Culturally Responsive Practices (Wisconsin Model)

  • The Urgency for Change 
    Despite good intentions and efforts of individual educators and school systems across Wisconsin, broad K-12 achievement gaps exist. Indeed, the gaps between our white students and our students of color are among the worst in the nation; what’s more, these gaps have persisted for over a decade (NAEP, 2015). 

    Our nearly 50,000 English Learners, over 100,000 students with disabilities, a quarter of a million students of color, and greater than 350,000 students receiving free and reduced lunch (Wisconsin DPI, 2015) deserve equitable outcomes. And the time for us to act is now. The Model to Inform Culturally Responsive Practices describes the beliefs, knowledge, and practices Wisconsin educators, schools, and districts need to reach and teach diverse students within their culturally responsive multi-level systems of support. It’s not a checklist or a toolkit; rather, cultural responsiveness is a way of being and knowing. It’s how we show up to do the work of schools.

    Culture Practices IconAbout the Model 
    Becoming culturally responsive is a lifelong journey, not a final destination. This journey involves intentionally choosing to stay engaged in introspection, embracing alternative truths, and ensuring that every student is successful (Singleton & Linton, 2006; Promoting Excellence for All, 2015). 

    This process is represented on the outer circle of the model as: 
    WILL: The desire to lead and a commitment to achieving equitable outcomes for all students,
    FILL: Gaining cultural knowledge about ourselves and others, and 
    SKILL: Applying knowledge and leading the change, skillfully putting beliefs and learning into action. 
    The arrows illustrate the ongoing, unfinished nature of this work.  

    The Eight Areas in the Inner Circle 
    The eight areas in the inner circle describe actions of cultural responsiveness within WILL, FILL, and SKILL. For those just beginning this work, these areas can be used as steps in an “inside-out” process, starting with knowing oneself first, learning about others next, and then moving to action (Cross, et. al, 1989). Those further along in their journey see these areas as recursive as they purposely seek out ways to deepen their beliefs, knowledge, practice, and impact over time.

  • Why Engage in This Work?

    Schooling without culturally responsive practices diminishes the abilities of diverse students, limiting their potential for success (Banks et al, 2001; Castro, 2010). By contrast, educators and school systems embracing this work benefit from the richness that diversity brings to teaching and learning. Students and families experience school as a welcoming place, where differences and identities are both understood and valued (Center for Great Public Schools, 2008). Finally, cultural responsiveness taps into perhaps the most underutilized asset of our schools: our students, our families, and ourselves. School systems that have led this work, expanded their ways of knowing, and built their repertoire of skills have achieved both excellent and equitable results (Chenowith, 2007; Ferguson, et al, 2008; Promoting Excellence for All, 2015). It’s time for all Wisconsin schools to join in on this journey, ensuring the success of all of the students we serve.