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Albemarle County Public Schools details its cultural responsiveness teaching training

Updated: Apr. 23, 2021 at 6:30 PM EDT
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Virginia’s teachers will soon be evaluated by a new standard: cultural competency. It’s something that Albemarle County Public Schools has required for years.

Albemarle County Public Schools began its culturally responsive teaching certification in 2016. Teachers and administrators say students attitudes toward learning and success in the classroom have both seen major improvements.

“Culturally responsive teaching is about a mindset shift,” Albemarle High School Media Center Director and Former Teacher Monica Laux explained.

Laux was part of Albemarle County’s second-ever class to go through CRT training. Now, she sees its impact both in the classroom and throughout the school.

It’s both about highlighting student’s skills and interests, while building student confidence and interest in lifelong learning.

“Really looking at it through an asset-based lens, so what are the strengths of these students? How can I use their strengths to help them grow academically?” Laux asked. “Giving them feedback in a way where they could transfer that to their next paper and let’s, let’s really take a look at who you are in your writing: What’s great about it, and where we can grow and improve.”

The changing in instructional approach also includes more one-on-one interaction between teachers and students. It helps students develop a deeper relationship with their teachers that can have an academic benefit, as well as boosting students’ social and emotional health.

“They walked in on the 11th grade on the writing and reading SOL days knowing that they had the skills and the competence, and that that I believed in them and was standing behind them,” Laux said. “We saw big academic gains from that. Lots of student growth.”

The new instructional model also includes increasing relationships between teachers and parents. That helps the teachers define success for the students both at school and at home, and can increase the investment parents have in their children’s education.

The results have been felt beyond the classroom.

“Increases in attendance, grades, they’re passionate about what they’re going to do after school,” AHS Director of Student Counseling Meghan Parsons said. “More involvement in school activities and athletics.”

With the training to be required soon in the state, it’s something the county already looks for in new teaching candidates.

“One of the things we look at when we bring new people on board is to see if they’ve had experiences in this and even if they haven’t gone through an official program,” AHS Principle Darah Bonham said. “What does it mean to be culturally responsive? What does it mean in terms of how you connect with your students that have examples of that?”

The Virginia Department Education is expected to have guidelines for this training by the end of 2021. School districts will then be required to have options in place by the start of the 2022-2023 school year.

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