Maryland State Spotlight - Queen Anne’s County on the Cutting Edge of Cultural Competence
Queen Anne’s County Public Schools takes an active approach to equity through Cultural Competence. The county’s geographic landscape naturally creates three distinct communities that segregate populations, resulting in inequities. Some families in the school district felt their students’ needs were not being addressed and adequate supports were not in place.
To address the geographic barriers and family concerns, they created a Cultural Competence focus group with school, district, family, and community membership. In addition, the four SWIFT partner schools spread across the three communities identified cultural proficiency as a priority for action planning. As a result, the district instituted several best practice initiatives as part of a countywide five-year plan focused on equity.
First, district leaders, in partnership with a consulting group, provided cultural proficiency training to top-level administrators. Training included identifying levels of cultural competence and the impact of bias on instruction and student behavior.
Next, each school administrator identified two staff members to serve as Equity Facilitators who would become members of a larger district cadre. The Equity Facilitators (teachers and guidance counselors) completed a series of trainings that set them up as Trainer of Trainers; this model was the most efficient for ensuring that every staff member and every team at every school received the cultural proficiency training.
The consultants, through positive, motivational, and highly engaging strategies, led the cadre through examinations of district-level, school-level, and personal explicit and implicit biases. Conversations were not always easy, but once trust within the group was established, everyone could open up to honesty, truths, and below-the-surface perceptions.
The State SWIFT Implementation Team provided a small grant to help fund the training.
The SWIFT SEA Coordinator and LEA Facilitator were invited to participate in several trainings. Brad Engel, the District’s Supervisor of Student Support Services, took the lead on the cultural competency work. “Much success has been noted as a result of the training,” he said. “The consultants have been able to impact the work in positive ways.”
He went on to share expectations for the upcoming school year:
Equity Facilitators will continue training all staff. They will ensure that Multicultural Education is in every piece of instruction, every day, and in every school. Implementation of Multicultural Education will be a component of teacher observations and evaluations. Supervisors and principals will take note of the dynamics, student grouping patterns, and climate within each class.
QACPS classrooms will have equitable learning for every child. The district will continue to look at subgroup graduation rates in order to use resources and supports that will increase the number of graduates, particularly African American males and students with IEPs. The district will also examine data for the students in Honors, Advanced Placement, and Gifted and Talented classes to ensure that all reflect the total student population. Professional development will be designed for instruction that provides rigor for all subgroups.
School leaders will identify and address suspension disproportionality. Summer training will focus on implicit bias and school bias, training principals to make equity-based decisions. Leaders will assess district-wide discipline practices to eliminate bias when addressing all students.
Staffing needs to represent the students and community. The district actively recruits from historically black colleges however, the location of the district on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, seems to be a deterrent. There is a true desire to create a more diverse district so relationships with universities and colleges continue.
“The biggest impact for me was learning about white privilege,” Engel said. “I’ve lived my whole life and never had an understanding that my skin color was an advantage. Nobody bothers me no matter where I go and I can walk through most neighborhoods. That understanding is important because there are many people who don’t have those same opportunities. Skin color could mean being followed. I have a friend who says he keeps his teacher badge in the rearview mirror in case he gets pulled over— the Eastern shore is a little behind. White privilege is a great place to start. Black teachers understood right away, but now I do. It’s personal transformation and many people that I‘ve talked to have experienced the same thing. When you understand white privilege, it gives the whole picture of why training is essential.”
Queen Anne’s County is indeed on the cutting edge of embracing cultural competency through training, focus groups, and hard conversations at every level. Equity Facilitators agree:
It was eye-opening and life-changing.
In today's times, there needs to be more awareness of other cultures. We need to move from cultural blindness to cultural competency.
We hope we will serve as a resource on the journey to cultural proficiency and a safe person to discuss any concerns, questions, or issues related to culture in our school.
The Cultural Proficiency training has been one of the best professional development sessions I have participated in during my career. I have shared with many people that the sessions are not only greatprofessional development, but also personal development. The sessions have taught me to be reflective about my own biases and how to ask questions that stretch and open my mind (and hopefully stretch and open the minds of those around me!)
The expectation is that we will continue to stretch the minds of our staff by sharing concepts and strategies that we learned from the trainings we attended.
Expect to be pushed outside your comfort zone and allow yourself to be disturbed. You will grow as an educator, a co-worker, and a friend.
- Linda Rohrbaugh and Monique Green