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How can we ensure our school culture welcomes our students’ racial, ethnic, and cultural identities?

Session 1
Natalie Zwerger, Chemay Morales-James, Khalilah Brann — NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools

In our schools today, White students hold the social and cultural capital that norm their identities and lived experiences as the default. What does this mean for our culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students? This conversation will center on environmental cues in our school culture that trigger, perpetuate, and rely upon stereotypes and misconceptions of the identities of our CLD students. We will begin by exploring what Purdie-Vaughns, Steele, Davies, Ditlmann, & Crosby (2008) call social identity contingencies, or “judgments, stereotypes, opportunities, restrictions, and treatments that are tied to one’s social identity in a given setting.” We will then discuss some examples of social identity contingencies that are present in our school cultures including: negative stereotypes about the intellectual ability of CLD students, lowered academic and behavioral expectations of CLD students in comparison to White students, implications that the identity of CLD students is different or “counternormative,” and the suggestion that CLD students will face either “social exclusion” or “added scrutiny” if they fail to conform to White norms for behavior and communication. Once we have grounded participants in these social identity contingencies, we will then ask them to discuss how our schools might be sending environmental cues that communicate the value and status afforded to CLD students. We will uncover the cues sending negative value messages to CLD students about their social identities and brainstorm how to create more welcoming, inclusive environments.

Conversational Practice

We will begin the conversation by offering a series of provocative images of classrooms and schools to have participants identify some of the messages these images send to our CLD students. After thinking about these messages, we will introduce the concept of social identity contingencies and how they can be triggered by some of the messages, or cues, our school environments send to culturally and linguistically diverse students. Then the majority of the time will be spent dialoguing how to combat and reframe environmental cues that are sending negative value messages to our CLD students.

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