Promoting Cultural Competency

East San Jose satellite campus prepares culturally responsive teachers to engage underserved students.

East San Jose satellite campus prepares culturally responsive teachers to engage underserved students.

When the National Hispanic University announced it would close its doors in East San Jose, SCU and the Foundation for Hispanic Education joined forces. They developed an innovative collaboration to create the Institute for Educational Hispanic Advancement. The institute is the first of its kind to integrate research, policy, and practice. This collaboration is just one example of the University’s efforts to develop culturally sensitive teachers.

A serious academic achievement gap exists today. Hispanic students have lower grades, graduation rates, and standardized test scores than non-Hispanic whites and Asian American students. Many are immigrants who contend with poor English skills, inadequate teachers, and parents who lack an understanding of the educational system. Yet, 51 percent of all California students are Hispanic, and by 2030 Hispanic children will make up 25 percent of the nation’s youth and future workforce. The situation is critical.

Santa Clara University’s School of Education and Counseling Psychology (ECP) is working to bridge this gap. In May 2014, it announced a groundbreaking partnership with the Foundation for Hispanic Education to address co-sponsoring a Latino Education Summit to bring community leaders, members, families, and educators to discuss the troubling education outcomes for Latina/os

The foundation’s think tank for Hispanic education—the Center for Latino Education and Innovation—integrates research, policy, and practice to advance student achievement in one of the nation’s most underserved ethnic groups.

ECP is the institute’s practice arm, in charge of teacher preparation. Its first offering is a Master of Arts in Teaching/Teaching Credential (MATTC) with a special emphasis on Hispanic students and their families.

According to Professor Marco Bravo, director of Latina/o education for the Department of Education in ECP, research has shown that teachers who are bilingual and culturally responsive make a strong impact on the educational outcomes of Latina/o students. And charter schools, which emphasize building relationships between students and teachers, and leveraging parents and community, benefit academically as well.

Student teachers will be placed in heavily Latina/o populated schools—including the charter schools located at SCU’s East San Jose satellite campus—to complete their practicum experience. These students become immersed in the educational journey of Latina/o youth by tutoring high schoolers, observing reading development of preschool to first grade students, visiting local community education sites, and speaking with counselors. Throughout their experiences on the East San Jose campus, MATTC students build a cultural and linguistic competence. On the horizon for ECP is a Spanish/English bilingual credential that will allow teacher candidates to work in popular dual language programs.  

“Learning from teachers who are experienced in working with the Latina/o community, ECP students will sharpen their teaching practice,” says Bravo. “Also, research will be conducted at the charter schools, which will in turn loop back to ECP so that it can refine its teaching program to optimize student learning.”

Part of this vision is supported by the Semilla Fellowships—scholarships that are provided to teacher candidates who pledge to work in a highly Latina/o populated school once they graduate from SCU’s teacher education program. Bravo hopes to recruit teacher candidates within the East San Jose community, sparking interest in the middle schools. “These students would go on to attend SCU, complete the teacher education program in East San Jose, and become teachers in their community,” completing SCU’s full-circle vision for community education.