In 2007-2008, Texas schools had a large ethnic distribution of students. Specifically, African American students made up 14.3% of the overall student population; the Hispanic student population was 47.2%; and 34.8% of the student population was White. The smallest groups represented included Native American and Asian/Pacific Islanders with Native American students and teachers representing only 0.3% of students (Texas Education Agency, 2009). According to demographic projections, minority populations are expected to increase significantly over the next 20 years (NCES, 2007). The students who were the most at-risk academically represented the African American and Hispanic populations. As a result of their at-risk status, they were not adequately prepared and did not have the skills for higher educational attainment (Carter, 2009).
Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), schools are responsible for ensuring all students, including students from culturally, racially, and ethnically diverse backgrounds, have the opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach proficiency on challenging state academic standards and assessments. The goal of NCLB is not only to provide students with a quality education, but also to close the achievement gap that exists between African American and Hispanic students and their White counterparts, a gap that has remained wide for the past 10 years (Chartock, 2010). The concern for the low achievement of African Americans and other students of color has led researchers to advocate for teachers to become more culturally responsive in their teaching (Au, 1993; Blair & Jones, 1998; Delpit, 1995; Gay, 2000; Ladson-Billings, 1994). Demographic change poses new challenges for schools that have been historically White. Scholars have determined one of the most effective approaches is to have culturally responsive teachers (Ladson-Billings, 1994; Gay, 2000).
Gay (2000) defined culturally responsive teaching as “using the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning encounters more relevant to and effective for them. It is culturally validating and affirming” (p. 29). A quality education requires all students to be exposed to a variety of cultural perspectives that are representative of the nation at large. According to Ladson-Billings (1994), culturally responsive pedagogy must meet three criteria: “An ability to develop students academically, a willingness to nurture and support cultural competence, and the development of a sociopolitical or critical consciousness” (p. 483). Educational institutions have the charge of providing culturally diverse students with equitable educational opportunities as all other non-minority students.
While culturally responsive teaching appeared to be more beneficial, other tactics have been applied to try to close the achievement gap but have not proven to be successful...