Cultural Standards in Social Science Curriculum in Los Angeles Unified School District in California

Introduction

Overview

America can be described as one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world. This is given the fact that there are many ethnic communities that are to be found in this nation today. This is in addition to other forms of diversities among the citizens of this country. They include the different religions that are practiced by the different groups of people, the different political orientations among others. In fact, according to Gorski (2010), it appears that the United States of America thrives on diversity.

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There is no official language in the United States of America. However, it is to be noted that about 30 states have gazetted English as their official language (Huia, 2008). It is also to be noted that English is taken as the de facto national language in this country despite the lack of legislations to this effect. About 97 percent of the citizens in this country can speak English fluently (according to the 2000 census records as cited in Huia, 2008). However, it is also to be noted that more than 300 languages are used in this country. This is an indication of the country’s cultural diversity.

Race is a significant attribute of the American society. It is to be found in almost all facets of the society. These range from economic and religion facets among others. The history of this country has been shaped a great deal by race. The education sector is such one societal facet that has been affected by race significantly. This is given the fact that most of the public schools in this country cater for students from varying cultural backgrounds.

According to the U.S Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Census, there exist 4 races in the United States of America (Gorski, 2010). These are the native Americans (also known as the American Indian), the Asian, the White (also known as the European American) and finally the African American. Approximately 75 percent of the population in this country is made of the Whites while the African American constitutes about 13 percent of the country’s population.

As already indicated earlier in this paper, students in both public and private schools in America are drawn from these varying cultural backgrounds. What this means is that the cultural diversity that is evident in the American society is reflected in the mainstream education system. As a result of this, education experts have found it important to formulate and implement instructional programs that are culturally relevant and responsive in the country (Alaska Native Knowledge Network [Alaska] 1998). This is to make sure that the education provided in both the public and private schools address the needs of students from the various cultural backgrounds.

It is against this background that the current study was conducted. The aim of the study was to analyse whether the Los Angeles Unified School District (herein referred to as LUSD) meets the required multicultural curriculum standards in social sciences for 9- 12th grade. This is as outlined by Social Science Framework and Content Standards for California Public Schools. The aim of the study was to analyse whether the students from the public schools adhering to the multicultural curriculum standards in social sciences recorded better academic performance as compared to those in schools not adhering to the standards.

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Problem Statement

According to Maddahian & Bird (2003), the United States of America’s government has recognised the cultural diversity in the country’s public schools and has made efforts to reform the education system to address this issue. However, in their article titled Domains and Components of a Culturally Relevant and Responsive Educational Program, the two scholars are of the view that in spite of these educational reforms, discrepancies persist as far as the academic performance of students from different cultural and ethnic groups is concerned. Records from the National Centre for Education Statistics (as cited in Maddahian & Bird, 2003) indicates that the differences between the average scores for Black and White students in the country reduced in the period between early 1970s and late 1980s. But starting from the early 1990s, the gap between the two groups has increase considerably. For instance, it is only 1 percent of African American students aged 17 years can read and comprehend specialised tests as compared to 8.3 percent of White students in the country (this is according to Haycock’s study in 2001 which is cited in Maddahian & Bird, 2003).

The argument by Maddahian & Bird (2003) is echoed by Fillion (n.d) when they claim that educational data from the country indicates that most school districts fail to address the needs of the students drawn from varying cultural backgrounds. This is especially so for students drawn from African American and Latino social backgrounds.

As a result of this, scholars such as Menard (1996) argue that educational systems should be both responsive and relevant to the various needs of the learners. This is for example emotional, psychological and educational needs of the learners. Students from minority groups should especially be given priority in the process of identifying and addressing these needs. To this end, scholars such as Maddahian & Bird (2003) recommend the development and implementation of a Cultural Relevant and Responsive Educational program (also referred to as CRRE program). This is in order to reduce the achievement gap that exists between students from minority and majority cultural groups.

In an article titled Proposed Standards for Culturally –Responsive Schools, the Indian Education’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction [Indian] (2000), the community’s outreach committee advises that there is need to come up with standards for students, schools and teachers in order to address the needs of minority students (in this case Indian minority students). This is in addition to standards for curriculum, communities and institutions of higher learning (Indian, 2000). The cultural standards in this case provide the schools and the communities with guidelines to analyse programs that have been put in place “……..to attend to the cultural well- being of the young people (that) they are responsible for nurturing into adulthood” (Indian, 2000: p. 5).

According to Indian (2000), the cultural standards should complement rather than oppose the state standards for education. To highlight the link between the two standards, Indian (2000) argues that “while the state standards stipulate what students should know and be able to do, the cultural standards are oriented more towards providing guidance on how to get them there in such a way that they become responsible, capable and whole human beings in the process” (p. 5). This is achieved through the establishment of a strong link between the experiences of the learners in school and their lives outside the confines of the classroom and the school in general. Cultural standards provide the learners with an opportunity to engage in in-depth “…….experiential learning in real- world contexts” (Indian, 2000: p. 6).

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Cultural standards portend a shift in the focus of the curriculum adopted in the public schools. The focus shifts from the conventional teaching and learning of “……cultural heritage as separate subject to teaching and learning through the local culture as a foundation for all education” (Indian, 2000: p. 6). In other words, culture becomes the basis on which education is based as opposed to being a subject in the curriculum. The major objective of this shift in focus is ensure that all forms of knowledge in the world in addition to the different ways of knowing and world views are regarded as equally valid in the country’s education sector. The shift in focus also ensures that the various ways of knowing as well as the different forms of education and world views are “………adaptable and complementary to one another in a mutually beneficial way” (Indian, 2000: p. 6). What this means is that the world views of White students complement rather than oppose those of the Black students and vice versa as opposed to contradicting or excluding them.

In a document titled Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools by Alaska (1998), there is a list of cultural standards for the various stakeholders in the education sector in the country. Although these standards are aimed at stakeholders in Alaska, they are significant to stakeholders in other states such as California given the fact that they are aimed at addressing the needs of students from varying cultural backgrounds. One of the cultural standards for the students states that “culturally knowledgeable students are well grounded in the cultural heritage and traditions of their community” (Alaska, 1998: p. 5). This is just an example of the various cultural standards for the various stakeholders in the country’s education sector.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is ranked as the largest school district in the state of California as far as the number of learners is concerned (Hoag, 2010). LAUSD is the second largest public school district in the United States of America after the New York City Department of Education. For example during the 2007- 2008 academic year, 694288 students were enrolled in the schools in this district (Hoag, 2010). During the same period, the district had 45473 teachers in various disciplines in addition to a support staff of 38494 (Hoag, 2010).

Just like other school districts in the United States of America, LAUSD is characterised by students drawn from various cultural backgrounds. For example, Helfand (2012) reports that 73 percent of learners in the district today are of Hispanic background with African American making up about 11 percent of the student population. White American students account for 9 percent of the total population with Asian Americans and Filipino students comprising 4 percent and 2 percent of the student population respectively (Helfand, 2012).

With such a culturally diverse student population, it is noted that cultural standards will be applicable in LAUSD. As such, there is the need to address the issue of cultural standards within the context of Los Angeles Unified School District. The current study sought to find out whether the school district meets the required cultural curriculum standards for social sciences curricula given the cultural diversity of the learners. The study also sought to analyse whether the schools which adhered to the cultural standards in the district performed better than those that did not.

Significance of the Study

According to Berg (2001), there are many studies taking place in a given field at any one given time. This being the case, there is the need for a new study in the field to be justified to convince the readers, researchers and other stakeholders why the new study is important to the field and why it should be conducted. According to Berg (2001), the researcher tries to justify the study by stating its significance and the contribution it will make to the field.

This study is no different. In this section, the researcher is going to provide the reader with the significance of the study which in turn will justify the investment both in time and financial resources that will go into the study. To this end, the researcher will provide information on how the study will contribute to filling the gap that was identified in the problem statement. In other words, the researcher will look at the original contribution of the study to the field.

The researcher will also provide the possible practical applications of this study. Additionally, the researcher will look at the study’s implications for social change and for whom the study is significant. These justifications are analysed below:

Original Contributions of the Study

Few studies have been conducted in this field in Los Angeles Unified School District. The few studies that have been conducted include the one by Maddahian & Bird (2003) cited above. As a result of this, it is noted that the findings of this study will go a long way in providing additional literature to this field.

It is also to be noted that even fewer studies have addressed the issue of cultural standards in Los Angeles Unified School District. For example, the study by Maddahian & Bird (2003) cited above analysed the issue of Culturally Responsible and Relevant Educational program and not the availability of cultural standards in the district’s education program. As a result of this, the findings of the current study will be an original contribution to the field in LAUSD.

How Will the Findings of this Study Support Professional Practice or Allow Practical Application?

The findings of the current study will support professional practice as well as allow practical application in several; ways:

  • The findings will help teachers and the school management in identifying the impacts of cultural standards as far as the performance of the students is concerned
  • The findings will also help members of the community to identify the roles they are expected to play in promoting multicultural education in schools
  • The findings will help in formulating policies aimed at improving multicultural education in the district which will go a long way in improving the performance of the students
  • The study will identify and make recommendations on areas for future studies in the field. This is by identifying gaps and discrepancies that can be addressed by researchers in the future

Who Stands to Benefit from this Study?

Various education stakeholders within and without LAUSD stands to benefit from the findings of this study.

  • Students in LAUSD stand to benefit through the formulation and implementation of cultural standards that is likely to be spurred by the findings of this study. This is especially the minority students
  • Teachers will benefit by been able to identify what is needed to effectively address the needs of the culturally diverse students and as such improving their performance as teachers
  • School authorities and those of LAUSD will benefit by identifying the implications of cultural standards on the performance of students in the district
  • Members of the community will benefit by identifying the roles that they are expected to play in order to improve the performance of students in the public schools

Implications for Social Change

Race and ethnicity in American is a social issue. Race and ethnicity in the country’s education system can be conceptualised as one of the social issues influencing the quality of education in the country. As such, the findings of this study will have implications for social change both within and without LAUSD.

The findings will spur the application of equity pedagogy in public schools in the district among other developments. The findings also have the potential for educational reforms in the district. These reforms will be aimed at reducing the gap between the minority and majority students as far as performance is concerned. This in extension will lead to equity in the education sector and in the whole of the society in general.

Hypothesis of the Study

This study has both null hypothesis and alternative hypothesis. These are as stated below:

  • Null Hypothesis: There is no relationship between the teaching of a multicultural social science curriculum and student achievement
  • Alternative Hypothesis: There is a relationship between the teaching of a multicultural social science curriculum and student achievement

Research Questions

This study had one major research question and several specific research questions. According to Krippendorff (2004), the specific research questions are important as they help in focusing the study in a particular field. By addressing the specific research questions, the researcher will have effectively addressed the major research question. The research questions are as set out below:

Major Research Question

Does the Los Angeles Unified School District meet the required multicultural curriculum standards in social sciences for 9- 12th grade as outlined by social science framework and content standards for California public schools?

Specific Research Questions

  • Does teaching a multicultural curriculum promote greater student achievement in 9-12th grade social science classes?
  • What Information is contained in the 9-12th grade Social Science Framework and Content Standards for California Public schools?
  • What is contained in the 9-12th grade curriculum for Social Sciences at JMHS?
  • Does JMHS provide its Social Science teachers with the approved social science curriculum for LAUSD?
  • How does LAUSD/JMHS evaluate teachers as far as adhering to the multicultural standards set forth by the district and the State of California is concerned?

Scope and Limitations of the Study

According to Krippendorff (2004), a given study has several limitations that may derail or affect the quality of the findings if not addressed. The limitations of the study may include the possible weaknesses of the methodology used while the scope of the study may include the extent of the boundaries within which the study is to be conducted. The following are the limitations and scope of the current study:

  1. The study is limited to Los Angeles Unified School District alone. This is despite the fact that there are other school districts within the country with experiences that are similar to those of LAUSD
  2. The study was limited to cultural standards in the school district. Other aspects of multicultural education such as equity pedagogy were not addressed by the study
  3. The study was also limited to 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grades. Application (or lack of it thereof) of cultural standards in the other grades was not addressed
  4. It is also to be noted that the study was limited to James Monroe High School. Other schools in the district were not addressed
  5. The study relied on quantitative data. Qualitative data was not used even in instances where it appeared more applicable

Chapter Transition

In chapter one, the researcher introduced the reader to the study that was conducted and reported in this report. The aim of this introduction was to give the reader an idea on what to expect from the rest of the report. The researcher highlighted some of the major areas of the study in this section. Areas covered in chapter one include overview information, problem statement, significance of the study, hypothesis statement, research questions and scope and limitations of the study.

In chapter two, the researcher will provide the reader with a critical review of the literature that exists in this field. The aim will be to identify knowledge gaps in the field, gaps that can be addressed by the current study. The researcher will also try to locate the current study in the larger field of multicultural education in chapter two.

Literature review

In chapter one, the reader was introduced to the study as the researcher addressed some of the major highlights of this report. In chapter two, the researcher will take the reader through a critical review of literature that exists in the field.

Berg (2001) is of the view that the findings of studies that have been conducted in a given field in the past forms its knowledge base. They form the literature in that particular field. A researcher wishing to conduct a new study in that field must familiarise themselves with this literature. This is in order for them to identify the various agreements and disagreements between the various authors and the general status of knowledge in the field. The researcher also aims at identifying the various knowledge gaps that can be addressed by the study they are conducting.

Another aim of literature review is to locate the current study within the field by comparing and contrasting it with others that have been conducted in the past. Through literature review, the researcher also avoids duplicating studies that have been conducted in the past. Duplicating studies that have been conducted in the past (especially without the knowledge of the researcher) nullifies and voids the current study. This is given the fact that there is no new knowledge that is provided by the current study. However, there are cases where the researcher sets out to replicate a study that have been conducted in the past. In this case, literature review plays a significant role as it helps the researcher to identify the relationship between the study to be replicated, other studies in the same field and the current study (Krippendorff, 2004).

This study is no different. In this section, the researcher will provide a critical review of the literature in the field to achieve the aims stated above. To this end, the researcher will critically review the findings of studies that have been conducted in the field in the past. These are studies that are related to the current study. The researcher will also provide a critical analysis of the theoretical framework that will be used in this study.

Theoretical Framework

It is important for any study to have a theoretical framework or theoretical underpinning that directs it. It is to be noted that theories are important in any given field as they are used to organise knowledge in that particular field. They are used to represent the thinking of the scholars in that field and the major assumptions that are in operation (Crenshaw, 2009).

This study is no exception. The researcher notes that there are several theories that are present in the larger multicultural education field in the United States of America and elsewhere in the world. However, the researcher selected the critical race theory to underpin the current study. The theory was felt to be more suitable for this study as it addresses culture, race and curriculum in a critical way.

According to Ladson- Billings (as cited in Creswell, 2009), race theory is significant as it raises pertinent questions pertaining to the control and production of knowledge in a multicultural setting. This is especially so when it comes to “people and communities (of) colour” (Creswell, 2009: p. 62). On its part, critical race theory goes a step further and “………critically analyses the limitations that race, class and gender can have on an individual” (Creswell, 2009: p. 62).

In the context of the two theories indicated above, the researcher will highlight how curriculum reforms and social equity play a vital role in advocating for the inclusion of a multicultural curriculum in 9- 12th grade social science classes. According to Bennett (2003), social equality in education is important as it seeks to bring about equitable access to education as well as participation and achievement. Curriculum reform is important as it seeks to combat societal discrimination in a dominant Eurocentric curriculum that is taught in the United States of America and especially in California.

Critical Race Theory and Major Assumptions

This theory can be conceptualises as the academic application of the main critical theory (Menard, 2008). It can be viewed as a critical analysis of the culture of today’s modern society. It critically analyses how race, law and power intersect and how they influence each other (Gordon, 1999).

One of the major assumptions of this theory is the fact that racism is part and parcel of contemporary society (read American society). It has been institutionalised and has pervaded the dominant culture in this society. This is the major assumption from which this theory analyses predominant power structures in the society today. According to the theory, “………white supremacy and white privilege characterise modern power structures in the society, perpetuating the marginalisation of people of colour” (Yosso, 2005: p. 45). This extends to the education sector, where the system seems to favour students from White backgrounds at the expense of students of colour.

Critical race theory is characterised by two major themes. First, the theory proposes that “………white supremacy and racial power are maintained over time (and that) the law may play a role in this process” (Ladson- Billings & Tate, 1995: p. 32). What this means is that race is not a new phenomenon in this country or in this society. It has always been there. The Whites came to America and colonised the land, turning the Native Americans and the native Indians into slaves (albeit not literally). Over time, the Whites have come up with legislations that are solely aimed at benefiting them at the expense of other minority groups. Slave trade was supposed to provide labour for them. Abolishment of slave trade can be viewed as an attempt by the Whites to exploit the natives and other people of colour legitimately without necessarily coercing them explicitly (Tuitt, 2004). This is given the fact that the Whites remained as employers and they bought the labour of the coloured people at rates that they deemed favourable to them (the whites).

The second theme of this theory has to do with the fact that it has over time explored the possibility of “…….transforming the relationship between law and racial power (and more broadly) advocates for racial emancipation and anti- subordination” (Tuitt, 2004: p. 92). In other words, it appears that proponents of critical race theory have always fought for racial equality in the society. This is for example the fight against racial segregation in the country, the fight against slavery among others. The proponents are of the view that all races should be equal before the law and before man. The same advocacy for racial equality is evident in the country’s educational system. This is for example through the promotion of multicultural education and equity pedagogy with the assumption that students from minority racial backgrounds are entitled to the same quality of education as their white counterparts.

According to Delgado & Stefanic (2001), critical race theory advocates for a “more aggressive approach to social transformation” (p. 95) as opposed to liberalists who advocate for social change but at a gradual pace. Additionally, these theorists advocates for a race conscious social transformation. This is as opposed to liberalists who disregard race and colour of the members of the society (Laurence, Deyhle & Villenas, 1999). This is in contrast to liberalists who pursue a rights- based social transformation. These characteristics of critical race theory are evident in today’s education system. In other words, it appears that critical theorists have made efforts to transform the country’s education sector. Many public schools today have embraced equity pedagogy and multicultural education as analysed above, and this is an indication of critical race theory at work (Laurence et al., 1999).

Multicultural Education in the United States of America

Having looked at the theoretical assumptions underpinning multicultural education in the country, it is now important to look at multicultural education itself and analyse the impacts it has on the American society as a whole. It is to be noted that the government has put in place several reformist policies to address the issue of culture in the country’s education sector. A case in point is the No Child Left Behind (herein referred to as NCLB) which calls for states and school districts to re-evaluate their educational standards and assessments (Brush & Haynes, 2010). The policy states that students should learn about their backgrounds and the cultural diversity of this country.

Characteristics of a Multicultural Curriculum

This study is going to look at cultural standards in 9- 12th grade social sciences curriculum in James Monroe School in LAUSD. This is especially so considering the fact that LAUSD was identified earlier in this paper as one of the school districts in the United States of America with students from several cultural backgrounds (Ettinger, 2011). A curriculum that contains cultural standards can be conceptualised as a multicultural curriculum. This is given the fact that it strives to cater for the needs of students from multiple cultural backgrounds. From this, it can then be argued that this study will analyse multicultural curricula in LAUSD. To this end, the researcher will look at some of the traits of a multicultural curriculum.

In an article titled Key Characteristics of a Multicultural Curriculum, Gorski (2010) looks at some of the attributes of such a curriculum in American schools. To be specific, Gorski looks at seven characteristics of such a curriculum. Some of them are analysed below:

Delivery

According to Gorski (2010), the delivery of such a curriculum must reflect the diverse learning styles of the students from different cultural backgrounds. At the same time, the delivery should “challenge dynamics of power and privilege in the classroom” (Gorski, 2010: p. 1). In other words, the delivery should address and criticise racial and cultural inequalities in the classroom.

To achieve this, Gorski (2010) proposes a number of approaches to curriculum delivery. The first is the varying of instructional techniques in the classroom. According to Ferguson & Fleming (1984), such a delivery should encourage dialogue, individual work and student teaching. Gorski (2010) adds to this dialogue and cooperative learning.

Content

Gomez (1991) is of the view that the content of a multicultural curriculum is crucial as it influences the future of the learners significantly. Gorski (2010) agrees with this and argues that the content of a multicultural curriculum should be “complete and accurate, acknowledging the contributions and perspectives of all groups” (p. 4). To this end, the instructor must address under- represented groups in the country. These are groups such as Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender (LGBT) groups, women, people of colour among others. These groups should be integrated into the curriculum “seamlessly with those traditionally over- represented groups” (Gorski, 2010: p. 4) such as the Whites.

Teaching and Learning Materials

According to McLaren (2003), the biasness of an education system can be analysed through the teaching and learning materials that are used. It is as a result of this that Gorski (2010) argues that one of the characteristics of a multicultural curriculum is the fact that the teaching and learning materials are diverse and should be critically examined and analysed for bias. To this end, Gorski (2010) advises that teachers should try to vary the instructional materials by incorporating texts, newspapers, games and such others (p. 7). Also, the teacher and the school administration should seek to critically examine all teaching and learning materials to ensure that there is no bias or any oppressive content (Banks, 1999). For example, the history texts should not be stereotypical; neither should the science texts depict male- centric language (Gorski, 2010).

Also as far as teaching and learning materials are concerned, Gorski (2010) argues that the teacher should “diversify images and content in bulletin boards, posters and other constantly visible materials” (p. 8). The teacher should avoid diversifying the learning and teaching materials only during special occasions such as International Women’s Day.

Perspective

Gorski (2010) argues that the content of a multicultural curriculum should be presented from various perspectives and angles. This is to enhance accuracy and completeness of the content and the curriculum as a whole. To this end, the teacher should strive to present the curriculum from different perspectives as opposed to the presentation of the content from the perspective of the majority and dominant groups.

Critical Inclusivity

Fillion (n.d) argues that multicultural curriculum should be inclusive such that it does not alienate minority students from the learning process. Gorski (2010) supports this by arguing that “students must be engaged in the teaching and learning process” (p. 11). To this end, the teacher should ensure that the students are able to learn from the experiences of each other. Additionally, students should be encouraged to critically analyse the learning process by posing questions to the teachers.

Social and Civic Responsibility

This is another important aspect of a multicultural curriculum. Banks & Banks (1995) argue that the major aim of a multicultural education is to prepare the learners to be active contributors to an equitable and democratic society. It is as result of this that Gorski (2010) argues that as such, the curriculum should educate the students on social justice issues in the society. In addition, the curriculum should instil a sense of civic responsibility among the learners.

This can be achieved by creating awareness among the students as far as differences and inequalities in the society are concerned. The teacher should endeavour to help the learners identify the sources and implications of such inequalities in the society. The instructor should also help the learners to critically analyse how key figures in the country’s history have fought social injustices in the society.

Assessment

This is another attribute of a multicultural curriculum. To this end, it is noted that curriculum should be assessed and reviewed periodically to check for “completeness, accuracy and bias” (Gorski, 2010: p. 12). The instructor can achieve this by working with other teachers to critically examine the content and structure of each other’s curricular. The students should also be involved in the assessment process. To this end, the instructor should seek and accept the feedback from the learners.

The current study will try to look for some of these traits in the curriculum adopted by James Monroe High School in LAUSD.

Multicultural Curriculum Reforms

As indicated earlier in this paper, several states and school districts in the United States of America have made efforts to incorporate cultural diversity in their curricular. This is to reflect and comply with the provisions of various education policies touching on cultural diversity in the country.

In a book titled An Introduction to Multicultural Education, Banks (1999) provides four approaches that can be adopted in the process of multicultural curriculum reforms in the country. Teachers and managers in James Monroe School can use these approaches to enhance their multicultural curriculum. The four approaches are contributions, additive, transformation and social action. These will be analysed below:

The Contributions Approach to Multicultural Curriculum Reform

McDiarmid (1992) also talks about this approach to multicultural curriculum reforms. The scholar is of the view that it reflects the “least amount of engagement in multicultural education reforms” (McDiarmid, 1992: p. 99). This view is supported by Banks (1999) when he argues that it is the least involving multicultural education approach. According to Banks (1999), the approach involves the selection of books and activities that address holidays, heroes and significant events in different cultures. Banks (1999) gives the example of spending time in class analysing the writings and speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King. This takes place in January. Contributions approach does not specify culturally diverse learning materials as part of the curriculum.

The Additive Approach to Multicultural Curriculum Reform

According to Sleeter & Grant (1999) some multicultural education reforms tries to preserve the basic structure of the curriculum while integrating various changes at the same time. These are what Banks (1999) refers to as additive approaches to curriculum reform.

In additive curriculum reform, the educationists add “content, concepts, themes and perspectives……… without changing the basic structure of the curriculum” (Banks, 1999: p. 75). To this end, the educationists and other stakeholders involved in curriculum reforms incorporates texts and literature from people of diverse cultures into the curriculum without necessarily having to change it. Banks (1999) gives the example of analyzing the attitudes of Native Americans towards Thanksgiving. This is an example of adding cultural diversity to the conventional view of this event (Winch & Gingell, 1999). It is however to be noted that additive approach to multicultural curriculum reform “………does not necessarily transform thinking” (Banks, 1999: p. 99). What this means is that the new perspectives introduced into the curriculum do not necessarily displace the old ones. Students from James Monroe School may have the additional perspective of Native Americans when it comes to analyzing Thanksgiving, but that does not mean that they will abandon the old perspective all together.

The Transformation Approach to Multicultural Curriculum Reform

According to Banks (1999), this approach is the complete opposite of the additive one analysed above. This is given the fact that it actually “……changes the structure of the curriculum and encourages learners to view concepts, issues, themes and problems from several ethnic perspectives and points of view” (Banks, 1999: p. 44). Again, Banks (1999) gives the example of Thanksgiving. The scholars argue that in transformational approach, a new unit addressing Thanksgiving within the context of cultural conflict will be introduced. Transformation approach to curriculum transformation is characterised by critical thinking on the part of the curriculum developers. It involves “…….a consideration of diversity as a basic premise” (Banks, 1999: p. 99).

Social Action Approach to Multicultural Curriculum Reform

According to Banks (1999), this approach combines some elements of transformation approach in its efforts to reform the multicultural curriculum. According to the scholar, the approach “……combines the transformation approach with activities to strive for social change” (Banks, 1999: p. 49). To this end, the teacher strives not only to instruct the learners to understand and critique social issues, but also to act on those issues.

For example, the students at James Monroe School may take part in a unit addressing the issue of immigrants to the United States of America. After this, the teacher may encourage the students to write letters and memos to senators, congress and other stakeholders in the society. In the letters, the students may try to articulate their opinions about policies touching on such immigrations, illegal or otherwise.

Cultural Standards in LAUSD: What to do about the Cultural Differences

Authorities at LAUSD have made efforts to address the issue of cultural diversity in the public schools within the districts. In an article titled What to do about the Differences? A Study of Multicultural Education for Teacher Trainees in the Los Angeles Unified School District, McDiarmid (1992) talks about some of the efforts made by LAUSD authorities to address the issue.

McDiarmid (1992) is of the view that LAUSD is faced with the challenge of recruiting and retaining teachers for mathematics and sciences among other subjects. To curb this shortage, the district initiated the Teacher Trainee Program (TTP) which aims at recruiting individuals with baccalaureate degrees and who would wish to become teachers (Helfand, 2012: Ettinger, 2011).

To reflect the district’s cultural diversity, the teacher trainees are expected to attend a multicultural week in the course of their training (McDiarmid, 1992). The major aim of the multicultural week is to help the teachers to “help each student develop a positive self- image” (McDiarmid, 1992: p. 2). This is one of the requirements put forth for teachers in this district by the LAUSD authorities. To help the students gain positive self- image, the teacher trainees are expected to “help them take pride in their ethnic background, culture and heritage” (LAUSD in the year 1984 as cited in McDiarmid, 1992: p. 2).

One of the issues facing LAUSD (and other school districts in the country) is that of preparing instructors for a culturally diverse teaching environment in the public schools. The school district has come up with various strategies to address this issue. The Multicultural Week for the trainee teachers is such one program put in place to address this issue.

LAUSD officials realise the fact that they have to prepare the teachers to work with students who are not only culturally different from one another, but also culturally different from the teacher’s themselves (Harmon et al., 2000). This means that the teacher has to reconcile their cultural differences with those of their students. This is in addition to having to reconcile the cultural differences among the students themselves. This is a very thorny issue that has to be dealt with by the LAUSD authorities.

In their article, McDiarmid (1992) acknowledges the fact that LAUSD faces several challenges in trying to prepare the teachers for such a task. For example, there are disagreements among the curriculum developers and other stakeholders in the district as to which of the cultural differences matter the most (McDiarmid, 1992). Are they the differences between the teachers and the students, or are they the differences among the students themselves? There is also a major disagreement among the stakeholders on how such differences matter to the teacher, to the learner and to the whole education system. There are those who are of the view that the differences are not significant. Others (especially who subscribe to the critical race theory school of thought) are of the view the cultural differences are significant and should be addressed with a sober mind. There is also the question of how the teachers should deal with or accommodate such cultural differences in the classroom. Some experts are of the view that the curriculum should be restructured to address the differences, while others are of the opinion that the curriculum can be reformed without necessarily having to restructure it wholly.

Culturally Relevant and Responsive Educational Programs and Multicultural Curriculum in LAUSD

Apart from holding multicultural weeks and reforming the curriculum, LAUSD can also adopt a Culturally Relevant and Responsive Educational Program (CRRE) to address the issue of cultural diversity in the public schools. In an article titled Domains and Components of a Culturally Relevant and Responsive Educational Program, Maddahian & Bird (2003) talk of how CRRE programs can be used to effectively address the issue of cultural diversity in public schools.

The scholars start by defining a CRRE program. They conceptualise it as the process of “educating all children by incorporating their emotional, social and cognitive cultural experiences into the teaching and learning process” (Maddahian & Bird, 2003: p. 4). To this end, the curriculum tries to take into consideration not only the educational needs, but also the emotional and psychological needs of the students taking into consideration their cultural backgrounds.

In their article, the two scholars are of the view that a CRRE program has various attributes. The first one is knowledge and experience where it is argued that the more instructors understand their learners’ socio- cultural backgrounds and experiences, the better placed they are in effectively educating them (Maddahian & Bird, 2003). A culturally relevant and responsive educational program also has to respect and acknowledge the socio- cultural backgrounds and experiences of the learners. To this end, the teachers have to recognise and respect the cultural diversity. The students themselves should also recognise and accept the cultural differences between them, the teachers and other learners.

Chapter Transition

In chapter two, the researcher critically reviewed the literature that exists in the field with the view of locating the current study within the larger field of multicultural education. The researcher began by providing a theoretical framework that will underpin the whole of this paper. To this end, a critical analysis of critical race theory and its applications in the study was provided.

From the critical literature review, it emerged that LAUSD faces several issues when it comes to addressing the issue of cultural diversity in the public schools. One such issue is the need to prepare the teachers to teach in a culturally diverse environment. It was also revealed that the school district had come up with several strategies aimed at addressing these issues. One such strategy is the adoption of the Multicultural Week to arm the teachers with the multicultural skills needed. Another strategy is the adoption of CRRE in some of the schools in the district.

From the literature review, it is clear that the issue of cultural diversity and education in LAUSD is not a new phenomenon. However, this study will seek to address this issue in the context of James Monroe School and specifically in the context of 9- 12th grade social science curriculum. The rest of the paper will address this issue.

In chapter three, the researcher will look at the methodology that will be used to collect and analyse data for the study. To this end, the reader will be taken through a step by step analysis of the procedure that was followed to collect and analysed data.

Methodology

In chapter two, the reader was taken through a critical literature review with the aim of establishing the relationship between the current study and the larger field of multicultural education especially in LAUSD. In this chapter, the researcher will take the reader through a detailed analysis of the methodology that was adopted for the study.

Theoretical Framework

As indicated in chapter two above, the study will be guided by the critical race theory. According to Ladson- Billings & Tate (1995), race persists as one of the major factors influencing social and economic inequity in American society. The scholars argue that the “……..intersection of race and property creates an analytic (and critical) tool through which we can understand social and consequently (educational) inequity in America” (Ladson- Billings & Tate, 1995: p. 2). This is especially so given the fact that America is a property class society. This being the case, one’s status in the society is determined by the property they own. The property owned is in turn determined by the level and quality of their education. This is given that education determines the ability of the individual to compete for property in the society. If race affects equity in education, then it can be argued that it has the potential to affect socio- economic equity in the society as a whole. To address this issue, educators must strive to provide for an education system that treats students from different cultural backgrounds equally. This is in order to provide for equity in the society at large. The adoption of cultural standards is one of the strategies that can be used to improved equitable multicultural education in LAUSD. To this end, the researcher will examine cultural standards in 9- 12th grade social science curriculum in James Monroe School.

Overall Purpose of the Study

As already indicated in chapter one above, the aim of this study is to examine the presence (or lack of it thereof) of cultural standards in 9- 12th grade social science curriculum in James Monroe School in California’s LAUSD. This is as provided for by the social science framework and content standards for California public schools. The framework is determined and approved by the California Department of Education. The overall aim of the study will be to analyse whether the adoption of cultural standards improves the academic performance of the students in the school or not.

Units of Observation and Analysis

Unit of Observation

The unit of observation for this study will be the Los Angeles Unified School District with special focus on James Monroe School.

Unit of Analysis

The unit of analysis for this study is the adoption of cultural standards in 9- 12th grade social science curriculum in James Monroe and its impacts on the performance of the students.

Study Variables

Krippendorff (2004) defines study variables as those elements or attributes of the topic that will be analysed or measured. This being a qualitative study, the researcher sought to measure two sets of variables. These are the independent and dependent variables. These are analysed below:

Independent Variable

According to Berg (2001), this is usually one variable that is not affected by changes taking place in the other variables in the study. For the current study, the independent variable was the cultural standards in the 9- 12th grades at James Monroe School.

Dependent Variables

Krippendorff (2004) is of the view that a dependent variable is affected by changes in the independent variable. The researcher usually sets out to measure how changes in the independent variable affect the dependent variable. For this study, the dependent variable was the academic performance of students at James Monroe School.

Study Population

Study population is the universe within which the study will be conducted. It is made up of the target and sample populations.

Target Population

This is the specific population within which the study will be conducted. It is the population to which the findings of the study will be generalised. The target population for this study is the public schools in Los Angeles Unified School District.

Sample Population

This is the group that will be selected from the target population and whose attributes will be analysed by the researcher. It is to be noted that in most cases the target population is very large. As such, it becomes hard for the researcher to analyse the attributes of the whole target population in a single study. This creates the impetus for group of individuals selected from the target population and on which the study will be carried on. The researcher can then generalise the findings made in the sample population to the larger target population.

The sample population for this study will be James Monroe School in LAUSD.

Sampling Techniques

The researcher used purposive sampling for this study. Los Angeles Unified School District was purposively sampled since this is where the researcher is currently based. James Monroe School was selected since the researcher is an alumnus of the school. The 9- 12th grade social curriculum was selected since the researcher felt that cultural standards will be expressed explicitly at this stage.

Study Structure

As already indicated, the study was qualitative in nature and the researcher was interested in analysing whether social science curriculum in James Monroe’s 9- 12th grade meets the diversity standards for the district and the state of California. This study is a qualitative review of documents.

The researcher accessed various documents from the school. The documents were analysed to determine whether the school adheres to the cultural diversity standards. The documents were also analysed to determine the performance of the students over the years. From the documents, the researcher also analysed the racial composition of the students in this school and level of enrolment over the years. The data from the documents was then analysed to determine the effects of cultural standards on the performance of the students (Haas, 1991).

Chapter Transition

In this chapter, the researcher looked at the steps that will be followed in collecting data for the study. The aim was to give the reader an idea on how the study was organised.

References

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Banks, J. A., & Banks, C. A. (1995). Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives. 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Bennett, C. (2003). Comprehensive multicultural education: Theory and practice. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Berg, B. (2001). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Brush, C., & Haynes, J. (2010). Developing a multicultural curriculum. Web.

Crenshaw, K. (2009). Critical race theory: The key writings that formed the movement. New York: New Press.

Creswell, R. (2009). Teaching community: A pedagogy of hope. New York: Bell Hooks.

Delgado, R., & Stefanic, J. (2001). Critical race theory: An introduction. New York: New York University Press.

Ettinger, D. S. (2011). The quest to desegregate Los Angeles schools. Los Angeles Lawyer, 3(3), 4-9.

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Fillion, S. E. (n.d). Multicultural curriculum. Web.

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Gordon, L. R. (1999). A short history of the ‘critical’ in critical race theory. American Philosophy Association Newsletter, 98(2), 45-59.

Gorski, P. (2010). Key characteristics of a multicultural curriculum. Web.

Haas, M. (1991). An analysis of the social science and history concepts in elementary social studies textbooks grades 1-4. Theory and Research in Social Education, 19(2), 211-220.

Harmon, J., et al. (2000). A content analysis of vocabulary instruction in social studies textbooks for grades 4-8. The Elementary School Journal, 100(3), 253-271.

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Krippendorff, K. (2004). Content analysis: An introduction to its methodology. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Ladson- Billings, G., & Tate, W. F. (1995). Toward a critical race theory of education. Teachers College Record, 97(1), 47-68.

Laurence, P., Deyhle, D., & Villenas, S. (1999). Race is- Race isn’t: Critical race theory and qualitative studies in education. Boulder: Westview Press.

Maddahian, E., & Bird, M. (2003). Domains and components of a culturally relevant and responsive educational program. Web.

McDiarmid, C. W. (1992). What to do about differences? A study of multicultural education for teacher trainees in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Web.

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Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69-91.

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YourDissertation. 2021. "Cultural Standards in Social Science Curriculum in Los Angeles Unified School District in California." December 19, 2021. https://yourdissertation.com/dissertation-examples/cultural-standards-in-social-science-curriculum-in-los-angeles-unified-school-district-in-california/.

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