Build Cultural Proficiency To Ensure Equity


By Learning Forward
Categories: Equity, Outcomes
February 2016
Cultural proficiency is about serving the needs of all students, with a laser-like focus on historically underserved students. When education is offered in a culturally proficient manner, historically underserved students gain access to educational opportunities intended to result in high academic achievement. When education is delivered in a culturally proficient manner, all students understand and value their own culture and the cultures of those around them. In the same vein, when educational experiences are delivered in a culturally proficient manner, all educators, legislators, board members, and local business community members understand and value the culture of those around them in ways they have rarely experienced or appreciated. Culturally proficient professional learning focuses on the learner outcomes described in Learning Forward’s Outcomes standard. Professional learning aligned

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Delores B. Lindsey and Randall B. Lindsey

Delores B. Lindsey, a retired associate professor, uses the lens of cultural proficiency to help education leaders examine their organization’s policies and practices as well as their individual beliefs and values about cross-cultural communication.

Randall B. Lindsey is an emeritus professor at California State University, Los Angeles, and an education consultant on issues related to equity and access. He works with colleagues to design and implement programs for and with schools and community-based organizations to provide access and achievement.

Delores and Randall Lindsey approach the Outcomes standard through the lens of their cultural proficiency work to highlight the equity focus embedded in the standard. In their full essay in Reach the Highest Standard in Professional Learning: Outcomes, they write, “Cultural proficiency is an approach to equity and access for all learners. … Our assumption, built on sound practice, is equitable professional learning experiences aligned with professional learning standards and student performance goals support equitable learning outcomes for educators and their students.” They also explore the idea of “inside-out change” for individuals and systems and its importance in achieving equity of access and outcomes (Lindsey, Lindsey, Hord, & von Frank, 2016).

This excerpt dives into their cultural proficiency tools and framework and their connection to the Outcomes standard.

Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students aligns its outcomes with educator performance and student curriculum standards. 

About the Book

build-cultural-proficiency-to-ensure-equity4Lindsey, D.B., Lindsey, R.B., Hord, S.M., & von Frank, V. (2016). Reach the highest standard in professional learning: Outcomes. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin. Excerpted with permission.

The Essential Elements for Culturally Proficient Practices

  1. Assessing cultural knowledge: Becoming aware of and knowing the diverse communities within your school. Knowing how educators and the school as a whole react to marginalized communities. Learning how to be effective in serving these communities. Leading and learning about the school and its grade levels and departments as cultural entities in responding to the educational needs of the underserved communities.
  2. Valuing diversity: Creating informal and formal decision-making groups inclusive of parents/guardians and community members whose viewpoints and experiences are different from yours and the dominant group at the school, which will enrich conversations, decision making, and problem solving.
  3. Managing the dynamics of difference: Modeling problem-solving and conflict resolution strategies as a natural and normal process within the culture of the schools and the diverse contexts of the communities of your school.
  4. Adapting to diversity: Learning about underserved cultural groups different from your own and the ability to use others’ experiences and backgrounds in all school settings.
  5. Institutionalizing cultural knowledge: Making learning about underserved cultural groups and their experiences and perspectives an integral part of the school’s professional development.

Source: Adapted from
Terrell & Lindsey, 2009.


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Lindsey, D.B., Kearney, K.M., Estrada, D., Terrell, R.D., & Lindsey, R.B. (2015). A culturally proficient response to the Common Core: Ensuring equity through professional learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Lindsey, D.B., Lindsey, R.B., Hord, S.M., & von Frank, V. (2016). Reach the highest standard in professional learning: Outcomes. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Lindsey, D., Martinez, R., & Lindsey, R. (2007). Culturally proficient coaching: Supporting educators to create equitable schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Lindsey, R.B., Nuri Robins, K., & Terrell, R.D. (1999). Cultural proficiency: A manual for school leaders. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Lindsey, R.B., Nuri Robins, K., & Terrell, R.D. (2003). Cultural proficiency: A manual for school leaders (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Lindsey, R.B., Nuri Robins, K., & Terrell, R.D. (2009). Cultural proficiency: A manual for school leaders (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Schein, E.H. (1992). Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Schein, E.H. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley.

Senge, P., Cambron-McCabe, N., Lucas, T., Smith, B., Dutton, J., & Kleiner, A.  (2000). Schools that learn: A fifth discipline fieldbook for educators, parents, and everyone who cares about education. New York, NY: Doubleday.

Terrell, R.D. & Lindsey, R.B. (2009). Culturally proficient leadership: The personal journey begins within. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Wagner, T., Kegan, R., Lahey, L., Lemons, R.W., Garnier, J., Helsing, D.,Howell, A., & Rasmussen, H.T. (2006). Change leadership: A practical guide to transforming our schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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Learning Forward is the only professional association devoted exclusively to those who work in educator professional development. We help our members plan, implement, and measure high-quality professional learning so they can achieve success with their systems, schools, and students.

Categories: Equity, Outcomes

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