Honoring Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in NC

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Every child, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, or where they live, deserves the opportunity to be supported to pursue their dreams and feel their experiences are valued. Culturally and linguistically relevant assessments reflect diverse experiences, interests, and values, and enable young children to be assessed more accurately and holistically. When culturally and linguistically relevant screening tools and assessments are used with young children and families in health, education, and other settings, they are more likely to be assessed correctly, receive the services they need, and to feel positive about their experiences.

Immigrant Heritage Month, which was first celebrated in June 2014, is meant to recognize and honor immigrants in the United States. To note some specific monthly designations, National Hispanic Heritage Month is annually celebrated from September 15 to October 15 for recognizing the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is observed in the U.S. during the month of May, and recognizes the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans, to the history, culture, and achievements for the country. In the context of longstanding discriminatory practices and policies directed towards certain groups of immigrants, these acknowledgements are particularly important to begin to address needs specific to newly arrived or linguistically and culturally diverse populations.

In the educational setting, assessment practices and instruments afford students the space to draw connections between their learning and their direct, daily experiences with the world, and to see those experiences as an asset in and beyond the classroom. We all want our kids to attend good schools that help them pursue their dreams. Creating space for students to bring their own cultural fluency to the educational and assessment setting creates a more equitable learning environment as all students are given the opportunity to draw on their specific social and cultural literacies, including language.

Educational “standard” may not work for all students

Within this conversation, it is crucial to address misconceptions about standardized curriculum or assessments, one of the largest being that current assessments are neutral, at once reflecting no one group in particular, and thus everyone. However, this pursuit of neutrality often reinforces whiteness and the white American experience as the default, considering other cultures and perspectives as diversions from that ‘standard.’ You can find more on this and other misconceptions on this WestEd post.

The need for curriculum and assessments that reflect the diversity of student populations has been uplifted by some states in state-specific Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) legislation. 

In North Carolina, the ESSA language is as follows: “Steps taken at the local level to ensure equitable access may include, but are not limited to…promoting responsiveness to cultural differences.” 

Embedding this language into law is an important step, however more support for educators with implementation is needed to guide action. The Pathways Action Map highlights some initiatives and organizations across the state leading the way.

Connecting to Pathways

The Pathways Action Map has several actions that align with working towards an educational system that recognizes the vast cultural and linguistic diversity across the state:

Several initiatives, from the ISLA Padres Early Childhood Research that trains parents of the Latinx community in providing recommendations to ensure accountability for culturally and linguistically equitable practices to Village of Wisdom, a Durham-based organization supporting parents and educators build culturally affirming learning environments for Black Children, are providing models for the creation of educational spaces that support children of all backgrounds.

Spotlight Initiative: ourBRIDGE for Kids

ourBRIDGE for KIDS supports the education, acculturation, and resilience of newly arrived immigrant and refugee children and their families in Charlotte, NC. The organization provides access to culturally responsive and trauma-informed wrap-around care through our Family Support Team, community centered events and out-of-school programming for refugee and immigrant families in Charlotte. This programming enables families to have an easier time adjusting to life in the United States and increases their health, mental health, economic mobility, and overall well-being.

In fact, 80% of ourBRIDGE staff are hired directly from the communities the organization works with, creating meaningful pathways of employment for those who then offer culturally relevant insight into programming and services offered. Their commitment to being responsive and equitable is in the act of knowing students and families holistically, planning with their perspectives and experiences in mind, hiring directly from the communities served, continuously assessing feedback, and understanding their own identities in relation to the larger community.

Dashboard Explores NC Data Behind Literacy

The Action Map’s companion tool, the Pathways Data Dashboard, provides statewide data illustrating indicators that align with Action areas on the Pathways Action Map, disaggregated by race and ethnicity. Take a look at the Dashboard to explore data around the percentage of dual language learners in counties across North Carolina.

Keep in Touch with NCECF and Support Our Work

Visit the info page to learn more about the Pathways Action Map and consider adding your work! Share it with others in your network and community, whose work you think should be spotlighted. We want to utilize the Map as a resource to build awareness of innovation, make connections, and identify gaps and opportunities that can help guide policy making, advocacy, funding, and capacity building.

If you have any questions, or would like a guided tour of the Map, please contact us. We’d love to hear your ideas on how to continue to utilize this tool to support the success of all North Carolina children.

Please be sure to subscribe to our biweekly newsletter and consider making a donation today to continue a strong 2023 by helping us transform the lives of North Carolina families, from their earliest days, while also supporting a small growing, family-friendly team. 

The NC Early Childhood Foundation is driven by a bold – and achievable – vision: Each North Carolina child has a strong foundation for life-long health, education, and well-being supported by a comprehensive, equitable birth-to-eight ecosystem. We build understanding, lead collaboration, and advance policies to ensure each North Carolina child is on track for lifelong success by the end of third grade.