Cultural and Linguistic Competence

Cultural and linguistic competence (CLC) refers to the beliefs, behaviors, knowledge, skills, and systems through which individuals and organizations demonstrate empathy and understanding of and respect for the values, historical context, expectations, language and experiences of a diverse population.

Cultural competence specifically refers to a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, organization or group to enable the individuals within these settings to interact effectively (Cross, et. al, 1989). The word “culture” is used because it implies the integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values and institutions of a demographic group (e.g., race, ethnicity, religion, sex, socioeconomic class, nationality).  The word “competence” is used because it implies the capacity to function effectively within cross-cultural situations (Jackson, Francis, 2010).

Linguistic competence specifically refers to the capacity of an organization and its personnel to communicate effectively, and convey information in a manner that is easily understood by diverse audiences including persons of limited English proficiency (LEP), those who have low literacy skills or are illiterate, and individuals with disabilities (Goode & Jones, 2009).

With the appropriate policies, structures, practices, procedures, trained staff and dedicated resources in place in schools to support it, CLC can:

  1. Improve the knowledge possessed by teachers, administrators and staff about the students they are serving, their families and the communities in which they reside.
  2. Promote self and organizational assessment which can encourage changes in counterproductive attitudes of school personnel (e.g., bias, stereotyping, prejudice).  This CLC self/organizational assessment would generate a discovery of factors that may reveal the root causes of achievement and discipline disparities present in the school community.
  3. Stimulate interest in discovering and celebrating the diversity of all individuals within the school.
  4. Help stakeholders develop the skills to diffuse and prevent the tensions that may arise in diverse settings.
  5. Develop partnerships with students, parents and other caregivers, and the community to establish:
    • instructional approaches that will help engage students with diverse learning styles,
    • a school climate that is perceived as welcoming and fair, and
    • a school climate that promotes positive cultural identity (Jackson, 2010).

Related Terms: cultural relevance, culturally and linguistically appropriate

  • General Info
  • Strategies & Practices
  • Tools
  • On The Ground
  • Other
General Info: 

Racial Disproportionality in School Disciplinary Practices

(2006) National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCRESt)

This brief discusses conflict, ethnic/cultural differences in teacher-student and student-student relations, and disproportionate disciplinary action. It also covers teacher biases perceived by students, disproportionate use of zero tolerance on specific student subgroups, and recommendations to address exclusionary practices.

Disproportionality: Inappropriate Identification of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Children

(2008) National Education Association (NEA)

This document discusses how culturally and linguistically diverse students are represented disproportionately in special education and disproportionately subjected to suspensions and expulsions.

Cultural and Linguistic Diversity: Issues in Education (Chapter 4)

(2010) Nicole Patton Terry and Miles Anthony Irving

This chapter of Special Education for ALL Teachers, presents definitions for cultural, racial/ethnic, and language diversity; explains that difference does not necessarily mean deficient and that diversity in learning exists; and recommends specific teacher dispositions and practices to support culturally and linguistically diverse students.

Addressing the Disproportionate Representation of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students in Special Education through Culturally Responsive Educational Systems

(2005) Janette K. Klingner et al.

This paper provides a conceptual framework to help stakeholders collaborate on culturally responsive, evidence-based interventions to address the disproportionate representation of culturally and linguistically diverse students in special education. It also explains a concern about educators’ cultural understanding and disproportionate school discipline actions.

Strategies & Practices: 

Culturally Responsive Positive Behavioral Support Matters

(2012) Equity Alliance

This brief presents a framework for culturally responsive school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports (CRPBIS), which includes five processes aimed to address equity issues like school discipline disparities.

Addressing Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Student Overrepresentation in Special Education: Guidelines for Parents

(2006) National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCRES)

This document explains the overrepresentation of culturally and linguistically diverse students in special education and some immediate actions that parents can take if they think such overrepresentation is an issue at their children’s schools.

Research Matters: Creating Culturally Responsive Schools

(2005) Barbara Bazron, David Osher, and Steve Fleischman

This article provides some research-based, culturally responsive approaches that educators can consider and implement.

Becoming Culturally Responsive Educators: Rethinking Teacher Education Pedagogy

(2006) National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCRESt)

This brief explains the importance of rethinking teacher education pedagogy and provides guidelines for developing culturally responsive teacher education pedagogy.

Cultural and Linguistic Competence Implementation Guide

(2008) Technical Assistance Partnership for Child and Family Mental Health

This guide provides strategies aimed to assist communities in developing cultural and linguistic competence. It is based on seminal work in the health field and also is relevant for stakeholders of educational school systems.

Cultural Considerations with Response to Intervention Models

(2006) Janette K. Klingner and Patricia A. Edwards

This article emphasizes the need to understand evidence-based interventions as “what works with whom, by whom, and in what contexts” and presents a potential Response-to-Intervention model to help culturally and linguistically diverse students.

Culturally Responsive Response to Intervention, Academy 3: Ensuring Culturally Responsive Student Supports

(2008) National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCRESt)

This handout presents some existing research and aims to influence stakeholders to increase research and development of cultural and linguistic Response-to-Intervention models that help diverse students.

Families & Communities

(2006) Teaching Diverse Learners

This webpage presents information on four equity issues—schools, culture, language, and community social status—that school personnel of diverse students can reference to develop family/teacher relationships and positive communication between homes and schools.

Curricula Enhancement Module Series

National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC)

This website’s leadership training series aims to help stakeholders incorporate principles and practices of cultural and linguistic competence. This series was designed in response to health stakeholders’ strong desire for instructional materials, curricula, model programs, and multimedia products. These resources also are relevant for stakeholders of educational school systems.

Preparing Teachers to Work with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Children

(2005) National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

This article provides information on several innovative teacher education programs, mostly in early childhood education, designed to prepare teachers to work with culturally and linguistically diverse children.

Working With Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Families

RTI Action Network

This webpage briefly explains the importance of cultural competence and presents some ways for educators to develop collaborative, effective relationships with culturally diverse students and families.

Tools: 

Preventing Disproportionality by Strengthening District Policies and Procedures: An Assessment and Strategic Planning Process

(2006) National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCRESt)

This guide includes a self-study tool through which district teams can examine their policies and practices related to disproportionate representation of culturally and linguistically diverse students in specific circumstances.

Curricula Enhancement Module Series

(2009) National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC)

These self-assessment checklists aim to help personnel evaluate and develop cultural and linguistic competence. These checklists are specific to personnel who serve:

Equity in Special Education Placement: A School Self-Assessment Guide for Culturally Responsive Practice

(2005) National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCRESt)

These forms aim to help educators determine whether culturally and linguistically diverse students are represented disproportionately in their schools’ special education. It also aims to help educators assess areas (e.g., family involvement, curriculum) in which they can improve culturally responsive services.

Cultural and Linguistic Competence Priority Checklist

(2009) Technical Assistance Partnership for Child and Family Mental Health

This checklist of strategic questions aims to help stakeholders evaluate and develop their cultural and linguistic competence. It also includes links to resources related to these strategic questions.

A Guide to…Planning and Implementing Cultural Competence Organizational Self-Assessment

(2002) National Center for Cultural Competence, Georgetown University Child Development Center University, Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities

This guide outlines the benefits of and steps to plan and implement a cultural competence self-assessment.

Diversity Toolkit: Race and Ethnicity

National Educational Association (NEA)

This webpage briefly discusses race and ethnicity issues and provides some strategies to help educators better understand their students’ cultural and linguistic needs.

On the Ground: 

Reflections from Teachers of Culturally Diverse Children

(2005) National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

This article explains how a professional development, empathy-based initiative helped many teachers come to value some cultural differences and overcome specific cultural misconceptions. This article also provides recommendations to help teachers develop cultural competence.

Proactive Culturally Responsive Discipline

(2006) National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCRES)

This document describes an urban middle school in Phoenix, Arizona that incorporated proactive, positive interventions rather than punishment in the school’s daily practices. It explains how the school not only reduced student discipline problems but addressed the disproportionate representation of culturally and linguistically diverse students in special education.

Research Matters: Creating Culturally Responsive Schools

(2005) Barbara Bazron, David Osher, and Steve Fleischman

This article highlights a school district in the Navajo Nation that created a program to help students with behavioral problems reflect on their behavior, reconnect to a communal spiritual perspective, and improve their self-esteem and motivation to change positively.

Other: 

References

Cross, T., Bazron, B., Dennis, K., & Isaacs, M., (1989). Towards A Culturally Competent System of Care, Volume I. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development.

Goode, T., and Jones, W. (2009).  Linguistic Competence Definition.  Washington, DC:  National Center for Cultural Competence, Georgetown University Center for Child & Human Development.

Jackson, F. (2010).  Cultural and Linguistic Competence Guide, Prepared for the TA PDS Project, Department of Labor, 2010)

National Center for Cultural Competence, https://nccc.georgetown.edu/foundations/frameworks.html.