A key aspect of successful urban education centers is the ability to help students reconcile their cultural differences. Depending on their community, students may hold multiple identities: membership in their school, in their race, in their ethnicity, or even in their religion. Good schools must help students learn to navigate these competing identities, so that they can present their intellectual selves authentically and without conflict.
Urban education centers must provide materials that reflect the cultures of the children they serve. The possibilities for such a goal exist in urban centers, where local businesses and faith communities often support specific populations. In addition, city districts should coordinate their resources to make sure that all programs have access to the resources they need to be successful. Digital resources are especially valuable to these centers, as they can help programs respond to a wide variety of cultures and languages. These resources include resources that include cultural information, links to diverse languages, and a range of learning activities that can be tailored to each cultural group.
School districts often concentrate on one language, despite the fact that many urban education centers have a diverse student population. For example, in the Philadelphia school district, two Asian American organizations, the Asian American Union, and the Philadelphia Folklore Project, have created FACT Charter School, which serves the city’s diverse Chinese community and the surrounding areas. While the school emphasizes the Chinese language, it also enrolls Hispanic and other ethnic groups.
Urban education centers must also strive to build equity within their communities. While it may not be possible to fully integrate minority communities, the broader efforts to address social equity issues should not be overlooked. Without this, students will continue to struggle to be able to access the educational resources they need.
Urban education centers must recognize that cultural dissonance often hinders students’ learning. The dissonance between students’ cultures and their teachers’ expectations often contribute to their underperformance in school. In some cases, students’ cultural and linguistic differences can create a sense of alienation in these centers.
Urban education centers should also seek to support shared professional learning communities for teachers and administrators. These communities should acknowledge overlaps between roles and acknowledge differences in professional identities, cultural practices, and pedagogical approaches. It is imperative to ensure that these teams are working as part of the same team.
As urban populations continue to grow, new language communities are also expanding. For example, in Dayton, Ohio, the Ahiska Turkish community has grown rapidly since 2011. Urban school districts must maintain relationships with long-established populations and be prepared for new groups. They also need to be able to respond quickly and appropriately when faced with a new cultural group.
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