I had the opportunity to sit in on the strand this past summer in San Diego.  

Tony Borash in his recent blog says: “I believe it is the social network built by those students enrolled in AVID that is the biggest benefit of the program.” So, just how do AVID educators reach out to increasingly culturally diverse students?


CRT staff developers begin by making participants address head on the tough issues relating to equity in education. For example, to avoid potential culture collisions, educators are assigned to various student groups that might be found on their own school campuses and then required to list and discuss stereotypes associated with each group.


Besides expanding their own awareness of different cultures, Culturally Relevant Teaching participants come up with solutions to help students understand their peers better. Taking advantage of even the physical classroom set up, teachers are asked to design the ideal environment for celebrating diversity while still pointing all students to college. They design “Brag Boards” announcing bar mitzvahs, baseball games, and quinceanera celebrations that both acknowledge and embrace students’ cultures, families, interests, and goals. Meanwhile, the college pennants typical in the AVID classroom are displayed alongside others from universities throughout the world as well as by international flags.


In CRT, teachers are encouraged to share their own unique talents and interests—from using rhythmic beats to reading poetry aloud—to model how varied backgrounds add richness to any education. They are also asked to share resources with each other, such as the Trevor Project that gives instructional resources to educators about bullying and provides avenues of support.


Through Culturally Relevant Teaching, educators create a learning environment where understanding and acceptance become classroom norms. Above all, however, while CRT-trained teachers stretch to learn about and reach out to all cultures and groups, rigorous learning to prepare for college remains the centerpiece of their classrooms.  

Helping all students reach their potential takes hard work, and, as participants in the CRT strand learn, it also requires looking at your own culture – where you came from, where you are now, and how you see the world. While learning methodologies in the CRT strand, educators gain a new perspective and understanding both of themselves and of other cultures. By transferring this knowledge to their classrooms, teachers can more quickly weave a tight-knit group and better facilitate learning efforts.


Janet Perry is working as a consultant for the Marketing and Communications Department at AVID Center and previously worked as the Project Manager for AVID's Blended Learning Initiative.

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Reader Comments (6)

Janet, I love the push for there to be collaborative cooperation in the classroom setting with a very diverse group of students. I agree that students and teachers that are more self-aware of there own culture, can go forward confidently to help engage those of other cultures.

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTrent Thomas

Trent: The learning curve for some is much steeper than for others, but by the end of the CRT course, every educator is armed with great tools to help students understand each other better and to tap into each student's unique motivation to go to college. Powerful stuff!

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

I would love to start using this curriculum in my AVID classes! When will it become available to teachers?

August 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKara

Hi Janet,
I am an intern in ASU MSW program. I am currently working on a community outreach project for Stonewall Institute. We specialize in the special needs of the LGBT community. I am interested to know if AVID includes the LGBT students in their diversity training. It is so important to these kids that they have a safe place to confide in a professional that has been where they are. Please send me any information you have and I will share my info on the Stonewall Institute,
Thank you and keep up the great work

September 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterangela

College life seems to be boring for other, but if you really like what you are doing well, you will find college very happy time. Thanks for posting this one. This is really informative. Keep it up.

September 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLuke @ conference center

CRT training is done primarily at Summer Institutes. However, eight contracted two-day CRT Path trainings (not held in conjunction with Regional Path trainings) are being offered this year from August to May.Three have already been held, and the rest of the slots are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

CRT trainings emphasize a safe learning environment for all students, which includes understanding anti-bullying principles, becoming aware of acronyms such as LGBT, and participating in risk-free, interactive learning experiences.

September 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

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